Roggenburg Leiberfest – Roggenburg, Germany - Atlas Obscura
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Roggenburg, Germany

Roggenburg Leiberfest

Bring out your dead (saints that have been festooned and bejeweled, so that we can parade them around the town)! 

Bring out your dead! Or at least the local saints. This is the sentiment during the annual Assumption day procession in Roggenburg, Bavaria (Roggenburg Leiberfest), that sees the grimly beautiful bodies marched through the streets in celebration of their miracles. 

On August 15th each year, the day of the Assumption of Mary (Maria Himmelfahrt), the Monastery in Roggenburg hosts a unique festival that sees the bones of saints get paraded around the town. On this day, the four richly decorated and bejeweled catacomb saints that are interred at the abbey are brought out for public view. The bodies were moved from Rome to Roggenburg around 1720, and have stayed there ever since. 

Not only is this the only day when these decorated skeletons can be seen, but the congregation celebrates a special mass and then carries the saints around the village in a procession that includes a large brass band, flowers, banners, and a taking of the holy eucharist. The three female saints are carried by young women dressed in virginal white and the one male saint is carried by male pallbearers in top hats and tails. The mass also includes a blessing of the herbs.

The catacomb saints in Roggenburg are particularly unique examples of the form, as they are covered not only with jewels, but their faces are reconstructed with wax or papier mache, After the procession, the town celebrates the day with a meal and beer in the Kloster beer garden with live brass music. Reserving a table is recommended, since at least four of the seats will already have been.