The Nativity Scene and St. Francis of Assisi
(abridged from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
A nativity scene, also called a crib or creche, generally refers to any depiction of the birth or birthplace of Jesus.
Christian nativity scenes, in two dimensions (drawing, painting and icons) or three dimensions (sculpture), usually show Jesus in a manger, Joseph and Mary in a barn, stable (or cave) intended to accommodate farm animals. A donkey and an ox accompany them: besides the necessity of animals for a manger, this is an allusion to Isaiah: "the ox knoweth his owner and the ass his master's crib; but Isreal doth not know, my people doth not sonsider" (Is. 1:3)
The nativity scene sometimes includes the Magi or Three Wise Men or Three Kings (with or without camel(s), shepherds and sheep, angels and the Star of Bethlehem. At Christmas time these nativity scenes are created and displayed in Roman Catholic and Protestant homes, churches, businesses and public and private parks.
Although drawings and paintings existed earlier, St. Francis of Assisi is credited with the invention of three dimensional nativity scenes. He used real people and living animals to illustrate the scene. In 1562 the Jusuits put up a crib in Prague, which is considered the first crib of the modern kind.