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Sunday, 01 September 2013

Blood Sunday in Salmuenster: Passion, Promises and Processions - Page 2

Written by Mike Howard
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   Blood Sunday is both a religious event and a secular contract, written into the town’s civic codes in 1555, and observed by the Mayor and the town’s legislature for almost 500 years.  The procession winds for five kilometers, and visits four stations – one directly in front of the courthouse itself. 

   I chatted with Salmuenster resident Bernd Berg as the procession filed by, and according to Berg, it didn’t matter that, twenty years ago, the intricate tapestry of freshly cut flowers would have covered the entire church square, instead of just the immediate stair-front. Or that forty years ago the procession would have numbered one thousand church faithful, instead of the doughty one hundred that turned out this year.  “What does matter,” said Berg, “Is that in even in this modern age – we can still experience centuries-old traditions that promote universal truths of faith, hope, and charity.”

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   In Salmuenster, a second annual plague-appeasing procession survived the centuries, and dates back to the Thirty Years War.  Successive waves of epidemics and famine called for even stronger measures and the citizenry vowed to undertake a two-day, 37 kilometer pilgrimage through forests and fields to worship at the holy shrine in Regernsbrunn every September, until the end of time. 

   Those religious observances celebrating high Catholic holy days will continue as long as there is a Catholic Church. Easter, Good Friday, Maundy Thursday, Ascension Day, Holy Sunday.  But the promises made centuries ago by terrified citizens as they watched their world wither and die before their eyes – are a bit more tenuous.  The sworn oaths made on behalf of the descendents of survivors will endure only so long as those descendents endure—and remember. And the lineage grows thin.  

   My stopover in Salmuenster wasn’t accidental. I’d done my research online, and specifically targeted church calendars and daybooks.  Let’s face it.  Travel is expensive.  It’s a costly indulgence paid for in currencies of time, money and security, and of the three, time is the most fleeting.  I for one, feel obliged to extract the utmost experience out of my travel currency.   Looking into Johanna Korn’s eyes, as she stood over that carpet of flowers in front of the Saint Peter and Paul church, I experienced an approach to an ethereal something that has eluded me throughout childhood and all my adult life.  It eludes me still – but it feels somehow—closer.


(c)Mike Howard

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Last modified on Sunday, 01 September 2013

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