Each year the World Heritage City of Bamberg, Germany , presents almost 400 nativity scenes , from miniatures to life-size models. They are made of everything from wood to ceramic to textiles. Forty locations around the medieval city comprise the Nativity Trail (Krippenweg) that locals and tourists visit annually, either with a guide or on their own. Along with Bamberg’s five Christmas Markets (Weihnachtsmärkte), the Nativity Trail opens from late November through December. Some sites are even available through February. Most sites are free to visit, or charge a nominal entrance fee. Visitors are free to donate a small sum at each location, of course, to help offset the expenses of the exhibits.
Nativity Scenes in Altenburg Castle, Bamberg’s Dom and Other Locations
As listed on the web site of the Bamberg Tourism and Conference Service http://www.bamberg.info/en/, locations for the manger scenes include castles, churches, museums, public office buildings and even private residences. Altenburg Castle, the original medieval castle of Bamberg located on the highest of the city’s seven hills, presents a Franconian-style Nativity scene each year. At the Old Town Hall (Altes Rathaus), visitors get to see a 20-foot exhibit of baroque porcelain and faience figurines from the collection of the Ludwig Foundation in Aachen.
Featured prominently in the tour is a carved wooden altar from 1523 by Stoss Veit, along with seven seasonal scenes, in Bamberg’s Cathedral (Bamberger Dom). Adjacent to the Cathedral is the Diocesan Museum where visitors can find Nativity figurines dating from the baroque period to the present. Also, the Missionary Museum of the village of Bug offers Nativity scenes from South America, Africa and Asia.
Another must-see is the Bamberg Nativity Museum (Bamberger Krippenmuseum) open year round since 2001 and presenting Nativity scenes from over 25 countries. Artists from around the world depict the their own environment in the background of the stories told by the figurines: Italy, Peru, Africa, and even Bamberg’s city hall and famous Schlenkerla tavern are portrayed.
In addition, in the foyer of the Municipal District Office (Landratsamt), one can examine figurines by artist Karl-Heinz Exner. In the outlying village of Wildensorg in the home of a native of Bamberg, guests can view five scenes with figurines made by the famous wood carvers Max Huscher and Reinhold Müller; Bamberg is the backdrop of all these scenes.
Many of the scenes on the Nativity Trail depict other biblical stories besides the birth of Jesus, such as the Annunciation, flight to Egypt, and the crucifixion. Furthermore, patrons can purchase figurines and other Nativity-related ornaments at many of the locations along the tour route.
History of Bamberg’s Nativity Trail
According to Bamberg’s Tourism and Conference Service, Jesuit priests in Bamberg fashioned and displayed the first Nativity scene there over 400 years ago, setting in motion this centuries-long tradition and fostering the spirit of treasuring the Nativity displays. In 1919 the Bamberg Friends of the Nativity association was established and has become a highly respected organization among experts, ensuring continuation of the spirit of Nativity is enhanced each year. In 1976, the Friends created Bamberg’s Nativity Builder School (Bamberger Krippenbaumschule) to foster the tradition of handmade figurines.
Visit Bamberg at Christmas Time
Against the richly decorated Old Town of Bamberg in the holiday season, you can enjoy the diverse array of Nativity scenes as part of a holiday vacation. Bundle up and take in one or two locations every day or so while enjoying hot chocolate or mulled wine. Many of the locations are within walking distance of each other. Contact the Bamberg Tourism and Conference Service (Geyerswörthstraße 3, 96047 Bamberg, Germany, Tel.:+49(0)951/2976-200) for more information.