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STORIES FROM OUR HISTORY

The Adorned Horse

The Adorned Horse in Cethedral squareThis unique and religious ceremony takes place during the celebration of Corpus Domini, when the Bishop, riding an adorned white horse, parades the Blessed Sacrament (host) through the main streets of the City. This is in remembrance of an ancient tradition which originated in the year 1254.

This solemn procession commences in Piazza Duomo, which on the day is packed with loyal parishioners.
At the entrance of the Seminar building the Archbishop of Brindisi and Ostuni ride a white horse and is accompanied by the clergy. With him are also civil and military authorities, representatives of the "Order of the Knights of Malta" as well as the "Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem" who support the four poles of the canopy which shades the Archbishop.

The procession follows the roads that lead to the promenade. During the war of 1915-1918, the port would be full with military ships, and the ceremony would bless these ships and in response a twenty-one gun salute would be heard.
The procession then follows the main roads back to the cathedral. Along the route, the streets are lined with loyal and faithful followers which make this procession very evocative.

The Corpus Domini paraded on horseback makes this event unique to Brindisi.
The root of the tradition derives from the story or legend of the difficult landing of Louis IX King of France - commonly Saint Louis - of France's ship, in the harbour of Brindisi, after returning from his 7th crusade (1248-1254) from Egypt.

After the conquest of the city of Damietta in Egypt, Louis IX also known as the "Saintly King" after his sanctification, was defeated in 1250 and jailed after the battle of El-Mansura (5th and 6th of April) Conditions for his release were that he had to free Damietta abd to pay one million of scudi in ransom. As legend has it, he also had to leave the Eucharist as ransom.

Once arriving in Brindisi, he obtained the necessary amount to secure his release from Frederick II of Hohenstaufen and then he went back to the Saracens to pay the ransom; the leader of Saracens, as a reward for his loyalty and faith, returned the Holy Host to him without taking any ransom.
Upon returning in the year 1250, Louis IX's ship was blown by the wind to "Horse Rock", about three miles south of Brindisi. There, the Holy Host was then taken in procession by the old Bishop Peter, riding a white horse and held from the bridles by Frederick II and Louis IX.

The Horse's CapeAccording to ancient belief, at the point were the horse entered the water to allow the archbishop to retrieve the Holy Host, its footprints were left behind and cast in stone. From these fossils it is said that fresh unsalted water gushed from then on.
This headland became known as the Cape or The Horse's Point.
Later a tower was built there, in memory of this event, by Charles I of Anjou, five years after the death of his brother Louis IX. During last centuries the tower has been completely destroyed. Nowadays the site is an industrial area, not easily accessible by the public.

The Corpus Domini - 1945As in all legends, there are facts to be questioned or disputed. For instance, there are doubts on the actual presence of both Frederick II and Louis IX at that time. Moreover, the coin of the money used for the ransom is not demonstrated, since none of these coins has been found.
According to some historians this episode could have been the consolidation for the lay culture of Frederick II and the Christian culture represented by Louis IX.
Another hypothesis would be due to the central role of the horse, as a sacred acknowledgment to the Crusades, that left important references in the city and harbour of Brindisi; for example, the sixth crusade of 1227 to 1229, personally led by Frederick II, left from here.

This famous tradition has been celebrated for eight centuries, interrupted only for a brief period from 1964 to 1969.

Photogallery - Click on the thumbnails to enlarge
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Photo:
1, 2 - The Archbishop wearing clerical dress in the cloister of Seminar bulding
3 - The Archbishop with the Holy Host
3, 4, 5 - The solemn procession starting from the Seminar building (Duomo square)
6 - The procession along Via Montenegro
7, 8, 9 - The procession along the prominade (seafront)
10 - The procession along the main street

 

VIDEO
Corpus Domini 2013
by Agenda Brindisi

» The Video ( 2008)

Correlated documents:
» Brindisi during the Ages of the Crusaders

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