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VARIOUS VENUES AROUND THE COUNTRY DISPLAY NATIVITY SCENE ARTWORKS AT CHRISTMAS TIME

Artists bring heaven to the Earth

IN RELIGIOUS terms, Christmas is a festival of great importance. In artistic terms, the birth of Jesus is an inspiration.
For at this time of year, manger scenes fill Slovakia's churches and museums, castles and squares.
The nativity scene that attracts the greatest number of visitors is in Rajecká Lesná, a tiny village near Žilina. It is the largest scene in the country, and also believed to be the largest carved arwork in the world. Perpetually on display, it attracts visitors all year round.


BANSKÁ Štiavnica Old Castle displays this work by Ján Šulc as part of its annual nativity exhibition.
photo: Ľubomír Lužina

IN RELIGIOUS terms, Christmas is a festival of great importance. In artistic terms, the birth of Jesus is an inspiration.

For at this time of year, manger scenes fill Slovakia's churches and museums, castles and squares.

The nativity scene that attracts the greatest number of visitors is in Rajecká Lesná, a tiny village near Žilina. It is the largest scene in the country, and also believed to be the largest carved arwork in the world. Perpetually on display, it attracts visitors all year round.

Its creator, Jozef Pekara, captured not only the familiar divine images, but also the traditional motifs and culture of the Slovak nation. The work shows shoemakers, woodcarvers and woodsmen, shepherds watching their sheep on hillsides, and women working in fields while looking after their children.


The 200-year-OLD painted figures at Bojnice Castle.
photo: Courtesy of Bojnice Museum

Almost 300 figures, half of which move, are set amongst typical Slovak sites. Tatra's Kriváň peak, which is the symbol for Slovakia, lords over the scene.

The Old Castle in the central Slovak town of Banská Štiavnica is one of the castles that regularly presents work by local woodcarvers and painters at Christmas.

This year it is the theme of the shepherd that dominates the collection of 20 or so works, displayed until the end of January. The lives of these guardians, with motifs characteristic for sheep breeding, were mostly engraved into the wood by artists in the 19th and 20th centuries. One of the largest is the 1960 work by Ján Šulc, who also added figures depicting local miners.

If you decide to join the "nobles" of Bojnice Castle who daily accompany visitors through their Christmas-decorated rooms until January 6, you will spot nativity scenes as well.

A baroque work, exhibited in the chapel depicts Mary, Joseph and two shepherds. Liborius Lazar from Nitra painted the 80-centimetre figures on wood in the 18th century. "The nativity scene is not complete, it lacks the [original] little Jesus, but it has preserved the magic its creator put into it more than 200 years ago," said Katarína Malečková, of Bojnice Castle museum.


photo: Courtesy of SNM

Ten nativity scenes painted or carved at the end of the 19th century by Czech artists from

A nativity scene painted by the castle's restoration artists, Jaroslav Solárik and Jozef Dorica, inspired by the baroque piece of art, sits in one of the castle halls. Complete with baby Jesus, the creators added angels, shepherds and farm animals.

At the end of the tour, the Huny-adi Hall houses a large, oriental nativity scene with painted figures on loan from the Hlohovec Museum. Ceramic nativity scenes by art students can be found in the citadel.

Several nativity scenes by famous Slovak artists recently set off on a journey to Rome. They are being exhibited as part of the 29th international exhibition of nativity scenes in the Basilica of the Virgin Mary. While some artworks are exported from the country, some are imported.


THE SNM houses nativity scenes loaned by the Czechs.
photo: Courtesy of SNM

Třebíč are displayed at the Slovak National Museum (SNM) in Bratislava, until January 6.

The largest is a fold-up painted work by Jaroslav Zimoly, four metres wide and one-and-a-half metres high. It depicts the holy family, three kings, musicians, angels, animals, and a landscape rich with trees, plants, caves and castles. The collection is part of an exhibition organized by the Vysočina Museum from Třebíč, which travels in its home country as well abroad.

Altogether, the museum features around 80 various nativity scenes. Thanks to donations and purchases, the number keeps increasing.


Slovenský Betlehem in Rajecká Lesná, open Mon to Fri 9:00-18:00, Sat to Sun 10:00-18:00, Tel: 041/5488-134.
Starý Zámok in Banská Štiavnica, open Mon to Sun 8:00 to 16:00, Tel: 045/6911-543.
Bojnický Zámok in Bojnice, open Tue to Sun 10:00 to 15:00, 046/5430-633.
Slovak National Museum in Bratislava, open Tue to Sun 9:00 to 17:00, Tel: 02/5934-9122.


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