The Cracow Nativity Scenes
One of the most beautiful Christmas traditions is the Nativity scene. And perhaps the most gorgeous and wonderful Nativity scenes are made in Cracow, Poland.
The Cracow Nativity scene is a slim, multi-level, richly-decorated construction, made from light, impernament materials. The purpose of the nativity scene is to worthily present the great and majestical mystery of the birth of the Son of God. It was created in the 19th-century Krakow, and is far different from anything ever created in this field, not only in Europe, but also worldwide.
The custom of building nativity scenes during Christmas time originated from the tradition of static natvities, once presented in churches during the holiday season.
The first nativity scenes were created in the mid-19th century by carpenters and bricklayers from towns in Krakow’s srroundings, mainly from Zwierzyniec. Since the second half of the 19th century, apart from the masons and construction workers, a separate guild of crib makers was established.
There were two types of nativity scenes: small ones, without a theatre, meant to be placed under christmas trees and big ones, adapted for a protable puppet theatre with dedicated texts and music.
Unfortunately, the tradition of organizing nativity scenes disappeared during World War I. It wasn’t until 1937 that the tradition was revived thanks to the organization of the First Competition for the Most Beautiful Nativity Scene in Krakow.
The Cracow History Museum – the organizor of the Competition and the post-conpetition exhibit, gathers a collection of nativity scenes since 1945. Today you can see an exhibition of Krakow nativity scenes every Christmas season. The current exhibition was opened on december 9th 2019 and can be visited daily between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. until February 23rd 2020 at 16 Lubicz street (Celestat, Strzelecki park)