It is 16 metres wide, five metres tall and weighs over 700 tonnes. The sand is from Jesolo, an Italian seaside town near Venice.
The Nativity scene will stay at St Peter’s Basilica until 13 January 2019, which marks the feast of the Baptism of Jesus.
Behind the Nativity is a 23-metre-tall Christmas tree donated by the Italian Diocese of Concordia-Pordenone.
At a meeting that Pope Francis held with delegations from the northern Italian regions of Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia, responsible for the 2018 Vatican Christmas tree and Nativity scene, the Pope said the Nativity scene and Christmas tree are visible signs that “help us to contemplate the mystery of God, who was made man in order to be close to us.”
Pope Francis also reflected on the unique composition of the Nativity scene. Sand, he said, is a poor material that “recalls the simplicity, the littleness and frailty with which God show himself through the birth of Jesus in the precariousness of Bethlehem.”
"The child Jesus, Son of God and our Saviour, whom we lay in the manger, is holy in poverty, littleness, simplicity and humility," the Pope said.
"By contemplating the God-child who emanates light in the humility of the manger, we, too, can become witnesses of humility, tenderness and goodness."
Photo: CNS Photo/Paul Haring