The Holy Riders

Way back in 1412…

A man lay dying at a chapel between town of Koetzting and Arnbruck, deep in the Bavarian woods. It was customary for a priest to be summoned in order to give last rights to the dying, but the nearest priest was in Koetzting, about 7 Kilometers away. The priest said he would go but being that the roads were dangerous to travel on alone, he stated that he would not go unless he had an escort to ensure that he would get to his destination and back to Koetzting unharmed. Horsemen from the area volunteered and all together, the priest and his escorts rode to pay the man his last respects and returned to Koetzing safely soon after. From that year on, it became a tradition, every year over 900 riders from around Bavaria come to Bad Koetzting (the modern name of the town) to ride in the Pfingstritt.

Pfingstritt occurs every year on “Pfingsmontag” or the Monday of Pentecost and begins in the very center of Bad Koetzting. The Bishop of Regensburg heads up the formation with his large delegation and rides the whole way to the old chapel in Steinbuhl and then back again. The riders will stop from time to time to pray and move on again towards their destination. When the Bishop and his riders arrive at Steinbuhl the Bishop holds holy Mass and the whole group rides all the way back to Koetzting. The whole process takes 12 hours from start to finish.

The riders wear a special “tracht” or traditional outfit and carry various banners representing the saints or the city they come from. But the riders aren’t the part you want to hear, its the horses. These aren’t your average run of the mill race horses, the horses who participate in this show are of the humungous draft horse variety; giants meant for pulling timber or carriages. Every horse’s mane has been elaborately decorated with rope and twine and their tails are also spotted with decoration and sometimes braided.During the ride, all of the city is shut down completely and the main road between Bad Koetzting and Steinbuhl is closed and reserved only for the ride. It is meant as a pilgrimage these days, and every year more and more riders join in what I can imagine to be an incredible experience.

In true German form of course, there is always an excuse to have a party, and what better excuse than this? After observing the ride, onlookers can join the fest in the city or watch the horse competitions tied to it. Enjoy a beer and music while you wait for the riders to return or join in on other festivities around town.

If you happen to find yourself in Bad Koetzting, Germany during the week of Pentecost and want to see something spectacular, this tops the list. Make sure to also plan ahead so that you can find a place along the route and remember to go during a year when they hold the horse competitions, another awesome sight to behold.

Until next time,