Horse pilgrimage in honor of Saint Leonhard
Leonhardi in Tölzer Land
Horse pilgrimages in honor of Saint Leonhard are a fixed element of farm life in Tölzer Land.
Saint Leonhard is widely revered as the patron saint of prisoners and especially (domestic) animals. Leonhard of Limoges (around 500 AD)*, also known as Leonhard of Noblat, was the son of nobles born in the Franconian kingdom and raised at the courts of the Merovingians. According to a biography written in the 11th century, he was baptized and educated by Archbishop Remigius of Reims (440-534). Filled by compassion, young Leonhard regularly visited prisoners and successfully petitioned King Chlodwig I. and Chlothar I for their release. Later he refused the miter that was offered to him in order to withdraw as a hermit to a forest near Limoges. From here he began to preach for the sick and needy. According to legend, the prayers of Saint Leonhard or prayers directed to him, both before and after his death, caused the chains of numerous prisoners to break in miraculous ways. His commemoration day is November 6.
From the 11th century, Saint Leonhard was especially revered in Old Bavaria where he is considered a helper in times of need and especially as the patron saint and spokesperson of animals and in particular horses.
• The Leonhardifahrt procession in Bad Tölz is particularly famous. As the largest Leonhardifahrt in Upper Bavaria and one of Germany’s most beautiful horse pilgrimages, it casts its spell on tens of thousands of spectators every year. In the early morning hours of 6 November 2013, over 70 festively attired four in hand carts as well as several hundred horses with numerous participants in ancient historic costumes gather in the Kurviertel district in honor of Saint Leonhard, the patron saint of animals. In a precisely established sequence, they proceed up the Marktstraße onto the Kalvarienberg, to Leonhardskapelle chapel where a service is held to bless the participants before two circuits are made around the Leonhardskapelle built in 1718 and the procession returns to the Marktstraße. On the way back, wild galloping is often seen along the Marktstraße lined by sedate middle-class houses decorated with frescoes, heading towards the Mühlfeldkirche church. In addition, the “Goaßlschnalzer” make lots of noise with their whips to indicate that the Leonhardifahrt procession has reached its successful conclusion.
• Celebrations in Benediktbeuern are less touristy but just as ceremonial. In this monastery village, the blessing of horses is also celebrated every year in November by farmers and associations in festival attire along with plenty of decorations for horses ranging from ponies to heavy horse. On 3 November 2013, the pilgrimage in honor of Saint Leonhard with around 50 carts and some 250 horses starts out from the village center to the courtyard of the Benediktbeuern monastery. Here a pilgrimage service is held in the basilica at 10:00 am. After the service, the pilgrims return through the Pechlern district and along the national highway to the village square. This is followed by the traditional “Goaßlschnalzn” which involves the sophisticated cracking of whips. The Leonharditanz dance is held at night in the Postsaal.
Other Leonhardiritt rides are held in:
• Bad Heilbrunn, Oberbuchen, 1:00 pm
• Lenggries, Dionys-Kapelle chapel near Hohenburg
• Wackersberg, Pestkapelle chapel
Horse pilgrimages with the subsequent blessing of horses in honor of Saint Leonhard are also held during the summer:
• Egling, chapel in Harmating, 1st Saturday in July. Egling also holds the Pfingstritt Whitsuntide ride to Dettenhausen (Whit Monday, starting at 1:00 pm).
• Dietramszell, Leonhardikirche church, 3rd Saturday in July. Here the “Lehard”, as the festival in honor of Saint Leonhard is called in the vernacular, is complemented by a beer tent, Marktstandln market stalls and Schiffschaukel swingboats that make children’s’ hearts beat faster. The Georgiritt ride is traditionally held in Dietramszell/Ascholding on Easter Monday starting at 1:00 pm.
Tölzer Land Tourismus
83646 Bad Tölz