Processions on horseback are traditional in many rural regions of Bavaria, Germany. Perhaps one of the most well known processions is the ‘Georgiritt’ – the Saint George Ride – in the city of Traunstein every Easter Monday.
The earliest known record of this festival dates back to 1762, although it probably evolved from a medieval pagan custom. In its modern incarnation, the Saint George Ride sees more than 400 riders and their ornately-decorated horses embark on a pilgrimage from the centre of Traunstein to the Ettendorfer chapel, accompanied by musicians, dancers and performers, all dressed in traditional Bavarian costumes. Once they’ve arrived at the church, the priest blesses the horses and their riders. Then follows the Schwertertanz – the swordsmen’s dance – to symbolically drive away the winter and welcome in the spring.
Why Easter Monday? It marks the day on which Saint George (the dragon-slayer!) was martyred in the year 303. Being the patron saint of horsemen, it makes sense that this is the day on which horses and riders are blessed.
This festival helps keep Bavaria’s traditions and appreciation for animals alive at a time when their animals’ traditional roles have largely been made redundant thanks to machinery. All sorts of horses are seen including Haflingers and a number of heavy breeds such as the Black Forest horse, although the beautiful South German Coldblood is the most common.
Check out these fantastic photographs of the parade. Look at the detail in the plaiting of the manes and tails – amazing!
Spectators line the route as the horses and riders parade to the local church.
The festive braiding of the horses’ manes (some faux, some real!), complete with decorative ribbons. Imagine the time spent plaiting and stitching in all those intricate details! Even the horses’ tails are bedecked with flowers.
The priest and other religious figures take part in the procession on horseback, and once they reach the chapel, the priest blesses each horse and rider.
Saint George himself makes an appearance on his sturdy white steed.
The swordsman’s dance, symbolising the victory of spring over winter.
Looks like a lot of fun, don’t you think?