Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Easter Riders of Upper Lusatia

A few years ago, I wrote about the monastery of St. Marienstern (Mary's Star) in Panschwitz-Kuckau, in the Lusatia region of Germany. This Easter, I returned their for a beautiful Catholic custim. As mentioned in the article on St. Marienstern abbey, this region is inhabited by the Sorbs, a Slavic people with their own language and many traditions and the largest minority in Germany. The Sorbs of Upper Lusatia remained Catholic, and one of their most well-known customs are their Easter Day mounted processions. Every year on the morning of Easter Sunday Catholic riders announce the joyous news of Jesus Christ's resurrection, a tradition first mentioned in 1541. There are several processions taking place simultaneously, as essentially the men of one parish visit a neighbouring parish, and the visited parish makes a counter-visit. Each procession may consist of up to 200 festively adorned horses lead by the flag bearers and riders carrying the Christ statue and the cross; altogether, there are at present about 1700 riders participating. The Easter riders, clad in black trousers, frock coats, top hats and riding boots, celebrate mass together before the start of the procession. Afterwards, they ride around their local church and are blessed by the local priest before setting off to the sound of the ringing church bells across the countryside to deliver the joyous news of Jesus Christ's resurrection. The riders circle every church or village square along the route of the procession several times, singing Sorbian hymns but also German and Latin ones. Before leaving each village, they pray loudly.

I first attended Pontifical Mass in the Cathedral of Bautzen, the centre of the Catholic Sorbs.

The cathedral is interesting in particular because it is a simultaneum - in fact, the oldest simultaneum, exisiting as such since 1524 - the choir being Catholic, whereas the nave is used by the Protestants.

I then went to see the Easter riders gather around the Sorbian parish of Our Lady.

To get a better view, I climbed this tower (the Reichenturm).

Here the riders are circling the parish church of Our Lady.

Then I went on to see the riders' visit at St. Marienstern abbey. The riders entering the monastery courtyard:

And circling it:

Each horse's tail is decorated with a hand-embrodered bow.

Mother Abbess greeting the riders:

On their last round, the riders are blessed by the priest, for which hats are removed:

Two of the nuns look on from the nun's choir:

Here I've taken a short video clip to give you an impression:

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: