18. /19. CENTURY

Nativity Scene Exhibition - Frozen Theatre

On the ground floor a blue arched doorway marks the way to the "Frozen Theatres", the nativity scene collection. Together with the large historical Church Nativity Scene, a small selection of the wide spectrum of Oberammergau cribs are exhibited here.

Among these are exhibits which were on show in 1910 when then museum was opened. As well as these, there are nativity scenes which were first on display in the museum in 1962 after the new installation by the Munich Nativity Scene specialist Wilhelm Döderlein, and nativity scenes which have since then been obtained.

On entering the Nativity Scene room, the first thing to catch one's eye is the large Oberammergau crib with the Canaan Wedding, the Three Kings Procession and the Christmas scene. In 1742, after the building of the St. Peter and Paul Parish Church had been completed, the wood carvers of Oberammergau began working on a Christmas Crib for the church, a project which took over 100 years to finish. The figures were donated by generations or retailers and wood carvers as an act of devotion and faith.

Although the oldest figures are from the 18th century, the majority were carved in the 19th century. In 1860 the Canaan Wedding was added, increasing the number of figures to around 200, and by the middle of the 19th century it had become a well known attraction.

In 1872 King Ludwig II visited the church to admire the scene. In 1900 it was sold to the sacristan Sebastian Lang and for the following few decades could be viewed in his house. Eventually in 1962 the crib was loaned to the museum, and in 1998 the council was able to buy it and by 2003 the elaborate restoration was completed.

 On the left side are more historical Oberammergau nativity scenes. The first is an exception for Oberammergau: the heads of the probably in the second half of the 18th century produced wire limbed figures are made of wax. Only the forearms and lower legs are made of lime wood.

The next nativity scene is the smallest clothed Oberammergau nativity scene. The only 7 cm high fine carvings, clothed in silk garments, are ascribed to the wood carver Sebastian Lang (1793-1869). The following scene is from the Guido Lang collection, the 59 beautifully dressed wire limb figures probably produced in the second quarter of the 19th century, and was displayed by Franz Zell in the original Nativity Scene room on the top floor. The adjoining paper nativity scenes were very much on demand in the 18th and early 19th centuries, allowing fast and extensive scene changes.

In Oberammergau the only person involved in the production of paper cribs was the well known fresco painter Franz Seraph Zwinck (1748-1792). The large paper crib with the Worship of the Shepherds and the Holy Three Kings is part of the "All year" crib from 1770, as are the four scenes: Jesus on the Mount of Olives, The Procession to Calvary, Golgotha and The Resurrection of Christ, in the four small showcases. In the case of the 56 figures from the 1780 produced crib in the previous showcase, Zwinck chose a smaller format; these figures are only 7 cm high, while the figures in the "All Year" crib are up to 14 cm high.

Opposite to the left is a crib by Georg Johann Lang ("Mesner",1891-1968), the son of Sebastian Lang, carved in 1913 in lime wood, which depicts The Worship of the Shepherds. The last nativity scene on this side seems to be especially alive. Most of the finely carved figures were produced by Guido Mayr (1880-1946). The figures and buildings to the sides were made by Ludwig Wolf Sen. (1876-1951), the previous owner of the crib.

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