10 November 2018 – 27 January 2019
Krakow’s cribs– A glittering Christmas exhibition
The Middle Ages. Nowhere in the world can you find similar cribs. They symbolise a world of tall spires, onion-shaped domes, glittering gold pinnacles, windows thrown open, stairs and narrow columns, purple and turquoise. All in a fabulous style mix, creative joy and fantastic architecture. At the Hallwyl Museum, about thirty cribs borrowed from the Historical Museum in Krakow were displayed in a Christmas exhibition for the whole family.
The nativity scenes from Krakow have a long history. The custom of building nativity scenes was brought to Poland in the 13th century by Franciscan monks, but it was not until the early 18th century that Krakow’s Franciscan monks began to have theatrical performances with puppets in their nativity scenes in the church among the immovable sacred figures. During the second half of the 19th century, a new guild was built within the building and masonry association in Krakow – manger manufacturers. They came to develop and shape the now well-known Krakow crib.
A miniature Krakow
Every year in December since 1937, the Historical Museum in Krakow organises a popular competition to make the most beautiful nativity scene. The competition takes place on the main square in Krakow. A trumpet signal is played daily from the tower of St. Mary’s Church, when the clock strikes twelve and the fireman plays the famous Hejnal Mariacki, the starting shot for the competition. Led by officials dressed in folk costumes, the competition participants march with their cribs across the main square to the Historical Museum for assessment. The nativity scenes are then exhibited for public viewing at the museum.
Fabulous works of art
The design of the cribs is inspired by the city’s many church buildings and has an imaginative and fairytale-like appearance. Each individual cribs becomes a Krakow in miniature, with happy fairytale colours and they often contain humorous elements. The cribs clad in tinfoil and metal sheets can be anywhere from several meters high to a few centimetres. The smallest ones could fit in a small matchbox.