Austrian Boys' Religious Costume: Palm Sunday

Figure 1.--This photograph of a Palm Sunday ( Palmesel ) procession was taken at Thaur in the Austrian Tyrol during 2003. The photograph was taken by Reinhard Mueller.

Another Austrain religious custom is held was held on Palm Sunday. A donkey was led by the people in a procession to church. On it rode at first a clergy man, but since these animals arenít very tame, it was replaced by a wooden sculpture showing the donkey and Jesus. It was drawn by altar boys that had to be very obeying. It is also said that riding on the donkey will be good for their growth. In some regions the ears could be taken apart and were used as money collector. In other sculptures you could open its stomach and fill it either with bread and goodies, which fall apart during procession. It was first mentioned in 970 in Augsburg and was strongly held during the Middle Ages and Baroque era. The person who made the sculpture hoped that his sins would be forgiven. It was common especially in the South of Germany but also in Netherlands and Belgium and other countries (e.g. Austria, Switzerland, and perhaps elsewhere in Europe). The custom in the 17th century waslargely abolished because it had become out of bounds. Most of the Palmesels were slaughtered by Eselmetzger, that hid up their heads. Fortunately some of them survived and are mostly in Museums now, but there is a place in Bavaria where they still use a living donkey and two in Austria (Thaur near Innsbruck and Puch near Hallein) were they still use a wooden Palmesel in procession.


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Created: April 27, 2003
Last updated: April 27, 2003