Gorgeous winners of annual nativity crib comp revealed

Announced by the Museum of Krakόw on Sunday, the winners included two entries making reference to Poland’s solidarity with Ukraine in light of the ongoing war. Muzem Krakowa/Facebook

Celebrating its 80th anniversary this year, the Krakόw Christmas Cribs Competition has once again chosen the most beautiful and imaginative handmade nativity scenes

Announced by the Museum of Krakόw on Sunday, the winners included two entries making reference to Poland’s solidarity with Ukraine in light of the ongoing war.

The tradition, known in Polish as Konkurs Szopek Krakowskich, sees entrants compete to make the most colourful, imaginative and intricate hand-made nativity scenes, almost always set against the backdrop of the iconic spires of Krakόw’s St Mary’s Basilica.Łukasz Gągulski/PAP

The tradition, known in Polish as Konkurs Szopek Krakowskich, sees entrants compete to make the most colourful, imaginative and intricate hand-made nativity scenes, almost always set against the backdrop of the iconic spires of Krakόw’s St Mary’s Basilica.

The competition, which dates back to 1937, is unique on a global scale, a fact which led to it being inscribed on UNESCO’s  Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2018, as Poland’s first example of an event recognised in this way.

The competition, which dates back to 1937, is unique on a global scale, a fact which led to it being inscribed on UNESCO’s  Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2018, as Poland’s first example of an event recognised in this way.Łukasz Gągulski/PAP

This year, the jury, which is always comprised of experts from different disciplines, had to choose from 142 entries: 59 in the senior category, 7 in the youth category, 24 in the families category, 20 in the kids individual category and 32 in the schools category.

The nativity scenes in the senior category are additionally split into categories and judged according to their size: large, medium, small and miniature.

This year, the winner of the most impressive large nativity scene was Zbigniew Gillert, a multiple winner of the competition, which he has been taking part in since 1968. He is the author of over 40 competition works and several hundred made to order.

Dr Michał Niezabitowski, director of the Museum of Krakόw and head of the competition jury, said: “Architects appreciate the proportions, art historians notice or critique certain elements connected to the art of Krakόw, ethnographers point out what is traditional and what isn’t, theatre experts pay attention to the narrative value of the cribs.”Muzem Krakowa/Facebook

Speaking about the behind the scenes jury discussions, Dr Michał Niezabitowski, director of the Museum of Krakόw and head of the competition jury, said: “Architects appreciate the proportions, art historians notice or critique certain elements connected to the art of Krakόw, ethnographers point out what is traditional and what isn’t, theatre experts pay attention to the narrative value of the cribs.

“Discussions can sometimes be stormy. At the end we work out a verdict, which we feel to be fair, although paid for by hard work. All jurors, have always worked for free – out of a love for this city.”

According to the organisers judging the competition: “Discussions can sometimes be stormy. At the end we work out a verdict, which we feel to be fair, although paid for by hard work. All jurors, have always worked for free – out of a love for this city.”Muzem Krakowa/Facebook

In the medium nativity scenes category, first place was awarded to Maciej Moszew , another multiple award winner whose win this year was his 30th first place win in the competition.

This year, the jury also recognised references made to contemporary events, with a special mention awarded to Roman Piątka for a medium sized nativity scene making a “reference to Poland’s solidarity with Ukraine” and similarly, a special mention in the small nativity scenes category going to Tomasz Dobosz for “referencing Poland and Krakόw’s solidarity with Ukraine during the period of Russian aggression”.

First place in the small nativity scenes category went to one of the youngest active crib-makers, Jakub Zawadziński, born in 1996, whilst in the miniature category, it went to  Zbigniew Madej, another name closely associated with past competitions.

Jakub Zawadziński won his distinction for exemplary miniaturization.Łukasz Gągulski/PAP

In future years, a new category is likely to be added to the iconic competition, the “szopka off”, which will see competition between nativity scenes which are inspired by the Krakόw crib-making tradition, but “due to visibly departing from its canon through their form and use of materials, will be better served by creating a new category”.

Dr Niezabitowski added: “The cribs are made from a passion, some say that creating the cribs is their rite of passage, others a type of service and others a type of meditation. It is a lifestyle.

In future years, a new category is likely to be added to the iconic competition, the “szopka off”, which will see competition between nativity scenes which are inspired by the Krakόw crib-making tradition, but “due to visibly departing from its canon through their form and use of materials, will be better served by creating a new category”.Łukasz Gągulski/PAP

“Anyone can create a crib, there is no such profession as a crib-maker, but there is a skill – you have to glue together cribs for many years, because they are glued, in order to acquire a professional level, although we appreciate all cribs, even the innocent, children’s ones.”

Like every year, the winning cribs will be available for viewing by the public as part of a special winners’ exhibition at Krakόw’s Krzysztofory Palace, open from now until the 27th of February 2023.