FROM OUR HISTORY
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
- Click on the thumbnails to enlarge
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 ( 2008)
Brindisi during the Ages
of the Crusaders