Tradition of Nativity scenes dates back to the Middle Ages - St. Francis of Assisi is credited with creating the first nativity scene in 1223 at Greccio, Italy. In Poland nativity scenes appeared in churches in the 12th century; they were decorated to represent a Bethlehem barn with a baby's crib with figures of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, shepherds with sheep and three wise men with gifts. Three centuries later, the scenes appeared with actors. At the end of the 17th century and the beginning of the 18th century, moveable dolls were introduced in the nativity scenes, and scenes of a worldly character, referring to everyday events were added in. In the 19th Century the Szopka tradition developed in Krakow.
Cracow cribs are highly decorated and elaborate nativity scenes, originally intended to display the skills of the craftsman concerned. There is still an annual Szopka festival in Krakow that attracts huge interest.