In the Middle Ages it was the nuns who rocked cribs in prayer at Christmas time. Francis of Assisi reconstructed the moving Bethlehem scene in a rock grotto with his fellow brothers and sisters. In the 17th century, these tableaux and their backdrop were allowed into church spaces, with statues depicting the characters. The Jesuits in particular deployed every possible technique of the art of illusion, lighting and three-dimensional depth when constructing their cribs.
In Innsbruck, the Franciscans did a similar thing, and this concrete yet contemplative concept spread right across the country. The crib – long before the Christmas tree – became the Christmas decoration found in private homes, and it retains its place to this day.
The reason for the popularity of cribs in Tirol is the love of Tiroleans towards religious spectacle and expressive work. Also their great skill in the fine working of wood had another benefit: the cribs, with stall and fields, are made by hand and the figures are carved out of wood. This gives them character and a convincingly lifelike appearance.
To that end, the central scene of Christ’s birth is often enriched with many stories: initially drawn from their own day-to-day world, men and women in Tirol costumes jostled amongst the Biblical figures and in front of Tirol houses. Today, the alpine life in cribs is featured less commonly and imaginative adherence to reality in the oriental style prevails. But there are still sufficient tales to tell for crib landscapes to be built that fill whole rooms. To the delight of relatives, neighbours and the simply curious, who come to view the crib.
Open for everyone to visit is the Crib Museum: here visitors learn about the custom of “Fastenkrippen” (Easter cribs) and all-year-round cribs. There are fascinating insights into the carver's craft and how cribs are made. The works of old masters are there to admire, the peephole cribs keep the sacred story hidden, and a walk-in crib offers a new kind of crib experience. Some carvers even allow visitors to the workshop to share in the making of a crib, or to take a course to learn how to wield the cutter’s tools for themselves. Things assume an international dimension from 15 - 18 November 2012: those are the dates of the World Crib Congress in Innsbruck.
Tirol Crib Museum Fulpmes Stubai
In the Tirol Crib Museum, visitors can delight in peephole cribs, walk-in cribs, artist cribs, cribs by old masters and the Fulpmer Christ-Child, and learn more about how the backdrops to the crib scene came about.
Opening times: Tues.-Sun., 10:00-19:00, closed Mondays
TIROL CRIB CARVERS AND CARVING COURSES
Woodcarver Johann Planer
The woodcarver Johann Planer makes cribs, traditionally rural motifs, masks, crucifixes and religious works of art.
Geisler-Moroder School of Carving
In the Geisler-Moroder School of Carving, students can learn carving, threshing and sculpturing. Workshops are offered all year round.
This family-run business in the Lechtal valley is known for its high-quality woodcarvings. All products can also be ordered online.
In the crib shop you can order various cribs plus accessories in a wide range of styles and sizes, all from the comfort of your own home.
Fieberbrunn Crib-Making Association
It is not just adults who learn how to construct cribs here – the children can learn too. Details of courses offered at
Verband der Krippenfreunde Österreichs
The Austrian Association of Friends of the Crib is a cultural association which seeks to support the crib tradition. Promoting folk art, crib-carving and crib-building are amongst the principal aims of the association.
A number of crib associations are joined together in the Tirol Crib Association and keep the tradition alive.