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The Warsaw Voice » Culture » December 19, 2007
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Christmas Cribs at the Capuchins
December 19, 2007    wersja polska »
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The traditional Christmas nativity scene in miniature usually comprises the Holy Family, angels and shepherds, surrounded by figures of animals. But in Warsaw churches, traditional Christmas cribs are exceptional, ranging from small to life-size representations. They may be not as famous as Italian cribs, including those in Naples with life-size figures, or those in Rome by the Spanish Steps and on St. Peter's Square, but they certainly have a charm of their own.

One of the most popular Christmas cribs is the mechanical pageant in the crypt of the Capuchin church and monastery on Miodowa Street. Varsovians have visited the place on Christmas for nearly 50 years. Crowds of children and adults line up in front of the church to see the crib with its thousands of moving figures. Every year, the Capuchin monks change the crib to add topicality, with references to events in the country and the life of the Church. Along with Biblical figures, the crib also has historical figures, including Polish kings, heads of state and senior churchmen. The crib's backdrop represents famous buildings, including St. Peter's Basilica in Rome and the Royal Castle in Warsaw. The first moving crib was displayed in the Capuchin church in 1948. The crib designers were Pius Jankowski and Konrad Wyczawski.

The crib is very laborious to arrange and requires great precision. Therefore, work on the crib started at the end of November. Regular conservation of the crib includes painting the figures, checking the mechanism and, if need be, fixing the costumes.

The centerpiece of the crib is the Holy Family. Beneath the figure of the infant Jesus, Polish kings and important historical and contemporary public figures form a parade. The celebrities are followed by peasants, shepherds and highlanders.

There is also a genre scene from the life of a small town. You can see tobogganing children, a rapid river and a moving train. The opposite side has the Vatican, with Pope Benedict XVI going out seated in his "popemobile." The whole cycle of the moving figures and structures, accompanied by a voice-over commentary, lasts about 12 minutes.

The crib will be open from noon Dec. 25 until the beginning of February on Sundays from noon-6 p.m. and weekdays 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Capuchin Church of the Transfiguration, 13 Miodowa St., Admission is free.
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