The Institute of History of Ukraine in its online encyclopedia (in Ukrainian) explains that the vertep, a telling of the Christmas story through puppet theatre, is thought to have appeared in the second half of the 17th century and lasted until the early 20th century. In 1929, I︠E︡vhen Markovsʹkyĭ published a book about vertep which was due to be the first volume of a set but which was never added to. The UL’s copy has its record here.
The front cover of the book, with two pages showing puppets and a stage.
The vertep stage was often a two-storey house, with the story of the nativity taking place on the higher floor while the other provided other religious or secular puppet plays, with a strong strain of comedy running through the secular plays. The Museum of Theatre, Music, and Cinema of Ukraine shows a beautiful array of vertep houses on this page.
Secular stories involved stock characters, among which often featured a Ukrainian peasant couple, a Zaporozhian Cossack, clerics, a Jewish character, a Polish character, Russian soldiers, and various animals.
Continue reading →
In previous festive blog posts I have written about carols (complete with video of the Library carols from 2015), St. Nicholas, crib scenes and Christmas cards, always with reference to relevant holdings in the UL. This year I am more limited in what I can highlight as I am unable to visit Rare Books or go up the Tower to view interesting material. However, what I can do is feature items available online (to Cambridge staff and students) which have a Christmas theme.
In the last twenty years or so the history and culture of Christmas celebrations seems to have been an area of research interest for quite a few academics, both here in Europe and in the United States. Here are some titles (newest first) which can be accessed online: Continue reading →
In the year 2000, the Institute for Bible Translation produced a rather remarkable volume containing the nativity narrative of Luke’s Gospel (2:1-20) translated into 80 languages of the post-Soviet Commonwealth of Independent States.
Continue reading →
The birth of Jesus has been represented in images since the 4th century when it appeared in reliefs on sarcophagi in Rome. St Francis of Assisi was perhaps the first to create a (living) nativity in the early 13th century. Since that time the nativity scene has spread from Italy across Europe and become an important part of Christmas festivities in many cultures in both public and domestic settings. The nativity has also been a major subject in paintings and other artistic forms since medieval times. We are celebrating this Christmas season with a look at some examples from our collections. Continue reading →