Szopki Krakowskie – Cracow Christmas Cribs Posted by on Dec 23, 2010 in Culture, Places to visit

The most refined forms, the most opulent and beautiful ornamentation – these are the distinctive features of Szopki Krakowskie. They have been made by Cracow masters of carpentry and stone – masonry since the mid 19th century.

The design of all these cribs as a rule refers to such historic Gothic and Baroque structures in Cracow as Wawel Castle, the dome of the Sigismund Chapel, St Mary’s Church, defensive walls, the Cloth Hall and the Old Town houses. All Cracow cribs resemble churches or palaces, having three or five tall towers with domes or slender steeples. They are pasted with glossy color paper, and colorful, shining silver paper. They captivate with the mastery of tiny architectural details, countless ornaments and fabulous colors.

Michal and Leon Ezenkier, the creators of the first crib of this kind in 1860, are thought to be the precursors of Christmas crib making art in Cracow. Other Cracow stone – masons followed their steps. In later times, when they were unemployed in the winter season, they occupied themselves with crib building and singing Christmas carols. They quickly understood that the bigger, more colorful and beautiful their crib was, the greater number of rich Cracow burghers would invite them to their house to sing carols and perform nativity plays to please their family and especially children.

Cracow Christmas Cribs are still popularly made, owing to the annual crib competition organized in Cracow from 1937 under the patronage of municipal authorities as well as the Historical and Ethnographic Museums.

Every year, with the only interruption during the Second World War, the works of many crib artists are displayed in Cracow Market Square under the Adam Mickiewicz’s Monument in the first days of December. Huge multi storey structures as well as miniature, a few centimeters tall buildings made with great precision and mastery, true works of art in model – making and ornamentation, can be admired here.


So if you are visiting Cracow in December – stop by and check them out! You will love it!


Do następnego razu! (Till next time…)


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About the Author: Kasia

My name is Kasia Scontsas. I grew near Lublin, Poland and moved to Warsaw to study International Business. I have passion for languages: any languages! Currently I live in New Hampshire. I enjoy skiing, kayaking, biking and paddle boarding. My husband speaks a little Polish, but our daughters are fluent in it! I wanted to make sure that they can communicate with their Polish relatives in our native language. Teaching them Polish since they were born was the best thing I could have given them! I have been writing about learning Polish language and culture for Transparent Language’s Polish Blog since 2010.


  1. Łowiczanka:

    The szopki are so beautiful !!
    Here are some Kolędy to go along with them.

  2. Denise Milecki:

    My mom died two years ago and I haven’t had homemade pierogi since. Can anyone send me a good recipe?