MOLLINA – After a long period of limited opening due to the corona pandemic, the largest museum for a nativity scene in the world can be visited once more. This is a unique getaway in Mollina, 10 minutes drive from Antequera in the province of Málaga.
Anyone who thinks of a nativity scene with a miniature stall made of wood or plastic and around 6 dolls, a manger, and some farm animals will be completely flabbergasted in this museum. Moreover, in Spain, the people who make nativity figures and compose the works are true artists. Consequently, complete art movements have even arisen in it. In fact, a nativity scene in Spain is an extremely detailed miniature landscape that depicts a distant past.
Spanish Nativity Tradition
Furthermore, Spain has a long tradition of making nativity scenes. Every year from mid-December you can admire the most diverse types of nativity scenes. From huge public nativity scenes in cathedrals, churches, and town halls to private nativity scenes from hobbyists in their homes or garages. Those hobbyists spend all their free time making and staging the figures. Moreover, they often construct their personal interpretation of entire villages, towns, and landscapes from a bygone era. All kinds of former professions are depicted. Such as farriers or carpenters, in an environment of yards, bakeries, and greengrocers, and street scenes in which residents play the leading role. However, naturally, the Christmas scene in the stable around the birth of Jesus is a highlight of every ‘belén’.
70 Christmas stalls on 5,000 square metres
In Museo de Belenes, the permanent exhibition of this art is combined with temporary exhibitions. All this on a surface of more than 5,000 square metres. Here are more than 70 ‘Christmas cribs’ with thousands of figurines by recognised artists in this area. In the interior are the nativity scenes and dioramas (small three-dimensional arrangements visible through a window) on the wall and in the outdoor area of the museum the Andalucia countryside plays the leading role.
The founder and owner of the Museo de Belenes, Antonio Díaz, is very happy with its reopening around the fourth anniversary of his museum. “The Nativity Scene Museum is a dream that came true four years ago,” he told the Spanish media at the time. ‘We have been working on it for over ten years. And now, after more than a year and a half of limited opening hours, the doors can finally re-open.’
The nativity scenes can be admired in a modern building designed by architect Alfonso Mora and technical architect José Manuel Caro. Furthermore, the museum has seven rooms where more than 70 nativity scenes are set up. Some monumental nativity scenes were created by the artists Antonio Bernal from Córdoba or the Madrilenian José Luis Mayo. There is also a nativity scene depicting the eight Andalucian provinces by artist, Vicente Martínez del Puerto de Santa María.
Meticulously recreated figurines
Despite the fact it is the largest museum in this area, the special content that attracts people is very small. These include meticulously recreated figures, details, and tools in the hands of those little figures, even wood chips from carpenters. However, you won´t get tired of it because every time you discover new details. At the same time – for those who don’t like the Christmas story so much – it is a dive into Spanish history. This also makes the museum great fun for (small) children!
World trip in miniature
New are 19 nativity scenes representing different countries in the world: from the American continent, with figures from the United States or Peru, to Asia, with examples from China, the Philippines, Japan, and Thailand, via Germany, Ireland, Israel, the United Kingdom, and Uganda. “They were donated to the museum by the Ruiz Villena family from Madrid. These nativity scenes were part of the private collection of Milagros Villena Alonso. She collected the figurines on trips, through friends… After her death, her children contacted the foundation for their donation to the museum,” explains Díaz.
Access and opening times
The museum is open daily from 10.00 am to 2.00 pm and from 4.00 pm to 7.30 pm. The entrance costs 6 euros for adults, children up to 3 years are free and from 3 to 12 years a ticket costs €3. People over 65 pay €4. However, on Saturdays, the museum is open continuously from 10.00 am to 8.00 pm. Furthermore, on December 24 and 31, and January 5, it is open from 10.00 am to 2.00 pm. Click here for more information.
Combine a visit with other special things to do in the area
Furthermore, outside the museum, there are more special things to do in the vicinity.
- Visit the salt lagoon Laguna De Fuente De Piedra. forget don’t bring your binoculars because you can spot flamingos and special water birds.
- See the prehistoric funerary monuments declared a UNESCO World Heritage in 2016: Conjunto Arqueológico Dólmenes de Antequera.
- Take a walk through an impressive karstic natural park where nature in tandem with time has created fantastic stone carvings in El Torcal de Antequera, also a World Heritage Site.
- Visit the mausoleum of the famous bandolero Josemaria El Tempranillo in Alameda.
- Combine a visit to the Museo de Belenes with the world-famous Caminito del Rey kloof gorge hike
- Observe four wolf packs in their natural behaviour in Lobo Park near Antequera. A tour of this wolf park will teach you a lot about these special animals and for the little ones, there is a nice petting zoo.