Luxembourg is a country rich in history and deeply rooted traditions. Spirituality is an integral part of Luxembourgish culture. Pilgrims in search of spiritual comfort and connection with the divine can participate in several pilgrimages and worship in sacred places. The Christian religious heritage is anchored in the life of Luxembourg.
Dancing procession around the Abbey of Echternach
Located in the picturesque town of Echternach, Echternach Abbey is one of the most important religious sites in the country. Founded in the 7th century, this Benedictine monastery is renowned for its spiritual importance. Its annual dance procession is registered as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity by UNESCO.
Every year, on Whit Tuesday, thousands of pilgrims gather to participate in the “Sprangsprecessioun”. They follow a procession punctuated by dances in the streets of the city. This unique event symbolizes faith, hope and unity. It is a memorable experience for pilgrims.
The success of this Catholic pilgrimage grows every year. Each year, more than 10,000 spectators come to attend this very special event.
The next dance procession will take place on Tuesday, May 30, 2023.
Traditional pilgrimage in honor of Saint Willibrord
The day after Whit Monday, thousands of pilgrims and spectators flock to Echternach, city located in the north-east of Luxembourg. They come to participate in the religious procession in honor of Saint Willibrord.
During this very special procession, the pilgrims jump around for almost 3 hours to the rhythmic music.
The worshippers, dressed in black and white, are held on either side by white handkerchiefs in rows of 5 or 6 people. Jumping from left to right, they advance towards the tomb of Saint Willibrord, on a course of more than 2 kilometers. The Christians, unable to make the effort required to hop around for hours, follow the procession by singing or praying.
Founder of the abbey of Echternach, St Willibrord (657-739) lies in the crypt of the Basilica. He is also the patron saint of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.
This unique procession is registered as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity since 2010.
The number of people present at this very special pilgrimage has now reached over ten thousand. Everyone gathers around the Basilica of Echternach to watch this fabulous show.
Origins of the dancing procession of Echternach
The real origin of this particular procession, the “Sprangspressessioun”, is not very clear.
According to a legend, the minstrel of Echternach, condemned to death, asked for the possibility to play the violin as a last favor. He would then have succeeded in carrying away the onlookers in a totally crazy dance. Unable to stop, they would have asked Saint Willibrord for help to stop their uncontrolled movements.
The dancing procession would, among other things, heal people suffering from St. Vitus’ disease. This childhood nervous disorder is characterized by clumsy and uncontrolled movements.
Day of the Luxembourgish cultural heritage and traditions
Since 2019, Whit Tuesday is designated as “Day of Luxembourg’s cultural heritage and traditions”.
The pupils of the schools of Echternach are released on the day of the procession in order to attend it if they wish. Some 2,000 students participate each year. In addition, all Luxembourg schools study Luxembourg’s cultural heritage, including this dancing procession from Echternach.
Octave Pilgrimage to Luxembourg Cathedral
Known locally as Oktav, the Octave pilgrimage is the largest religious event in Luxembourg. It takes place every year in the city of Luxembourg, between the 3rd and 5th Sunday after Easter.
This year’s Octave pilgrimage will take place from April 29 to May 14, 2023
Celebrated since the 17th century, the Oktav today gathers nearly 90,000 pilgrims. Coming from all over the region, they come to pay tribute to the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus. Patroness of the country and consoler of the afflicted.
The origins of the Octave pilgrimage
While the plague was raging in Luxembourg, believers came to beg the statue of the Virgin Mary to heal the sick.
Later, the ancient wooden statue with miraculous powers, originally erected on the Glacis, was transported inside the city and permanently exhibited in the cathedral of Luxembourg on a golden pedestal. The statue was the object of great religious fervor.
During the Octave pilgrimage, pilgrims gathered to pay homage to him, make prayers and ask for blessings.
Coming from far away, pilgrims attending the different religious celebrations could eat from the different food stands set up around the Luxembourg cathedral.
The experience of the Octave pilgrimage
Since the 17th century, the Octave pilgrimage or “Oktav” continues to be celebrated with great enthusiasm by participants from various backgrounds. Today it has evolved into a traditional event, mixing religious faith, history and folklore.
