The Diaz Caballero foundation have built Bethlehem in Mollina, a small village near Antequerra.
A Spanish Nativity scene is called a Belén. This word means Bethlehem, since a Spanish Christmas scene includes the entire town of Bethlehem and what often looks like all of Judea. In addition to angels and shepherds and sheep, there are farmers with their ploughs, hunters with strings of game, washerwomen washing and bakers baking. There are caves and houses and temples, rocks and streams and mountains. Off in the distance, there are the Magi on their camels, and sometimes you will see the soldiers of Herod, ominously advancing with their swords drawn. All the while, children like small lambs dance through the scenes, bringing their offerings to the Child, the Niño, who sleeps in a straw-filled manger under the gaze of his adoring Mother and the vigilant St. Joseph.
The tradition is thought to have been started by St. Francis who is credited with creating the first nativity scene in Greccio, Italy in 1223. The custom soon spread to Spain where it underwent many changes, becoming larger, more intricate and allowing for artistic licence in the interpretation of the scene. For the last 800 years skilled manufacturers have been producing nativity scenes to delight children and adults alike.
Now in the small village of Mollina between Antequerra and Fuente de Pedra you can see a collection, reported to be the largest in the world, of belen created by famous Spanish manufacturers from all corners of Spain. There are 60 scenes on display around three huge creations. One representing the eight provinces of Andalucia is 25 metres long and was created by Vicente Martinez. The newly opened (December 2017) Museo de Belenes, despite not having yet been officially inaugurated, is already attracting large numbers of visitors.
The museum is open all year. You are advised to book through the website museodebelenes.com if you plan to visit during the Christmas period. Your kids will love you for it.
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