Christmas in Spain: The oldest Crib figure

The Virgin of Revilla, the Patroness of Baltanás (in Palencia, where Finca El Cercado is located), is the oldest Crib figure conserved in Spain. Made at the end of the 13th century, it was stolen by the famous thief Erik ‘The Belgian’ in 1981

Virgen de Revilla, preserved in the Museum of Cerrato

The Nativity Scenes are an important tradition in Spanish Christmas.

St. Francis of Assisi began the art of representing the Birth of Jesus on Christmas Eve of 1223, in a cave near the hermitage of Greccio, in Italy. The Nativity scenes arrived soon in Spain.

Only a few pieces of these first Nativity scenes have survived until our days. The oldest one still preserved in Spain is the figure of the Virgin of Revilla in Baltanás.

It has been documented that this wooden sculpture made at the end of Thirteenth century was part of a larger set that represented the scene of the Flight into Egypt, with the Virgin and child riding a donkey, accompanied by San Jose. But these pieces have been lost in some of the many vicissitudes that this ancient figure has lived throughout its history.

The most recent one, and probably the one that caused the definitive loss of the rest of the Nativity scene, was its robbery by Erik ‘The Belgian’, on the night of September 9, 1981. This famous art thief came into the Hermitage of the Virgin of Revilla and took the patroness figure along with other low value objects, as detailed the diary ABC in a article published on December 20, 2016.

Hermitage of the Virgin of Revilla, Baltanás

The patroness of Baltanás was missing until 1983, when it was recovered in France by the Police. But the figures of the donkey and San Jose were never found. It is thought that they were pieces added to the Virgin on Fifteenth century, so it is believed that Erik ‘The Belgian’ considered it of little value and removed it.

Figure of the Virgin of Revilla with the donkey and San Jose. Photo: Brotherhood of Ntra. Sra. de Revilla, Baltanás

Currently, the Virgin of Revilla, the oldest Nativity figure conserved in Spain, is preserved in the Cerrato Museum, although it returns to its “house”, the hermitage of Revilla, during the designated dates of the year, like September 8th, when it is celebrated a Religious holiday in its honor.

Museum of Cerrato Castellano