Nativity scene (szopka) tradition in Krakow

Inscribed in 2018 (13.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

© Historical Museum of the city of Krakow (Poland), 2017

The Nativity Scene (szopka) tradition in Krakow is a social practice originating from Christmas celebration customs, centred around constructing cribs. Born in the nineteenth century, the tradition is indissolubly connected to the City of Krakow and based on skills and knowledge passed down for generations. The szopka is a lightweight construction featuring the nativity scene surrounded by representations of houses and monuments of Krakow, all transformed by the individual maker. Other scenes are also represented through figurines and artificial lighting, depicting historical, cultural and contemporary social events relating to life in the City of Krakow, Poland and the world. On the first Thursday of every December, makers gather on Krakow Main Square to present their work, and the Historical Museum of the City of Krakow makes their work accessible to the public from December to February, helping to transmit knowledge related to the practice. Practitioners include a group of forty of the most active bearers, who construct new cribs every year and run workshops and lectures to promote the practice and transmit related knowledge. The tradition is open to everyone, encompassing a wide circle of people including spectators and visitors belonging to the urban community. The practice also has significant educational functions, passing on knowledge about the history of the city, its local architecture and customs.

The Nativity Scene by Zbigniew Gillert placed on the footsteps of the Adam Mickiewicz Monument on the Main Square in Krakow. The crib shows constructor's inspiration: the architecture of St. Mary's Church, particularly its towers.
Nativity Scene constructors and tourists who admire their works lined up on the footsteps of the Adam Mickiewicz Monument on the Main Square in Krakow on the first Thursday of December. The crib makers prepare for it all year long.
Filip Fotomajczyk constructing a crib on the table in his flat in Krakow.
Jan Kirsz constructing a crib in his workshop in Krakow.
Meticulous craft work of Filip Fotomajczyk on a miniature crib.
Rozalia Malik with her daughter standing in front of the crib she had made together with her mother Anna Malik. The crib is aligned on the footsteps of the Adam Mickiewicz Monument on the Main Square in Krakow.
The Nativity Scene construction workshops for the visually impaired. The workshops are conducted by the crib makers Marzena Krawczyk in the Historical Museum of the city of Krakow (MHK), with the assistance of volunteers. The workshop participants include the youth and adults, both men and women.
Paweł Nawała with his father carrying their reday-made crib on the Main Square in Krakow.
The Nativity Scene made by Renata, Edward, Marek and Marek jr Markowski, presented on the exhibition at the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris (France).
The meeting of crib makers in the Historical Museum of the city of Krakow, during which the Nativity Scene tradition safeguarding plans are discussed. The meeting is conducted by Dariusz Czyż, the representative of the crib makers.
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