The Polish city of Kraków has a rich tradition of building fanciful and elaborate Nativity sets, known in Polish as szopki, that dates back to the arrival of Franciscan friars in the city in the Thirteenth Century. These have become tremendously popular and a cultivated craft:
To bring in a national color, historical figures from local legends were added to the scenes. Many other Biblical figures like King Herod and the Holy Family started making appearances too. By the eighteenth century, the figures had become movable, with stick puppets and string marionettes being introduced. While all this was taking place at Church, the excitement had gotten out of hand as decided by the Bishop Teodor Czartoryski, who banned the plays from churches in 1736. Only immobile scenes were permitted in church, the live puppet shows being passed down to the people. This was the beginning of the szopka as it is known today.
Some szopki are six feet tall! View several more pictures of them at the link.
Link | Photo: Lukasz Zoladz