{Germany} Sterne Über Bethanien

December 20, 2013


Only a few more sleeps to go until Christmas. Museum Diary will be taking a little break over the holidays, but before I sign off I wanted to share a very special exhibition with you, which is seasonally quite fitting. The focal point of “Sterne über Bethanien” at the Museum Europäischer Kulturen is the fabulous nativity scene from the Deaconesses’ Home Bethanien in Berlin Kreuzberg.

bethanien leucht sterne

Measuring over 4 metres wide in total, and with over 60 beautifully carved figurines, the nativity scene tells the story of the Mary and Joseph travelling to Bethlehem, the birth of the Christ child, the visits from the shepherds and wise men, and the angels overlooking it all. Here are just a few vignettes from the overall masterpiece:

bethanien krippe gross

bethanien krippe heilige familie


bethanien krippe heilige koenige

The nativity scene was commissioned by the deaconesses in 1928 and carved by Guido Mayr, one of the most eminent woodcarvers in the Bavarian town of Oberammergau, which is famous for both its woodcarvers (in the 19th century almost a third of the town’s population worked in the carving industry) and also its Passion Play, performed every ten years at Easter. It survived the subsequent War unscathed and was exhibited annually at Bethanien until 1970. After the deaconesses moved, the nativity scene eventually ended up at the museum as a long term loan. It has been carefully restored, and is on public display again to mark its 85th anniversary.

weihnachtsberg snow scene

The exhibition is supplemented by documents, photographs and other small mementos from the deaconesses home, as well as further examples of wood carving craftsmanship. This so called ‘Weihnachtsberg’ or ‘Winterberg’ (Christmas or Winter Mountain) comes from the Erzgebirge (Ore Mountains region) in South-East Germany and is from around 1960.

weihnachtsberg postkutsche

snow scene horse drawn carriage

show scene nativity


By the way, the Museum Europäischer Kulturen also has a lovely selection of nativity scenes from around the world in its permanent collection as well as another, mechanical Christmas mountain measuring a colossal 14 square metres. You can see photographs of both in my previous post: A Very Merry Museum Christmas

stene ueber bethanien


I have a little surprise scheduled for you here on the blog for Christmas Day, and I may be checking in on Facebook during the holidays if I have a spare moment. Otherwise I’ll see you all in the new year. Happy Holidays and all the best for 2014!



  1. Merry Christmas! | Museum Diary - December 25, 2015

    […] this beautiful nativity scene from the Deaconesses’ Home Bethanien in Berlin Kreuzberg, which I wrote about on the blog last year, I would like to wish all my readers a very Merry Christmas! May your stockings and your hearts be […]

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