Szopka! Polish Nativity Diorama on Show at Notre-Dame in Paris
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small, Szopka! Polish Nativity Diorama on Show at Notre-Dame in Paris, The highest (5m) nativity diorama from Kraków at the Franciscan Basilica in Kraków, 2012, photo: Marek Lasyk / Reporter, najwyzsza-szopka-krakowska-fot-marek-lasyk-reporter.jpg
During Advent and Christmas 2015 as many as 2 million tourists are expected to see the tallest ever szopka, a traditional Polish nativity diorama, at the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris.
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Over five metres tall, this masterpiece being presented in the capital city of France was made by the Markowski family in Kraków. The main creator, Marek Markowski, said that the szopka will be on display at the cathedral from the beginning of Advent until the beginning of February 2016. He also said that:
The szopka is situated in the northern nave and is amazingly well displayed – with additional light and decorations.
The canon and rector of Notre-Dame Cathedral, Patrick Jacquin, offered to present the szopka there with the assistance of the cultural attaché to the Polish Embassy in Paris. The representative of Notre-Dame explained in his letter that during Advent and Christmas the cathedral offers pilgrims and tourists the possibility to pray and contemplate, and this year the chance to enjoy the szopka’s exceptional handicraft and artistic value.
The Markowski szopka is usually housed in the cloister of the Franciscan Basilica in Kraków. It is the tallest szopka in the history of Kraków’s annual contest, which it won back in 2010. It is 501cm high, 275cm wide and 111cm deep. It has 108 pieces of stained glass and 80 other windows that are all illuminated. The curator of the exhibition said that it was breathtaking and that such a work is made only once in a hundred years.
Marek Markowski said that working on the szopka took about 10,000 hours over 2008 to 2010. The whole family was involved: Marek was responsible for design and construction; his wife Renata for construction, decoration and clothes; his father did the ornamentation; and his son, also called Marek, did the sculptures and casts. Markowski explained:
It wasn’t about giant-o-mania, but about being a tribute to Kraków's szopkas, to include all the elements of the traditional Nativity and to create a kind of kaleidoscope of Kraków.
That is why, as well as the most important scenes from Christ's birth, their szopka includes architectural elements taken from all 21 churches situated in central Kraków, as well as secular buildings such as the Florian Gate, Barbican and the Cloth Hall (“Sukiennice”). Ten pieces of stained glass present images of saints whose tombs are located in Kraków and an image of Pope John Paul II. The szopka is complemented with figures from Kraków's legends.
According to Markowski, presenting his work over Christmas at the world-famous Notre-Dame Cathedral where millions of people will see it, will be:
An honour and something that has never happened in the history of Kraków szopkas. The object is highly appreciated by tourists, especially from Asia. But presenting the szopka is also a big event for the Polish diaspora living in Paris.
The Markowski family has taken part in the Kraków Szopka Contest eleven times in total, winning three of those years.
Source: Polish Press Agency, edited by PW, translated by ND, 4 December 2015