Each year, at the Ascension of Christ, the traditional “Gymnicher Reit” takes place in Gymnich in Nord-Rhein-Westphalia in Germany ca. 13 km outside Cologne
Each year, on the Ascension of Christ, the traditional “Gymnicher Ritt” takes place in the Gymnich in North-Rhein-Westphalia in Germany, ca. 13 km outside Cologne.
The “Gymnicher Reit” is a parade in which 150 members of the local associations – the “St.-Sebastianus-Bruderschaft” and the “St.-Kunibertus-Schützengesellschaft” take part together with hundreds of pilgrims. People gather in the morning on the parade ground at the Gymnich Castle, where the standards are presented. The parade ground is also the local memorial from the 1945 war.
At this part of the celebrations, only the members of the local fraternities take part. From here, the participants ride to the Parish Church, where a mass is celebrated. Afterwards, the procession meanders through the city, hosting a fair. Finally, the parade ends with a sacramental blessing.
According to the prevailing opinion, the “Gymnicher Ritt” tradition dates back to the 13th century and was instituted by the knight Arnold von Gymnich. The family of Gymnich is first mentioned in a letter from 1139, whereby the Archbishop of Cologne enfeoffed Azelin von Gimnich with a manor and some property at Erfstadt. It appears the Gimnich family belonged to the household of the Electorate of Cologne. Another landowner at Erfstadt was the Benedictine monastery of Siegburg. A fortified manor was first mentioned in 1354. Called Neuerburg, this was probably not the first fortified manor. Later, this house was dismantled, and the present castle is dated to c. 1420 and later.
In 1217-1221, Arnold von Gymnich participated in the Damietta crusades. The legend tells us that he was caught in a swamp and unable to extricate himself. In his distress, he asked God for help and promised – that if saved – he would engage the whole village in a procession to honour God so that his rescue might be remembered for all time. The horse was then frightened by a Porzana or rail and jumped onto solid ground saving the knight. In another version, the knight is named Johann von Gymnich, who, in 1456, took part in the siege at Belgrade.
According to the different stories, the procession has continuously been held since then. Probably, though, the “Reit” is a splendid example of a later “invention of tradition”, which grew out of the traditional “Rogation Days”. Some descendants of the family still hold the protectorate. The local parish organises the “Reit” itself.
Visitors who want to take part in the Gymnicher ride or visit the fair can drive into the outskirts of the village. This year, the Bonn Event consortium is again organising the annual market.
Gymnicher Ritt in 2023 © Manfred Schnuis
Zu Pferd und zu Fuß zur Ehre Gottes 2023