Spanish Nativity

The Builders - People and Associations

 Who Are The Builders?

Who are the people who build these scenes?  In Spain, many people belong to “belenista”  associations. A belenista is a person who makes belenes (pronounced be-LEN-es) or Spanish style Nativity scenes.

Banner of the Tarancon Belenista Association.

Individuals build them in their homes, of course, but almost any reasonable sized city or town in Spain has its own association of belenistas.  They meet throughout the year and build Nativity Scenes for their own displays and also build on commission for banks, the City Hall, and other institutions.  They also have yearly conferences of all the associations from all over Spain in the Federación Espanola de Belenistas (FEB), founded in 1963. Many members also attend the conference held by the UN-FOE-PRÆ, Universalis Foederatio Praesepistica, or International Creche Federation, founded in 1952.

The oldest continuously existing association is that of Barcelona, which was founded in 1921, although its predecessor society was founded in 1858.  Among its early members were some of the most important artists and architects of Barcelona, such as Joseph OriolsMestres.  They now have a very interesting website, much of it maintained by long-term member Ignasi Carbonell.

Associations were formed in other parts of Spain over the yeMembers in the workshop of the Madrid association.ars, and after WWII, a large number of associations, including Madrid’s Asociacion de Belenistas de Madrid, sprang up. The Madrid Association was founded in 1945 and has a small set of offices in the old part of Madrid where the members maintain a collection of figures, their administrative offices, and a workshop and kiln for working on the many scenes they build in Madrid during the Christmas season.

There are active associations all over Spain, from the young and lively La Morana, the association representing Zamora, a small city in Castilla, to the Belenistas de la Isla, the very active association at the other end of the country, in the southern province of Cádiz.

Members of the Agrupacion Belenista La Morana, of Zamora, building a cork cave for a scene.

In Alicante, the local association runs a small museum with a very interesting collection of figures, many of them 19th century Spanish productions.  There are also things like 19th century glass bell jars covering tiny sacromonte scenes, and a host of unusual things that express the art of the Spanish Nativity Scene.  




The yearly conferences are the times when all of the associations come together.

There are also publications devoted to belenismo (which is the building of belenes).  The FEB publishes the very informative and attractive Anunciata, and most associations also publish smaller magazines during the year. 

There is also the excellent magazine, Taller de Belén, whose editor  and publisher, Manuel Ortega, is a fine photographer.  It contains practical information, plans for buildings or scenes, and articles on current and past scenes.

Finally, of course, we have radio and TV. For the last 3 years, Cristóbal Jiménez has run a great radio program, Camino de Belén, on a radio station in his city, Alcalá de Henares. You can listen to it live on the Internet.  During the Christmas season, it broadcasts weekly, but it drops back to an every-two weeks schedule the rest of the year.  However, the old programs are archived.

This Christmas, a group of young men from Andalucía started an excellent TV show, Nació en Belén, on their local cable TV channel. You can watch it by Internet.

Finally, for a general overview of what’s going on, there is the wonderful Foro De Belenismo.  The Forum is maintained by Iñigo Mena and has sections dedicated to current scenes, scene building techniques, history,  figuristas – in other words, just about anything you can think of. It has some wonderful regular posters who put up photographs of their work. The Foro is highly recommended even for people who don’t read Spanish, because you will be able to see the work of some of Spain’s best belenistas without even leaving your desk.

If you would like to get a better overview of the world of the Belén, the following links will take you to the websites of organizations, individuals and merchants. Since the websites are generally in Spanish or Catalan, we have provided a brief description for people who do not read those languages. If you need translation of a particular section, please feel free to contact us on the contact page with your questions.


Asociación de Belenistas de Madrid  Website of the Madrid association.

Associació de Pessebristes de Barcelona
This association is the oldest in Spain and has a very interesting website. It is entirely in Catalan, but the pictures are worth a visit and you will probably not need much of an explanation of the text. It has several on-line exhibits, such as a fine exhibit of early 20th century Spanish Christmas cards and a wonderful exhibit of its collection of Nativities.

Belenistas de la Isla This association is located in San Fernando, in the southern province of Cádiz, Spain. They have a very interesting website, and the link will take you to their Passion dioramas. If you would like to see Nativities and other activities by their members, you can back up to their home page and branch out from there.

Belenes Montealto This company, located in Jeréz de la Frontera, has a beautiful and informative website.

Federación Española de Belenistas  This is the site for the Spanish federation of belenista associations.

Foro de Belenismo The home page of the Foro de Belenismo, a Spanish language Web forum on belenismo that covers everything from discussions of favorite figures to construction techniques. You may enter as a guest or register.

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