I have already visited Landshut, in Bavaria, (Germany) for several times but last Sunday I was not only being enchanted by the charm of the picturesque little town but rather by the famous bridal pageant!
Countless visitors from all over the world took part on that wedding procession, and were spectators of the “Landshuter Hochzeit 1475”, a pageant. More than 2,000 participants in medieval costumes brought the festival (from 2pm.-to 4 pm.) to life to recreate the Late Middle Ages.
The historical wedding
The medieval wedding of Landshut is re-enacted now every four years, and everyone gets carried away with medieval jousting, pageantry, feasting and wedding processions. The festival is held (from 28th of June till 21 st of July) in memory of the wedding between George of Bavaria, the son of the Bavarian duke, and Hedwig Jagiellon, daughter of King Casimir IV Jagiellon of Poland, in 1475. The wedding was negotiated in 1474 in Kraków through legations. The marriage was important because it was seen as a strong alliance against the Ottoman Turks. At the time, most royal marriages were not entered into because of love, but because of political motivations. It took the bride two months to travel to Landshut, where she was received by princes and bishops. The bridal pair were married in St. Martin’s Church, and the service was officiated by Salzburg’s Archbishop Bernhard von Rohr. Afterwards the bridal procession proceeded through the Old Town to the Town Hall. Ten thousand people are said to have attended the affair and they were provided food and drink by the young duke’s father such as: 320 bullocks, 1,500 sheep, 1,300 lambs, 500 calves, 40,000 chickens were eaten. The historic event is notable for its detailed records that yield a complete chronicle of the wedding days and which allows the re-enactment to have a touch of realism. The exact recordings can be explained from the historical context with the Fall of Constantinople in 1453 which led into to a longer period of growth of the Ottoman Empire. The marriage of the Polish princess with George “the Rich” was very profitable for the Polish king – the 32,000 Guilder bride wealth he received is worth about 6.5 million Euros in modern currency.
The bridal pageant idea
The original motivation for the festival dates back to the foundation of the German Reich in 1871 which furthered German national pride. In the years 1876 to 1880 the Landshut town hall was renovated and in the years 1880 to 1882 the celebration room in the town hall was given paintings depicting the Landshut Wedding of 1475, as this very room was used as the dance hall for the festivities at that time. From these images the idea arose among citizens to recreate the event and finally the restaurant owner Georg Trippel and the factory owner Joseph Linnbrunner founded a society “Die Förderer” in 1902.
The first Landshut Wedding recreation took place in 1903, only one year after the creation of the society, and largely took the form of a public play performed by 145 citizens taking on a role. The Landshut Wedding play was subsequently presented annually from 1903 to 1914 (paused during World War I) and 1922 to 1938 (paused during World War II). During this time the number of actors involved increased to 2000. The Landshut Wedding became a triennial event from 1950 to 1968 and from 1975 to 1981. Since 1985 the Landshut Wedding has taken place every four years.The number of members of “Die Förderer” society rose from 855 to 5000 during the years 1973 to 2004. The renewed interest in medieval history made the event a major success in terms of tourism. Today the 60,000 or so inhabitants of Landshut welcome 600,000 to 700,000 visitors during the three weeks of the festivities, with some 120,000 visitors watching the bridal procession. The sponsors are able to collect money in the range of 3.5 million Euro to allow for the event to take place. However, the real heroes of the “Landshuter Hochzeit” are the local citizens who act variously as bishops, aristocrats, bride and bridegroom. Without these people, the festival could not take place. The actors are chosen from a commission of the “Die Förderer”. Every person who wants to become a member of this association and who wants to take part in this big event has to live near Landshut. However, it is not only the actors who delve into the medieval times. It is customary among Landshut males to let the hair grow longer in the months before the event to match the medieval fashion better.
The city’s decoration was retrofitted to a great extent. This of course meant that the city became a pedestrian-only zone. Visitors, including media reporters, were asked to wear an outfit that fits in with what the local inhabitants wear. Dressed in the gorgeous raiment of the period the wedding guests from Poland and Germany made their way through the town. The Emperor, the Elector, princes and counts, but also ambassadors, the town’s elders, camp followers, mercenaries and beggar folk follow the bride. The Late Middle Ages revealed the elegance and pomp of the period. What else I was really amused by during the wedding procession was when the enthusiastic audiance hailed the different characters with a long halloooo!!