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Current special exhibition

The nativity scene in its diversity

From the Baroque to modern times

16 November 2019 – 9 February 2020

Nativity scenes are still an integral part of church and domestic Christmas decorations. They are created in every conceivable style and made out of a wide variety of materials. Before the Christmas tree became widely popular in the 19th century, the manger was the focal point of Christmas decorations.

This unique special exhibition has been made possible by loans from the Heiligkreuz convent in Cham and from the private collection of Mr. Alfred Dünnenberger. Beautiful Baroque nativity scenes, unusually staged scenes and rare figures provide insights into the world of nativity scenes. The exhibition will only be shown in Basel.

St. Francis of Assisi is credited with presenting the nativity story in this form when he replaced the traditional sermon with a Christmas scene of people and living animals in Greccio in 1223. In the Middle Ages, very large, solid compositions were created in chapels or behind altars. The events of the Holy Night were illustrated using life-size figures. From the 16th century, you find small figures with which scenes from the Christmas story could be repeatedly reconstructed in various configurations. Sometimes, different scenes were depicted separately on a spacious landscape.

By the end of the 19th century, serial production of nativity figures made from relatively inexpensive materials such as terra-cotta and papier-mâché allowed less affluent people to purchase a nativity scene for their home. A family nativity scene might start with just Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus, and be expanded over the years with much time, effort and money. New figures would be added continually and the scenery lovingly developed and embellished.

Among the most famous nativity scenes are the Neapolitan mangers from Italy or the French santons: provençal nativity figures made of painted clay or terra-cotta. Every region and epoch has its own traditional nativity scene. These include landscape scenes, stable scenes, temple scenes, root scenes, relief scenes and oriental scenes. The materials used also vary widely: wax, terra-cotta, clay, wood, glass, papier-mâché, paper, cardboard, tin, straw, lead and tin. The main characters in a nativity scene are the baby Jesus in a manger, Mary and Joseph, ox, donkey, shepherd and sheep, the Three Wise Men from the East bearing gifts, and the angel Gabriel.

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The culinary world

Ristorante La Sosta

The culinary world

Ristorante La Sosta

For appetites both great and small. Open daily, with hot dishes available throughout opening hours.

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Including the current special exhibition

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Tours are given on the 1st Saturday of each month at 2 p.m. Duration: About 1 hour.

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