Haguenau, cradle of nurseries in Alsace

Haguenau

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Place of the event
Haguenau city center
67500
Haguenau
03 88 06 59 99
tourisme@agglo-haguenau.fr

Location and access

  • Haguenau, birthplace of nurseries in Alsace - © Emmanuel Viverge/TMT Photo
  • Haguenau, birthplace of nurseries in Alsace - © Emmanuel Viverge/TMT Photo
  • Haguenau, birthplace of nurseries in Alsace - © Emmanuel Viverge/TMT Photo
  • Haguenau, cradle of crèches in Alsace - © OSL
It was in 1420 that a register kept in the Municipal Archives of Haguenau mentions the creation of a nativity scene at the Saint Georges church. Sentence taken from the original notebooks of 1420: “Similarly, the creation of the nativity scene surrounded by branches, on the exterior walls of Saint George, cost 4 schillings minus 4 pfennigs. Hermann provided said branches. »

This is the oldest written record of the existence of a crèche in Haguenau, almost undoubtedly in Alsace!

The Municipal Archives of Haguenau preserve, in the series GG “Cult and public assistance”, the financial accounts of the Saint-Georges church, from 1409 to 1793. This represents 558 notebooks and 6799 accounting documents, preserved in 93 bundles.

During these 584 years, all revenues and expenditures will be scrupulously recorded by the successive “werkmeister” (receivers).

The expenses are extremely diverse: repair and maintenance of the church and its properties, costs linked to worship, purchases of ornaments, paintings and sculptures made for the church, salaries of sacristans, purchases of candles, hosts, wine, missals, albs, altar cloths, repair of pews, organs, bells... and their ropes, invoices for masons, carpenters, glaziers, joiners, tile makers, locksmiths, rope makers, stove makers, wheelwrights, chimney sweeps…

There are also more prestigious expenditures such as the acquisition of the monumental Christ by Clement of Baden in 1488, the construction of the pulpit by Veit Wagner in 1500 or the custos by Frederick Hammer completed in 1523, all three still visible today .

More surprising, the maintenance of a sheepfold or loans made to the city for its military expenses or the acquisition of a small fire pump... with buckets.

All these expenses are of course impossible without the related revenue: Donations, sales, annuities, rents, rents, loan repayments, offerings made on the occasion of major religious festivals (Easter, Pentecost, All Saints' Day, Christmas), but also during daily quests!

The Saint-Georges parish also collected the tithe (one tenth of the products of the land and livestock, abolished in 1789) on hay, grains (rye, oats, wheat, barley, millet, wheat, beans, peas, lentils, spelled, etc.), turnips, wine, “blood” (animals: lambs, calves, foals, suckling pigs). She also sold wood, wine, flour, and, towards the end, Turkish wheat (corn), potatoes and even tobacco!

An unusual source of income was the ringing of bells, such as the "Selgeret", which were rung for the salvation of one's soul or another person, or other ringings for deaths... or birthdays. .

We are therefore in 1420. Pierre Eckard and Georges Mertzwiller are the werkmeister of the Œuvre Saint-Georges. They scrupulously note, day after day, expenses and income in a modest little notebook of 36 sheets of paper, measuring 11 by 29,5 centimeters. The cover is, as was often the case at this time, made of reused parchment. In this case, it is made up of two parchments, one from 1418 and another from 1420, "sewn" together by strips, also made of parchment, 5 millimeters wide.

On the 25th leaf, between a purchase of hosts and candles, we read: "It. 4 ß on 4 d koste die kripfe zu machende die ußwenig an der sanct Jergen muren stet und umb gerten dar zu / herman gap die stecken darzu vergeben ". Namely: "Similarly, the creation of the nativity scene surrounded by branches, on the exterior walls of Saint George, cost 4 schillings minus 4 pfennigs. Hermann provided the said branches". The gerten are most probably made of hazel or willow, flexible branches that can be braided, the stecken designating more rigid and vertical branches.

These three modest lines, written in 1420 in a goose quill, in very slightly faded black ink, probably constitute the oldest mention of the existence of a nativity scene in a church. In Haguenau, almost without a doubt in Alsace, or perhaps even for the entire Holy Roman Empire! Until proven otherwise…

In Sélestat, we find, in 1521, the oldest mention of the "Christmas tree", in Strasbourg the Christmas market dates from 1570... With Haguenau and its nativity scene from 1420, Alsace is resolutely the cradle of magic of Christmas !

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Type of Christmas animation
Christmas exhibition
Event type
Exhibition

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Place of the event
Haguenau city center

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