Nativity Scenes, Models of (crèches, cribs), often with carved wood figurines. Forerunners of the nativity scenes were paintings in early Christian catacombs, on liturgical implements, frescoes and altarpieces, as well as the mystery plays performed in monasteries in the Early Middle Ages (e.g. Nativity plays). Other forms of nativity scenes are carved nativity altars (shrine of Oppenberg, Styria; nativity altar in Bozen/Bolzano, South Tyrol) and adoration scenes in predelle (Pacher altar in St. Wolfgang, Upper Austria; altar in Sierning, Upper Austria). In the 16th century cribs came to Austria (Prague 1562, Graz 1579, Innsbruck 1608, Hall in Tirol 1609) from Italy, where the first large cribs displayed in churches were mostly made popular by the Jesuits and the Franciscans. Outstanding works of Baroque nativity scenes are the Stammel crib in Kalwang (Styria, 1751), the crib in the abbey church of Admont (Styria, 1755), the Nativity chapel by J. C. Hackhofer near Festenburg Castle (in St. Lorenzen am Wechsel, Styria) and the crib in the abbey church of St. Lambrecht (Styria, 1782), consisting of 132 figurines. Famous cribs in Upper Austria are the carved cribs made in the workshop of Schwanthaler (e.g. in Pram, Altmünster, Heimathaus Ried) and the small crib made from boxwood by M. Rittinger in Garsten (around 1712). In the 17th and 18th centuries people began to perform Nativity plays accompanied by music with the crib figurines (the "Steyrer Kripperl" in Upper Austria and the "Traismaurer Kripperl" in Lower Austria continue this tradition) and started to make mechanical cribs. Emperor Joseph II prohibited the use of cribs in churches in 1782. This prohibition was abolished in 1804, since people had started setting up cribs in their homes, where they became part of the Christmas customs. In the 2nd half of the 19th century cribs experienced an upsurge. The cribs made by J. Führich definitely influenced the new style in crib-making; in Tirol wood carvers tried to give an exact image of Nazareth and Palestine with their "oriental cribs". Cribs were especially common in the mining regions of Tirol and the Salzkammergut region, where there is still the custom of visiting cribs ("Kripperl-Schauen") at Christmas and Candlemas (February 2). In 1909 the "Society of Friends of Cribs" was founded in Tirol. Apart from Christmas cribs there are also "Lenten cribs", which depict the passion and the death of Jesus in Holy Week. Famous cribs are on display in the folklore museums of Innsbruck, Salzburg, Vienna, Linz, Graz and Leoben.
Literature: L. Kretzenbacher, Weihnachts-Krippen in der Steiermark, 1953; R. Berliner, Die Weihnachts-Krippen, 1955; O. Kastner, Die Krippen, 1963; E. Egg and H. Menardi, Das Tiroler Krippen-Buch, 1985; F. Grieshofer (ed.), Krippen, 1987.
References to other albums: