58th Competition of Krakow Cribs
December 7 , 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.
Rynek Główny (Main Square, at Adam Mickiewicz Monument)
organiser: Muzeum Historyczne, Rynek Główny 35, tel. 422-99-22

The Krakow Crib has its origins in nativity plays, which were once performed in churches at Christmas Cribs showing the Bethlehem stable, with the Little Child, the Mother of God, Saint Joseph and the Three Kings were probably brought to Poland by the Franciscan Fathers in the 14th century. In later centuries the figures were ‘brought to life’, becoming puppets and new figures were introduced. However, these comic figures, such as the Old Codger, were thought to be inappropriate for religious occasion, so shows were banned in churches. Later, a tradition of going carol-singing with the crib to homes, inns and mansions began. This widespread 19th century practice gave bricklayers from the Krakow suburbs additional work in the dead autumn-winter period. There were famous crib groups which performed every year in the palaces of famous Krakow families. Crib groups waited for their clients in the Main Square, near Floriańska St., during the Christmas period. Currently, making cribs is the hobby of people from all walks of life, often passed down from generation to generation. In 1937 the Museum of History organised the first competition for the most beautiful crib. Since that time, creators of these colourful models have met each year by the Statue of Adam Mickiewicz on the Main Market Square, on the first Thursday of December. The most beautiful works are displayed in the halls of the museum.

The typical Krakow crib - stuck together from coloured paper - is inspired by the architecture of Krakow and local traditions. The most commonly recurring architectural themes are, of course, the towers of the Mariacki Church, the Barbican and the Floriańska Gate, the Sigismund Chapel - arranged according to the whims of the author. Crib-makers also often refer to Krakow legends; it is not uncommon to find the legendary leader of Poland, Princess Wanda, or the Wawel dragon peering out of his cave, positioned on the walls of the tiny buildings alongside typical nativity figures (such as shepherds, little animals, the Three Kings, Herod, devils and angels). For centuries Krakow crib-makers have also added other patriotic subjects to their work: winged hussars in shining armour and Polish kings. One can often detect modern accents in the scenes; you might see a famous politician in a costume emerging from a Gothic building. All these works of art, the largest of which are several metres high and the smallest the size of a matchbox or nutshell, are assessed by a jury and awarded prizes in three categories, according to the size of the model. Children have also been bringing their cribs for years and there are separate prizes for them. Then the cribs are taken to the exhibition halls of the Museum (in the Krzysztofory Palace - Main Market Square 35). This year the competition will be held on December 7 (10:00 am-12:00 pm) and the exhibition will open on Sunday, December 10.


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Supported financially by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage

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