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The Bad Kötzting Whitsun Ride
One of the largest mounted processions, with only menfolk in the saddle

Almost 1,000 horse riders take part in Bad Kötzting's Whitsun ride which attracts thousands of spectators. This event combines religious traditions with a town festival. It is one of Europe's largest mounted processions and originates in a pledge made in 1412.
Every year on Whit Monday, almost 1,000 riders set out on festively bedecked horses through the romantic Zellertal valley to Steinbühl, accompanied by the celebratory sound of church bells. The riders, dressed in the traditional costume of the Bavarian Forest region, are praying as they go. According to legend, a dying man asked for his final rites to be read in the village of Steinbühl, about 7km from Kötzting. However, the priest felt unable to get there without protection. Responding to his plea, the young men of Kötzting agreed to accompany the priest on his visit to the dying man. After returning unscathed, they pledged to repeat the ride every year.
In 2004, a Bishop took part in the ride for the first time and issued a decree which reinstated the Whit ride as a Eucharistic procession, thereby allowing it to carry the consecrated Host. The Whit or Pentecostal ride forms part of a complex set of traditional customs. A museum inside Kötzting's fortified church houses an extensive collection of historical objects and materials on the Whit ride and the subsequent Whitsun wedding pageant. The museum's collection illustrates the historical and present day significance of the custom. Exhibits include a market flag from the end of the 18th century with the first depictions of the ride, along with equine jewellery and items from the traditional costume. "Wreaths of virtue", awards and the 19th century wedding dress of a Whitsun "bride" are also on display.
The mounted procession is lead by the cross bearer. He is followed by lantern bearers, trumpeters and a religious officiator with a sexton and altar servers. Behind them rides the Whitsun "bridegroom" with the two male "bride attendants". At four locations, the officiator preaches from the Gospel and blesses the fields with the monstrance. Only local men are allowed to take part on the ride, although the horses come from all over Bavaria. A special mass is then held at the Whitsun Riders' Pilgrimage Church of St. Nicholas in Steinbühl. The Whitsun "wedding" is celebrated once the riders have returned to Bad Kötzting. This ceremony probably has its origins in ancient spring and fertility rituals. Every year one of the young men of Kötzting is chosen as Whitsun "bridegroom", who in turn gets to choose a "bride" for the "wedding".



A3, A6, A92, B11, B20, B85, train station