Christmas traditionally marks the birth of Jesus with Christians around the world remembering the tale of the Virgin Mary who gave birth in a stable in Bethlehem.
Jesus is said to have been born and laid in a manger – a hopper for feeding livestock – as a makeshift crib.
Christian group Missionaries of the Divine Revelation – based in Rome – claim the remains of this ancient relic now rest in the Basilica of St Mary Major.
Four boards of sycamore wood are held in a golden case which can be viewed at the church.
The sisters boast the authenticity of the relic and allege it was shipped to Rome in secret in 635AD.
“The relics date 2000 years to the time that Jesus was born”
Missionaries of the Divine Revelation refer to the wooden remains as a “precious relic of our Lord’s crib”.
The manger is kept in a crystal chamber topped with a lid featuring a golden sculpture of Jesus.
Like many suspected Christian relics, its authenticity is hotly debated – but the sisters boast the planks are the real deal.
In the account on their website, they claim the reddish wood is “typical of Bethlehem”.
erusalem’s religious leader Patriarch Sofronio is said to have arranged the smuggling of the relics to Rome, according to the sisters.
It is said he appealed to Rome for aid during the war between the Byzantine Empire and the Rashidun Caliphate in the 7th Century.
Jerusalem came under siege from the Islamic forces in 636 – with battle eventually ending with them seizing the city after Sofronio surrendered.
Sofronio is alleged to have snatched the relics in bid to keep them out of they hands of the attackers – arranging passage for them to go to Rome.
This capture of Jerusalem laid the foundations for the Catholic crusades of the Medieval era.
The sisters claim: “The relics date back 2000 years to the time of Jesus.
“In 635AD the Saracens besieged Jerusalem and the Patriarch Sofronio could not celebrate midnight mass on Christmas Eve 636AD in the Bethlehem grotto.
“Saddened by this situation he asked the Pope for his assistance and the relics were then transferred to Rome for safekeeping.”
History records Sofronio died shortly after the conquest of Jerusalem – but not before reaching an agreement with Caliph Umar to secure the rights of the city’s Christians.
The sisters say the wood is the original from Christ’s crib, but claim the original container was stolen by Napoleonic soldiers.
Conflicting accounts of the claimed relic arrived at the Basilica so exist- with some saying pilgrims brought it back from the Holy Land, rather than it smuggled it a secret pact with Rome.
Numerous relics exist around the work associated with Jesus – but none have been proved to be 100% genuine.
Academics continue to debate the historical existence of Christ, with some doubting there ever was a Jesus as described in the Bible.
Virgin Mary is said to have been chosen to bear the Messiah, travelling to Bethlehem with her husband Joseph.
They spent the night in a stable, where Mary gave birth to Jesus – an event witnessed by shepherds and angels beneath the Star of Bethlehem.
Jesus was later visited by the magi, who often appear as kings present at his birth in modern Nativity scenes around Christmas.
Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus which can be traced back as far as the year 336.