The Octave pilgrimage consists of a two-week celebration, which takes place in April or May. Pilgrims from Luxembourg and the Greater Region gather at the Luxembourg Cathedral to participate in various religious ceremonies and processions. The atmosphere is one of devotion, unity and joy. For the occasion, the cathedral is richly decorated and the statue of Mary Consoler dressed in festive clothes.
A great procession marks the end of the fortnight of the Octave pilgrimage. The faithful in traditional costumes carry the statue of the Virgin Mary through the streets of Luxembourg City. Religious songs and prayers accompany the procession. The grand-ducal family follows the procession, as well as the political authorities of the country.
Afterwards, the Grand Duke and Grand Duchess, accompanied by the rest of the family, appear on the balcony of the Grand Ducal Palace to greet the crowd.
The Octave or “Maërtchen” market
The small food stalls of the traditional Octave pilgrimage are now part of a large market, the “Maërtchen”. The Octave market, located on the large Place Guillaume II or Kunedler, around the cathedral, attracts the faithful. More widely, families living in Luxembourg or beyond come to participate in the festivities. The visitors can enjoy the gastronomic stands, the rides and the various animations.
The Octave Pilgrimage in Luxembourg is an exciting event that combines spirituality, history and cultural celebrations. For believers or the simply curious, this event constitutes an enriching experience. It allows you to discover the unique traditions of Luxembourg.
Pilgrimage to Our Lady of Fatima in Wiltz
The annual pilgrimage to Our Lady of Fatima has a special place among the many religious events in Luxembourg. Every year, thousands of pilgrims gather to pay homage to the Virgin Mary. They go to the revered shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Wiltz, in the north of Luxembourg.
Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Wiltz
The shrine of Our Lady of Fatima is a place of comfort and prayer. It hosts a well-attended annual pilgrimage. It attracts believers from far and wide in search of spiritual renewal and healing. This pilgrimage is mainly followed by the Portuguese community of the region.
The site of Wiltz was erected in July 1952 in thanksgiving to the Virgin Mary for her protection, following a promise made during the Second World War.
In 1945, while the terrible battle of the Ardennes was raging, some inhabitants of Wiltz took refuge in a cellar to escape the bombardments. Of Portuguese origin, they promised each other that if they survived the war, they would give thanks to Our Lady of Fatima.
Dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the sanctuary of Wiltz is today the place of one of the most important catholic pilgrimages of the Grand Duchy.
Pilgrimage to Luxembourg every Ascension Thursday
This year, the pilgrimage of Our Lady of Fatima to Wiltz will take place on Thursday, May 18, 2023.
The Pilgrimage of Our Lady of Fatima traditionally takes place in Luxembourg every Ascension Thursday. About 20,000 pilgrims come to give thanks to “Nossa Senhora de Fatima” at the place called “Op Bässent” in Wiltz.
This pilgrimage is nowadays very much followed by the Portuguese community, which is very present in Luxembourg and in the whole region. Launched for the first time in 1968, the pilgrimage to Our Lady of Fatima in Luxembourg is the expression of an intense popular fervor. It is also an occasion for a family celebration, where pious devotion, cultural tradition and community folklore come together.
On Ascension Day, a mass is celebrated in the church of Wiltz. The religious ceremony continues with a procession to the shrine of Our Lady of Fatima on the heights of the town of Wiltz.
Honoring Our Lady of Fatima
The pilgrimage to Our Lady of Fatima in Luxembourg is an expression of deep religious devotion. It was born in Portugal in 1917 with the apparition of the Virgin Mary to three shepherd children. Mary appeared on several occasions and delivered messages of peace, repentance and hope. Since then, Our Lady of Fatima has attracted millions of pilgrims each year in search of spiritual comfort.
The pilgrimage is a time for reflection, prayer and introspection. Many participants carry candles, rosaries and banners, symbolizing their devotion to the Virgin Mary. On the way, pilgrims sing hymns, recite the rosary and pray for peace, healing and personal intentions. The sense of community and shared faith creates a deep atmosphere of unity and spiritual renewal.
By preserving and celebrating their ancient religious traditions, Luxembourgers pay tribute to their roots. They have a deep connection to their cultural identity. Pilgrimages are a powerful manifestation of the unity, devotion and enduring spirit of Luxembourgers.