One of the most famous Nativity Scenes in Paris is found inside the Notre-Dame cathedral and attracts almost 2 million visitors from the first Sunday of Advent to Candlemas. We have been lucky enough to have been in Paris for two consecutive years to visit the simple yet monumental Nativity scene at Notre-Dame cathedral.
The Nativity scene at Notre-Dame cathedral
Tradition has it that the cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris set up a stunning Nativity scene from the first Sunday of Advent to Candlemas. You will find the crib in the Northern ambulatory of Notre-Dame. The best time of the day to come and see it without too many people is in the morning between 7.45am and 10am.
from 26 November 2016 to 2 February 2017.
The 2016-17 Nativity scene at Notre-Dame: the Provençal Crib
In 2016-17, the monumental Nativity scene at Notre-Dame is 15 metre long.
The scene reproduces the typical landscape of Provence with olive trees, a mill, and a whole village that features a church and Mediterranean-style houses.
There are hundreds of small hand-painted terracotta figurines (called Santons) representing various villagers from Provence: from fishermen to musicians and bakers to card players. Some of them are animated. It is so much fun to let the kids find the grotto where Mary and Joseph stand.
Please note that the baby Jesus is not added until midnight on Christmas Eve. As for the Magi, they will be coming on the 6 January.
From 26 November 2016 to 2 February 2017.
The 2015-16 Nativity scene at Notre-Dame: the Cracow Crib
The 2015 Nativity Scene of Notre-Dame is a richly-coloured and imposing crib made in the style typical of Cracow, the former capital of Poland. The monumental Nativity scene reproduces the main architectural features of the Polish town. It is five metre high (over 16 feet) and involved 10,000 hours of work. Made by the Markowski family, it won the contest of the finest rewarding Christmas crib of Cracow in 2010. The competition has been running since 1937 by the City of Cracow.
The decor of the Nativity Scene was influenced by the city’s twenty-one churches and parts of secular buildings such as the Barbican fortress or the Cloth Hall from the Renaissance era. Ten stained-glass windows are dedicated to saints buried in Cracow and paintings refer to historical events and local legends. The centre of the scene is occupied by the Holy Family (Joseph, Mary and infant Jesus) with the Magi and shepherds.
The Nativity Scene is situated in the North side of the cathedral’s ambulatory and is presented from the first Sunday of Advent to the 2nd February 2016.
Christmas at Notre-Dame
On your way to discover the Nativity scene in the ambulatory you will pass by the side-aisles (or the nave) of the cathedral. Each year at the beginning of Advent the sanctuary is being decorated with a Bethlehem star and an Advent wreath that both hang from the ceiling.
The crib outside the cathedral
Outside the cathedral, just under the main portal is a simple static Nativity Scene surrounded by Christmas trees: