Introduction

"Krippana " today the term "ArsKRIPPANA" is used, is a protected name known throughout Europe and in the world of crib friends. The beginnings of this demanding exhibition were quite modest. The ambitious idea of showing cribs throughout the year was born in the minds of some members of the Aachener Krippenfreunde Association after visiting the cribs of the Cologne churches. The Aachen deputy bishop E.W. NUSSELEIN described the project in 1987 with the following words: "The basic idea was not only simple, it was brilliant. In the small romantic town of Monschau in the Eifel, a popular excursion destination at the border triangle of Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium, there were several disused factories. There were countless collector's items worldwide, which were only admired by a small circle of people for a few weeks each year. They then disappeared into warehouses and storerooms. This is how the KRIPPANA idea was born. In the months of the year when the church cribs were hidden from the eyes of the beholders, they were to be brought together in an exhibition that would be accessible to everyone". Since 1975, three members of the association, the brothers Hans and Hubert SCHEINS as well as Friedrich JANSEN, had been searching for a suitable room. In Höfen, one of the most beautiful villages in the Eifel region, they found a former dairy next to an old factory for machine parts. The village was enchanting. The room was also very picturesque, but difficult to access and unsuitable for transporting cribs. The huge chimney, a remnant of the industrial past, was decorated with a star. Just like the star that once guided the Three Wise Men, it now guided the visitors, who appeared in greater numbers every year. Everything went relatively well from 1976 to 1986. With the visitors' entrance fees, the high costs for insurance, alarm systems and fire protection could just be covered. Hubert SCHEINS, who was responsible for the selection of the cribs, died during the works for the 10th exhibition and Friedrich JANSEN, the organizer of the exhibition, shortly afterwards. Meanwhile, the building was increasingly visited and had to be adapted to the regulations. All this work was simply too expensive! Hans SCHEINS had to decide with great regret to cancel the tenth exhibition.

It could have stayed that way, and the original initiative that had given pleasure to thousands of visitors for almost a decade would have disappeared once and for all. But there was a pious wish from Mrs. Anna BALTER from Losheim. It is thanks to her and the entrepreneurial spirit of this family that KRIPPANA could be saved and preserved for the Eifel. The decision was made to build a large hall of 2500 m2, the octagonal layout of which was based on the Kaiserdom in Aachen and was ideally suited for the construction and exhibition of the collections. The problems encountered in the past were taken into account.

Even though it was impossible to avoid different levels, they could be connected by access ramps, thus avoiding stairs. This solution made it easier to use wheelchairs and transport materials during assembly and dismantling. Some of the interior walls were designed so that they could be removed if necessary. A St. Vither architect drew the plans and the new building was erected in a record time of 6 months in Hergersberg-Losheim on the German-Belgian border.

During the preparations for the exhibition in 1991, the last survivor of the founding trio, Hans Scheins, also died. At the same time as the death of a large crib conveyor, the memory of the time in the courtyards was also lost, as only a few documents had been kept.

Since then KRIPPANA has endeavoured to continue the work in the spirit of the founders, but at the same time to cover a larger area of activity which was not limited to church cribs. Thematic exhibitions took place regularly. Sometimes these themes refer to a specific geographical area (Africa, countries of Central and Eastern Europe, Spain, Sardinia, Central and South America), sometimes they are more specific themes such as the custom of the host on New Year's Day, the star singers, the "king bean" (figure hidden in the cake for the feast of the Epiphany) and the customs around the feast of the Epiphany, the acting tradition around the birth of Christ, ... Contrary to all expectations, after the first tentative steps, the museum has even been able to expand its activities in order to make the crib phenomenon known and spread it.

Due to its preferred position in the crib world, KRIPPANA also sees itself as a showcase for current trends. For example, you can also see "socially critical" cribs here, as you could see more often in Germany in the 1980s. Far from being merely a soothing portrayal, they invite the observer to reflect deeply on the meaning of the birth of Christ and its significance in our society today.

Recently the sculptors of the Shona people from Zimbabwe were brought into the light. Picasso regarded the works of this people, which are exclusively handcrafted, as coronations of modern art. They are the result of a close dialogue in which the creator allows himself to be guided by the material. These artists, who came from a mainly animistic society, represented the world premiere of the motif of the birth of Jesus Christ.

In 1989, after a first attempt in Germany, the first Christmas exhibition took place in Hergersberg. It was a daring undertaking when one considers that then, as now, large church cribs had to be dismantled and replaced in record time by private creations of much smaller dimensions and presented in enchanting landscape motifs.

This first Christmas exhibition coincided with the creation of an international nativity scene competition in which anyone could take part, but which was divided into several categories (hobby or professional artists, kindergartens, schools, youth movements). In the following year, a prescribed leitmotif introduced the applicants to a specific theme.

In November 1991, the Belgian Association of Friends of Nativity scenes was founded. Several dozen sponsors and experts belong to it. This association is based in the museum and is affiliated to the UNFOE-PRÆ, the World Association of Crib Friends, based in Rome. In the summer of 1992, on the initiative of the association, the first course for the construction of oriental cribs and then for the construction of local cribs took place. One or two courses per year take place during the holidays or Advent season. In 1998 a training course for background painting and a training course for children from 8 to 12 years of age was held, which was very successful and could not accept all applicants due to lack of space. Since then it has been held every year during the Easter holidays. Various members of the association also conducted other courses, such as making figures, personalizing them with glued fabrics, making santons or plant materials for dioramas. In the 30 years of its existence in Belgium, KRIPPANA has housed more than 5000 cribs, which have been admired by more than a million visitors. Some were of remarkable size and weight, while others were barely visible to the naked eye. KRIPPANA continues to exhibit church cribs today, but the theme exhibitions are also very important. They make it possible to get to know the richness of an art, sometimes demanding, sometimes folkloric, which is widespread throughout the Christian world.