On December 3, 2009, the Kraków's Rynek Główny became a scene of the 67th Competition for Most Beautiful Cracow Crib. As in the previous years, the authors of the nativity scene inspired cribs as well as throngs of spectators showed up at the foot of the Adam Mickiewicz monument.
The awarded large crib by Leszek Zarzycki, photo: Anna Kruk/East News
On December 3, 2009 the Kraków's Main Square (Rynek Główny) became a scene of the 67th Competition for Most Beautiful Cracow Crib. As in the previous years, the authors of the nativity scene inspired cribs as well as throngs of spectators showed up at the foot of the Adam Mickiewicz monument. The central event was the "Nativity Scene Parade" in which the cribs were carried around the square until they reached the Town Hall's Tower. Here, on a special platform, the cribs were on display for viewers before they were eventually taken to the History Museum of the City of Kraków.
Some couple hours later a special jury started the proceedings. Every crib was subjected to meticulous examination and evaluated in accordance with traditional criteria (including ornamentality, colors, figurines, architecture, movable elements, traditional qualities, innovation, and the overall artistic effect).
Three days later, on December 6, in the Fontana Hall in Krzysztofory Palace, the Museum's director announced the jury's verdict and handed the awards. After the ceremony, the exhibition was officially opened.
The award in the most prestigious category (large cribs) went to Leszek Zarzycki, the winner of the last year's edition. Bronisław Pięcik and Władysław Słaboński landed second. The third award went to Andrzej Borucki, Katarzyna Racka and Roman Woźniak. The most beautiful medium-size crib was made by Bronisław Pięcik, and Maciej Moszew won the small crib award, interestingly, for Moszew it was his eighth consecutive win in this category. The jury honored also the unusual construction of Piotr Michalczyk's crib, praising its referencing of topical social problems, and that of Dariusz Zarychta who made his crib entirely from bread.
In the post-competition exhibition "The Charm of the old-day Nativity Scenes" ("Dawnej szopki czar") the spectators could admire the cribs from the Museum's collection constructed in 1960-2000, by the most distinguished craftsmen.
The Cracow tradition of building nativity scene cribs (Polish: szopki) originated in the 19th century, on the outskirts of Kraków. The first authors of these structures were poor construction workers. It was these people who, in search of alternative sources of income in Winter, started building portable platforms from papier-mâche and light wood that could function as stages for puppet enactments the nativity scenes. The sceneries featured tall steeples with spires reminiscent of Kraków's sacral architecture which later became hallmark of the Cracow's crib tradition. At that time too the tradition of carroling by the crib was introduced. It later became customary for whole theatre troupes to stay in the Square waiting to be invited into the house of rich patricians.
It seemed that after the Wold War I the good times for cribs were inevitably gone. This, however, wasn't the case. The tradition, though subjected to slight modifications, was revived on December 21, 1937, when the first Cracow Crib Competition was organized. The person behind the initiative was Jerzy Dobrzycki, who later became the head of the City of Crocow's History Museum.
Szopki krakowskie are distinguished by lavish decoration and characteristic architecture harmoniously combining elements from different historic buildings in Kraków. The towers of St. Mary's Basilica (Kościół Mariacki), the cupola of Sigmund's Chapel in Wawel Cathedral, Florian Gate, Sukiennice, and Barbican constitute most popular motives for the builders of cribs. The beauty of the architecture is further highlighted by numerous ornaments, colorful stain-glasses, and a plethora of little figurines sticking out of every nook and cranny. Apart from the Holy Family (i.e. infant Jesus in the manger, Mary, and St. Joseph) the typical nativity scene in this Cracovian tradition features the citizens dressed up in folk clothes, angels, musicians, as well as protagonists of many folk legends, like Pan Twardowski, the Wawel Dragon, Lajkonik, and Bugler from the St. Mary's Basilica.
Curator of the exhibition: Łukasz Olszewski.
Exhibition open from December 6, 2009 until February 28, 2010.
City of Cracow's History Museum
Muzeum Historyczne Miasta Krakowa
Rynek Główny 35, 31-011 Kraków
director: mgr Michał Niezabitowski
tel. (+48 12) 61 92 300
tel./fax (+48 12) 422 32 64
link*www.mhk.pl*http://www.mhk.pl** **Source: press release