The Dancing Procession of Echternach: 14 June 2011
In the Dancing Procession of Echternach, pilgrims purge their sins by dancing through town and visiting the remains of the saint in the Basilica. The custom dates back more than 1000 years.
According to legend, the tune pilgrims dance to was played on a fiddle by a medieval thief. Granted a final wish before his execution, he asked to play his violin in the town marketplace. The tune was so lively that it set the people dancing and in all the confusion he was able to slip away and so escaped his sentence.
The Dancing Procession of Echternach was then taken up by Christians in honour of St Willibrord and in an attempt to be spared the terrors of diseases such as the plague and St Vitus' Dance.
Echternach's is the last traditional dancing procession in Europe and is held annually on Whit Tuesday.
The procession goes through the streets of Echternach, and up the wide staircase of 30 steps, leading up to the Basilica. The pilgrims climb these, still to the music, enter the church and make a tour around the crypt under the main altar of the Basilica and which contains the remains of St. Willibrord.
There is a growing interest for this religious event, which attracts pilgrims from all over Luxembourg, as well as from the neighbouring countries (Germany, France, Belgium, and even Holland), as it is both an expression of the Catholic faith, and a celebration to honour the Saint, whose influence has spread far beyond the limits of the actual Grand Duchy.
To read more about the Dancing Procession of Echternach, click here and here.