When Nativities and Ornaments Collide: Peruvian Retablos

History of Retablos

Since literacy was scarce in the Middle Ages, churches began to incorporate stained glass windows depicting scenes from the Bible as a means of relating the message of the gospel to those without access to education.  This is just one example of how images have been used in place of the written word particularly in the context of religion.

In Peru, Andean folk art has embraced storytelling through images with the construction of retablos.  Retablos are three-dimensional boxes with figures inside, depicting a story of either religious significance or everyday life. In the same vein, nativities are figures set within a scene to tell the story of the birth of Jesus.  So combining the Andean tradition of retablo with the story of the nativity is a natural meld.

Peruvian Retablos

Delicately handcrafted inside ornaments to hang on the Christmas tree, or in boxes for the mantle, Peruvian retablos will remind you of the true meaning of Christmas while at the same time, embracing the spirit of giving by supporting the artisans who make them, providing them with an opportunity to earn fair wages and a sustainable income.

Ten Thousand Villages works closely with artisans in towns including Ayacucho, Cuzco, and impoverished sections of Lima in order to help indigenous artisans preserve this cultural tradition.


Egg Retablo Ornament


Egg Retablo Ornament

A real eggshell is hollowed out for this retablo ornament.  The figures comprising the nativity scene are hand sculpted from ceramic and the eggshell is painted entirely by hand for a decoration as beautiful as it is delicate.




Starry Night Nativity Retablos

Starry Night Nativity

Painted in rich gem-tones, this retablo nativity holds a regal air to shelter the Holy Family, three kings, and the angels above.




Mushroom Retablos

Mushroom Retablo

A slender ceramic mushroom acts as a whimsical refuge for the scene to be set.  In a set of three, these ornaments are each lovingly hand sculpted and painted to bring the classic story to life.




Retablo Nativity Star

Retablo Nativity Star

Hand painted paper from Peru, this retablo ornament is in the shape of the very star that led the wise men to the birthplace of their Lord.





Joyful Retablo Nativity

Joyful Retablo Nativity

In a more traditional box shape, this freestanding retablo nativity scene is made of composite wood.




Nativity Gourd Ornament


Nativity Gourd Ornament

Tiny ceramic figures are enclosed in a brightly colored gourd ornament.  A unique material to tell a classic story in a vibrant decoration for the home painted with an Andean folk art design on the outside.



Bring a bit of color and culture into the home with all of our handmade retablos!