Polish Heritage Society of Rochester
A szopka workshop (to learn to make these ornate creches) will be held
October 23-24, 2010 at the Rochester Museum and Science Center.
Click to open the brochure (PDF, 2 MB).
Watch for information each Christmas season on programs to be presented by
the Polish Heritage Society of Rochester, the Krakow Sister Cities
Program and the Rochester Museum and Science Center, especially the annual Wigilia celebration
and szopka workshop.
See the links page for additional information on the web related to this article.
This program is funded by a grant from the Arts
& Cultural Council for Greater Rochester, the New York State Council on the
Arts, and the New York State Legislatures. Additional support has been provided by the
Polish Heritage Society of Rochester and the volunteer support of its members.
One of the most beautiful European Christmas traditions, the Cracow szopka ("shop – kah" ; plural: "shop – key")
is a folk art form with a rich history dating to the Middle Ages, when they originated as puppet theaters in the churches
of Krakow, Poland. These structures were used for morality plays during the Christmas season. At a time when few people
could read, these productions helped to convey moral and educational lessons. Over time, these productions became less
religious and more secular and in the early 1700’s they were forbidden on church property. Denied the patronage of the church,
szopka entertainers carried their creations through the streets and performed their plays to music, auditioning for peoples'
2007 Szopka exhibit
In the nineteenth century, szopki became a favorite performing art form in Cracow cafes and cabarets and featured much
social and political satire. As Poland at this time was occupied by foreign powers, many of these performances critiqued
foreign oppressors. At a time when books and newspapers were censored, these puppet shows become a powerful tool in
criticizing foreign occupation. They become so political that the occupying authorities banned their construction and
performance. When Poland became free again after World War I, Cracovians could once again make szopki and perform puppet shows.
2007 Szopka exhibit
2007 Szopka workshop
with Dave Motak
In October 2007 the PHSR, KRSCC (Krakow Rochester Sister Cities Committee) and the Rochester Museum and Science Center
(RMSC) co-sponsored a 2-day Krakow Crèche (Szopka) workshop. The workshop was attended by 15 two-person teams who learned to
construct crèches under the leadership of szopka artist David Motak of Pittsburgh, PA.
The Krakow szopki have been displayed at the RMSC during the Wigilia celebration on December 8, 2007 and at
St. Stanislaus Church before Christmas 2007. The enthusiastic response to this first workshop has encouraged PHSR
to continue to offer the workshop again in October 2008 and 2009. The two-day workshop conducted by
Dave Motak covers the history of this unique Krakow tradition from
its beginning as puppet theatres in churches
to the present day art form competition in Poland which incorporates the beautiful architecture of our Sister
City Krakow in these creative and colorful szopki. Participants receive hands-on instruction on constructing
these beautiful Christmas crèches which are generally completed by early December.
During 2008 and 2009, the szopki resulting from these workshops have been displayed throughout the community
at special events such as the 100th anniversary celebration of the renovation of St. Stanislaus Church
(Norton and Hudson Ave.) in Rochester, NY (November 16th 2008).
and at the Rochester City Hall Visitors Center.
Previous workshops have sold out, so if you are interested in the next workshop, please contact
Bob and Barbara Pippen, firstname.lastname@example.org
for details and to reserve a place for the 2010 workshop, October 23, 24, 2010.
Szopka workshop photos (2008), Picasa.
Szopka workshop photos (2007), KodakGallery
Szopka display at the 2007 Wigilia Celebration, KodakGallery
Szopka workshop photos (2008), KodakGallery
Szopka workshop photos (2009), KodakGallery
Szopka Portraits, KodakGallery