The Greccio Museum of Devotional Items resides in a church basement in Leiden, South Holland and exists to celebrate the act of worship-through-recreation that was allegedly begun by St. Francis of Assisi centuries ago.
According to most accounts, the first nativity scene was staged in a cave in the now-defunct town of Greccio, Italy, in an attempt by the famous saint to redirect the emphasis of Christmas towards Jesus Christ and away from more secular traditions. In the spirit of remembering Christian worship through tableau and imagery, the Museum of Devotional Items collects crucifixes of all sizes, religious tchotchkes, and other small devotional items which would otherwise be discarded. Pieces on show range from stoic crosses to kitschy souvenirs such as a set of ceramic monks playing cards, and everything in between. The walls are covered with crucifixes, holy water fonts, lovingly hand-embroidered vestments donated by Franciscan monks, and statues of all sizes. But crammed into the side rooms you’ll also find books, prayer cards, candles, rosaries and anything else connected to Roman Catholicism.
Of course, around Christmas there is also a special display of nativity scenes which is the Greccio Museum of Devotional Items’ holiday gift to visitors.
Know Before You Go
The museum entrance is at the back of the bicycle parking on the Lange Mare, behind the Hartebrug church. Opening hours are every 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month after the 11:15 church service. The museum is closed in July and August. Entrance is free of charge.