Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 13.COM 10.B.29

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Poland has nominated Nativity scene (szopka) tradition in Krakow (No. 01362) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

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.

  1. Decides that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

R.1:   The tradition of building nativity scenes poses no limits to the creativity, imagination and skills of the makers while simultaneously largely relying on formal norms and content dating back to the origin of the practice in the nineteenth century. This contributes to the viability of the element, its attractiveness and interactions between creators and the wider community. Crib production is an integral, living part of the cultural heritage of Krakow and its surroundings and an important cultural symbol for the Polish society. The locally specific portrayal of a general Christmas motif expresses the emotional relationship of makers to their city, its historical architecture, stories and symbols.

R.2:   The nativity scene tradition in Krakow represents stylized depictions of the birth of Jesus Christ that are produced in many different countries. The inscription would help establish a dialogue between crib makers from different parts of the world and enhance existing links between different groups related to the element in Poland, uniting them through their shared passion and tradition. Krakow Szopkas highlight the diversity of nativity scene making and Christmas traditions in general and manifest creative ways of depicting religious symbols intertwined with the surrounding reality.

R.3:   The nomination includes a well-conceived strategy with clearly defined risks and corresponding safeguarding measures. These reflect past experience with the historical development of the element and its social context, fully respecting the views of the practitioners and their needs. The safeguarding measures are linked to the stakeholders concerned – local, regional and national institutions, bearers of the tradition and NGOs. The active participation of the crib makers in the nomination process and the full acceptance of their role in the safeguarding process is well demonstrated. The safeguarding measures are balanced and respect the needs of the element as well as of its bearers.

R.4:   The file clearly describes how the practitioners participated in the nomination process, led by their elected representative. A series of regular meetings was held to explain the Convention’s principles and the impacts and responsibilities stemming from the inscription. Public consultations were organized concerning the safeguarding measures and the final approval of the completed file. The group of tradition bearers participated in these meetings, allowing them to voice their needs and reflect on their heritage. Their consent was duly submitted.

R.5:   Poland entered the Nativity scene (szopka) tradition in Krakow in the National List of Intangible Cultural Heritage maintained by the Intangible Cultural Heritage Department of the National Heritage Board of Poland in 2014. The national system of safeguarding intangible cultural heritage includes a mechanism for the institutional safeguarding of the inscribed elements and periodic reporting, requiring the active participation of the practitioners.

  1. Inscribes Nativity scene (szopka) tradition in Krakow on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
  2. Commends the State Party for its first inscription and further commends it for a well-prepared file, particularly in terms of community involvement, clear descriptions under criterion R.2 and the video, which highlights the social and cultural meanings of the element and the central role of the practitioners in all the processes connected with planning and implementing the safeguarding measures.