Believing in Encounters
A living nativity scene stood in the Atrium of the City Hall in The Hague for many years and is still in demand to this day. It brought connection between all faiths and nationalities in the meeting space that is the Atrium of the City Hall. It gave the Atrium foundation the idea to bring the nativity scene back to the Atrium, but this time with a special collection of nativity scenes of Brother Frans Wils, who previously had its place in the Stadsklooster in The Hague. The Atrium will be closed on Christmas Day Monday December 25, 2023, on Boxing Day Tuesday December 26, 2023 and on New Year’s Day Monday January 1, 2024.

His nativity scenes come from all over the world and will be exhibited from December 6, 2023 until Epiphany on January 6, 2024 in the Atrium of the City Hall in The Hague. Bear in mind the guiding principles of de Stadsklooster, this exhibition is also entitled Believing in Encounters. On the 1st Christmas Day Monday December 25, 2023, on the 2nd Christmas Day Tuesday December 26, 2023 and on New Year’s Day Monday Januari 1, 2024 the Atrium is closed.

Tentoonstelling Geloven in Ontmoeting - Kerststallen in het Atrium Den Haag - Foto Mariette Bolhuis-LetterZDesign

Nativity Scene Museum
For years, brother Frans Wils has run his nativity scene museum in the Stadsklooster. He has stopped counting how many nativity scenes he has collected, so he always says there are 1.001. He started collecting more than 35 years ago when he was teaching at the Canisius School in Da Costastraat in The Hague. By showing the nativity scenes, he wants to demonstrate that the Christmas story is universal and that it appeals to almost everyone:

“Nowhere is the story presented more beautifully than in a nativity scene.”
“It’s about peace, connection with each other and connection with yourself.”

Brother Frans Wils has now relinquished most of the nativity scenes and handed them over to the parish of Maria Sterre der Zee. These are kept and partly exhibited in the St. Paschallis Church, Wassenaarseweg in The Hague. He has several nativity scenes displayed in his house and he still regularly receives new ones from all over the world. This special part of his collection can be seen in the exhibition Believing in Encounters in the Atrium of the City Hall in The Hague.

For more information about Brother Frans Wils’s nativity scenes, go to his
Facebook page Kerststallen Stadsklooster.

Foto - Broeder Frans Wils in het Stadsklooster - Foto Irina Zhelnina Facebook Stadsklooster
Photo – Brother Frans Wils in the City Monatry (Stadsklooster) – Photo Irina Zhelnina Facebook Page Kerststallen Stadsklooster

2023: 800 Years of Nativity 
According to tradition, it was Saint Franciscus of Assisi who created the first living nativity scene, in 1223 in Greccio, Italy. The nativity scene will therefore celebrate its 800th anniversary in 2023. In Greccio there is a cave that reminded Francis of the Grotto of the Nativity in Bethlehem, which he himself had visited in the Holy Land. In this cave he made a nativity scene, with a real manger as a manger for Jesus, with living figures and a real donkey and an ox to portray the Christmas story as realistically as possible. Small nativity scenes were first recreated in houses around the 18th century.

Photo: Assisi Basilica di San Francesco – Website Ciaotutti

Het Stadsklooster (City Monastery)
The Vincentius Society of The Hague and the Brothers of Maastricht have been working together in the Stadsklooster at Westeinde 101, The Hague for more than one hundred and fifty years. The complex houses the Street Pastorate, various African churches and choirs and cultural activities take place there. Since 2021, the complex has been run by the Christian community Stichting488.

Het Stadsklooster is an open and hospitable house, where everyone is welcome. Especially for people who are looking for new opportunities and inspiration. The complex consists of workplaces, living areas, group rooms, a chapel and a garden. Because of the many possibilities that this complex offers, many different activities are organized in the spiritual, social, educational and cultural fields. For years, more than 100 homeless people have been coming every Friday for a moment of reflection and a meal. Once you step inside from the hustle and bustle of Westeinde, this place offers an oasis of peace in the center of The Hague.

One of the places within the complex where people meet is the Monastery Garden. Activities are regularly organized with and by the neighborhood and students often come to garden and residents of the Middin care institution help with gardening every week. There is room for meditation in a quiet corner of the garden. Here there is a kind of altar for every faith. Because we also believe in encounter in that area, there is even an altar for Somethingism: people who believe that there is ‘something’ between heaven and earth.

This exhibition is a production from Atrium City Hall in cooperation with LetterZDesign.


Stadsklooster Den Haag - Foto website Broeders van Maastricht
Stadsklooster Den Haag – Photo website Broeders van Maastricht.