Christmas Nativity Scenes in Paris


Many Catholic churches in Paris set up a Nativity Scene at Christmas, which can be traditional, baroque or modern. Some like that of Notre-Dame cathedral attract thousands of visitors during the festive season. Here are a few churches where to find Nativity scenes in Paris.

Nativity scenes in Paris

Nativity Scene at Saint-François Xavier church, Paris © French Moments

The Provençal Nativity Scene © French Moments

Nativity scenes have been a regular fixture in many churches in Paris. They represent the birth of Jesus in a stable (or a cave) in the little town of Bethlehem in Judea. The figures of the crib range from small to life-size and are placed in a poetic setting inspired by local life.

Every year, the churches of Paris welcome new Nativity scenes: Notre-Dame cathedral, the Madeleine church, and the Sacré-Coeur Basilica being the most visited sanctuaries. Here are a few Nativity scenes spotted in churches across Paris (December 2015-February 2016):

Notre-Dame Cathedral (4th arrondissement)

Nativity Scene 2015 Notre-Dame Cathedral copyright French Moments

Cracow crib at Notre-Dame cathedral (2015) © French Moments

In 2015-2016, the cathedral of Notre-Dame welcomes an imposing crib 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 and involved 10,000 hours of work.

Find out more about the Cracow Crib in Notre-Dame.

Outside the cathedral, just under the main portal is another static Nativity Scene:

Notre-Dame Cathedral Christmas 2015 03 copyright French Moments

A sober Nativity Scene under the central portal of Notre-Dame © French moments

La Madeleine Church (8th arrondissement)

Nativity Scene La Madeleine © French Moments

Nativity Scene in La Madeleine (2015). Photo by French Moments

The church which resembles a Roman temple with its colonnade hosts two different cribs in every other year. A traditional Nativity scene alternates with a more contemporary one. For Christmas 2015, the contemporary crib was sculpted by Pauline Ohrel and called ‘Revelations’. Made of poultry netting, the 2015 crib disturbed many people by reading the guest book! One comment was quite interesting though as it linked this ‘simple and modest Nativity scene’ to the birth of Jesus which took place in a precarious way.

In 2016, another contemporary crib by Samuel Yal was set up to the left of the main altar:

Nativity scene Madeleine church Paris Samuel Yal

The Nativity scene in La Madeleine church 2016-17 by Samuel Yal © French Moments

Saint-Germain-L’Auxerrois (1st arrondissement)

Nativity Scene Saint-Germain l'Auxerrois © French Moments

Nativity Scene of the church of Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois © French Moments

The church opposite the Louvre has an oriental Nativity scene for Christmas 2015.

Saint-François-Xavier (7th arrondissement)

Nativity Scene at Saint-François Xavier church, Paris © French Moments Scene Saint-François Xavier Paris 01 © French Moments

Nativity Scene of Saint-François-Xavier church, Paris © French Moments

This is certainly our favourite Nativity scene in all of Paris. The church welcomes a Provençal crib in one of its chapels. Magnificently decorated, it combines biblical characters (Mary, Joseph, the donkey and the ox, the three Wise Men) with typical Provençal village characters (the town crier, the poacher, the old man and woman: Grasset and Grasseto, the washerwoman, etc…). Find out more about the Nativity Scene in Saint-François-Xavier Church.

Saint-Sulpice (6th arrondissement)

A man-sized Nativity Scene is found inside the church of Saint-Sulpice in Saint-Germain-des-Prés:

Nativity Scene Saint-Sulpice Church Paris 02 copyright French Moments

Nativity Scene Saint-Sulpice Church Paris © French Moments

Nativity Scene Paris

Nativity Scene Saint-Sulpice Church Paris © French Moments

Saint-Germain-des-Prés (6th arrondissement)

The Nativity Scene of the abbey-church of Saint-Germain-des-Prés is displayed with a clever effect of light and shadows:

Nativity Scene Paris

Nativity Scene Saint-Germain-des-Prés © French Moments

Nativity Scene Paris

Nativity Scene Saint-Germain-des-Prés © French Moments

Saint-Eugène-Sainte-Cécile (9th arrondissement)

A beautiful Nativity Scene in one of Paris’ most surprising churches:

Nativity Scene Paris

Nativity Scene Saint-Eugène-Sainte-Cécile © French Moments

Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre (5th arrondissement)

The Nativity Scene on display inside Paris’ oldest church has been richly and carefully decorated:

Nativity Scene Paris

Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre Nativity Scene © French Moments

Sainte-Clotilde Basilica (7th arrondissement)

The Nativity Scene on display next to the main altar inside the Sainte-Clotilde Basilica shows the emotions on the faces of the biblical characters:

Nativity Scene Paris

Nativity Scene Sainte Clotilde Paris © French Moments

Sacré-Cœur of Montmartre (18th arrondissement)

The Nativity Scene inside the Sacré-Cœur basilica in Montmartre  (18th arrondissement) is one of the most beautiful in Paris. The crib is beautifully crafted in wood and recalls with simplicity the humble birth of Jesus-Christ in a crib.

Nativity Scene in Sacré-Cœur © BSCM

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About Author

Pierre is a French/Australian who is passionate about France and its culture. He grew up in France and Germany and has also lived in Australia and England. He has a background teaching French, Economics and Current Affairs, and holds a Master of Translating and Interpreting English-French with the degree of Master of International Relations, and a degree of Economics and Management. Pierre is the author of the Discovery Course on the Secrets of the Eiffel Tower and the Christmas book "Voyage au Pays de Noël".

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