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La natività più antica del mondo

The oldest nativity in the world


The oldest nativity in the world is located in Rome, in the Catacombs of Priscilla, the first representation of the Nativity in history.

Natività catacombe di Priscilla

The fresco is from 230/240.

It is the oldest Nativity scene of Western art.

The name of the catacombs probably derives from the name of the woman who gave the land for the construction of the area.

The image represents the Madonna tenderly embracing the baby to breastfeed it.

The child, however, turns around, as if he were distracted by someone, perhaps by the observer himself.

Next to the Madonna there is a male figure, but it is not St. Joseph who will appear only later, in the Marian iconography.

He is a prophet: Isaiah, Balaam or Micah. It is not known exactly.

The prophet points to a star, as foreseen by the Old Testament: "From the womb before the morning star I have begotten you"

Thus, the artist intended to link messianic prophecy to the events of the Old and New Testament.

This first representation has influenced centuries of painting in the observance of symbols and Christian theology.

Art really spans the centuries.


A.G. Fadini

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