INTER-GENERATIONAL CRACOVIAN NATIVITY SCENE
Magdalena Kowalewska talks with Adam Bujak, a papal photographer and author of over 140 books
MAGDALENA KOWALEWSKA: – In the album ‘God is being born’ photographs taken by you present various Picture, sculptures, Nativity scene, altars and Christmas traditions. What is your favourite artistic motif of Christmas?
ADAM BUJAK: – It is difficult to choose one of them. The mentioned photos are a material from the time of about 20 years. I did not have a difficulty with collecting them, but with choosing which of them to place in the album. Surely, the masterpiece are reliefs of Wit Stwosz in the Cracovian Basilica of the Mariacki Church. For me, personally, excellent works are also simple sculptures of folk artists. They are often uneducated people who received inspiration from God.
– You were accompanying St. John Paul II on many Christmas occasions. In the book there is a photo in which the Holy Father is bringing a little figurine to a Nativity scene placed in the Basilica of St. Peter during the midnight mass in 1982.
– I was singing carols with the Holy Father at the table during his first Christmas in Vatican. It was our first visit with cardinal Franciszek Macharski. The plane was standing at the airport all night, because the Security Services did not want to let us go. However, we had enough time to get there and in the evening we were participating in the first carols singing with the Polish pope! It was something incredible and unforgettable. About one and a half hour of singing carols together by highlanders and Cracovians together with pope John Paul II.
– You also photographed Vatican nativity scenes.
– Yes. But let’s remind that there has never been a nativity scene on the Square of St. Peter before. At present no Italian person or a foreigner can imagine this place without a nativity scene or a tall Christmas tree. Tradition of annual putting up nativity scene was initiated just by St. John Paul II.
– In your home town the First Contest for the most beautiful Cracovian Nativity Scene was organized in 1937. You take photos and observe the engagement of whole families in their preparation. How much is this initiative needed?
– Crowds which gather round the monument of Mickiewicz and a procession with nativity scenes go without speaking. Children, youth and elderly people are engaged in creating them. Constructing nativity scenes had been begun before the war unemployed Cracovian bricklayers. They were working only during a season. Somebody got an idea about creating Cracovian nativity scenes. At the monument of Mickiewicz, destroyed by the Germans, and which was reconstructed later, nativity scenes were sold. During the Second World War contests were completely forbidden but on 21 December 1945 at the feet of this monument Cracovian nativity scenes were put up again. I was a witness of presenting them in the times of Stalin. Militia was throwing away bricklayers, and they were returning to this place to continue sale of them. When presentation of nativity scenes was forbidden, they were presented in the arcades of the Cloth Hall. At the times of communism there were a lot of excellent people who maintained this beautiful tradition.
Whereas now the Bethlehem nativity scenes in monasteries, alive nativity scenes like the one at Jasna Góra or in Cracow at the Franciscans are something unusual! Let’s remind that once they were not popular, and now they are a part of Christmas tradition and remind about what happened in Bethlehem.
– Whereas in France Christmas nativity scenes can be in public places, but they cannot have religious character.
– It is a kind of a paranoia. France, similarly as Germany or England will wake up. The world is going to the right, to Christ and Blessed Mother and no leftist party is not able to stop it. One can see renewal, despite constant pushing away the Church. Those who are going to remove Christianity from the public space, are not able to do it. Christianity has experienced a lot of epochs, such as the French revolution or the Bolshevik revolution, in which it seemed that the religion had been removed. Whereas it happened the other way round. In Russia one can see religious awakening. France is going to the right direction. It is fed up with the gender ideology, paranoia, hatred, fight with family. It is going to be the same in the case of a fight with the Nativity scene.