Whether on horseback or with a heavy tree trunk on your shoulder: Sunny spring weather gave believers in East Bavaria the best conditions for celebratory pilgrimages.

Bad Kötzting/Bogen (dpa/lby) – In bright sunshine, hundreds of riders took part in the traditional Kötzting Pentecost ride on Monday. The day before, numerous onlookers lined the paths of the Holzkirchen candle pilgrimage on the Bogenberg near Straubing. And the Regensburg foot pilgrimage ended on Saturday after a 111-kilometer march in Altötting.

The Kötztinger Pfingstritt has existed for more than 600 years. After a two-year Corona break, the riders set off in Bad Kötzting early on Whit Monday to the St. Nicholas Church in Steinbühl, about seven kilometers away – in holiday costume and on decorated horses. The Whitsun Ride is one of the largest equestrian processions in Europe. According to tradition, only “guys” take part; Women are in charge of the festival and decorating the horses with paper roses.

The pilgrimage has its origin in a legend, according to which in 1412 a priest wanted to bring the sacraments to a dying person – on horseback. Since robbers were lurking on the road, brave fellows protected him. After the happy return, the men vowed to repeat the ride annually. In 2015, the Whitsun Ride was included in the Bavarian State Register of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Since this year, the Holzkirchen candle pilgrimage to the Bogenberg has also been part of the Bavarian intangible cultural heritage. As tradition would have it, “strong men” from Holzkirchen, a district of Ortenburg (Passau district), carry a 13-meter-long candle to the pilgrimage church on the Bogenberg near Straubing, about 75 kilometers away. The candle is a tree trunk that is wrapped in red wax and weighs around 45 kilograms.

One of the special challenges is that one of the men carries the vertical trunk alone. Drenched in sweat, the men arrived at the top of the pilgrimage church to the applause of the spectators. After a lap of honor around the church, the men put down the trunk and brought it into the church.

According to tradition, the candle pilgrimage goes back to a vow in 1475, according to which a candle offering should be brought to the Bogenberg every year – in gratitude for the help of the Mother of God against the spread of the bark beetle.

From Thursday to Whit Saturday, the Regensburg foot pilgrims were on their way to Altötting, where they prayed in the Chapel of Mercy and celebrated a pilgrimage mass in the Basilica of St. Anna.