Peter und Paul Festival
Peter and Paul's Fest
Bretten (Baden-Württemberg state)
a weekend to experience one of the oldest and most beautiful folk festival in Germany, included in the Intangible Cultural Heritage list. An enchanting medieval town relives its history offering vivid impressions of the way of living, fighting and working in 1504 AD…
Materials courtesy provided by Mr Ulrich F. Beyle in 2013. Further enhancements over years by Historia Vivens Web.
Geographical, cultural and historical context
Bretten is a picturesque town nestled among the vineyards of the hilly Kraichgau region and surrounded by the forested mountain ranges of the Odenwald and the Black Forest, at about 23km from Karlsruhe, 35km from the French border and 62km from Stuttgart in Baden-Württemberg state of southern Germany. Bretten was the birthplace of the humanist Philipp Melanchthon (born Philipp Schwartzerdt, 1497-1560 AD), an intimate friend and collaborator of the famous Martin Luther (1483-1546 AD), professor of theology, monk and founder of the Protestant Reformation. The first historical mention of Bretten dates to the year 767 AD when a nobleman is reported to have conceded a piece of land to the Lorsch Monastery under the name of “bretenheim” as recorded into the codex of the Monastery. In year 2017 Bretten celebrated its 1250th birthday!
The harmonious blending of history and modern facilities makes Bretten especially attractive for tourists who are growing year by year, attracted by the many historical sights, the medieval atmosphere of the old town, several churches and towers, the many old half-timbered houses and the maze of narrow lanes around a lively marketplace, as well as by the great variety of cultural events and leisure activities in the town and in the surroundings. The Melanchthon’s House hosts the second biggest exposition in Germany dedicated to the Reformation featuring a collection of more than 9000 books, 450 original manuscripts, paintings, art works, commemorative coins and coat of arms. But history relives also at the Tanning Museum, dedicated to local history, tannery and leatherworking, and at the Guardian Angel Museum dedicated to the guardian angels from different ages and various religions worldwide. Bretten is also the gateway to the breath-taking hilly countryside renowned for its beautiful vineyards and the excellent food, as well as the Kraichgau-Stromberg and the Stromberg-Heuchelberg nature reserves with their beautiful hiking paths.
Event description and programme
The Peter and Paul Festival is celebrated every year on the first weekend after June 29 in the lovely old town, attracting up to 80.000 visitors and featuring hundreds of historical reenactors from all over Europe. The Festival boasts varied and ancient roots. Already during the 15th century Bretten was the place for a traditional competition called the “shepherds’ jump”, that was celebrated by the shepherds gathering in Bretten from all over the region on St Laurence’s Day, August 10. Besides, during the 16th and the 18th century several shooting competitions took place in Bretten, with some of them being held right on the Peter and Paul Day, leading to an important marksmen festival. Finally, in 1805 a citizen's militia was founded in Bretten.
But the very historical event defining the today festival is bound to the successful sally of Bretten militia and men-at-arms on the eve of Peter and Paul Feast day, June 28, 1504 AD, against a Swabian army that unsuccessfully besieged the town. Bretten was then one of the locations of the Landshut War of Succession (1503-1505 AD), a feud between the Duchy of Bavaria-Munich and the Duchy of Bavaria-Landshut, two lines of the House of Wittelsbach, a European royal family and a German dynasty from Bavaria. According to the Salic Law practiced in medieval Germany that excluded women from inheritance of thrones, fiefs and other property, an agreement concerning the law of succession was signed already in 1329 by the Wittelsbach representatives stating that if one branch of the House of Wittelsbach should become extinct in the male line, then the other would inherit the duchy.
George, Duke of Bavaria-Landshut (1455-1503 AD), married the Polish princess Hedwig Jagiellon (1457-1502 AD), the eldest daughter of King Casimir IV of Poland (1427-1492 AD) and Archduchess Elisabeth of Austria (1436-1505 AD) in 1475 in the German town of Landshut with one of the most splendid festivals of the Middle Age, which is still remembered today in an imposing reenactment held every four years: the Landshut Wedding. The couple had five children, three sons and two daughters, but none of their sons survived. With no immediate heir to the throne, George tried anyway to favour the daughter Elisabeth (1478-1504 AD) and her husband Ruprecht, Count Palatine of the Rhine (1481-1504 AD), who was therefore adopted by his father-in-law, and declared heir the Duchy.
When George died in year 1503 the clear breach of the previous agreement inevitably led to the outbreak of the war. The Duchy of Bavaria-Landshut and the County Palatine of the Rhine supported by the nobility of Lower Bavaria and an army of Bohemian mercenaries were confronted by Albert IV (1447-1508 AD), Duke of Bavaria-Munich, and his allies: the Swabian League, the Margrave Frederick I of Ansbach and Bayreuth (1460-1536 AD), and, above all, the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I (1459-1519 AD) of the House of Habsburg. The combined Habsburg-Upper Bavarian force finally defeated the Lower Bavarians and Bohemian mercenaries at Wenzenbach, on September 12, 1504 AD. The war ended in 1505 with the succession issue being directly settled by Emperor Maximilian I on July 30 at the Diet of Cologne: Albert managed to reunite the whole of Bavaria.
Today more than 3000 people create a wonderful ambiance in the old town of Bretten with historical camps, faithfully reproduced clothes, weapons, and armours, as well as handcraft and food from the age. The event, which lasts from Friday evening till Monday night, combines also costumes from different time periods, featuring medieval men-at-arms, shepherds, musicians and jugglers, as well as Biedermeier styled families and militias. The visitors will find landsknechts, knights and craftsmen as well as bakers, blacksmiths or merchants while experiencing the typical late medieval life and bustle throughout the old town. Highlights of the four-days rich programme are the big battle reenactment on Saturday evening, when the 1504 AD siege is spectacularly relived, and the great historical parade held on Sunday with the participation of all groups. The most fascinating feature of the festival are the many spots throughout the old town where the visitors can enjoy street art performance and theatre, or listen to medieval music and dance till the early morning hours.
Please contact the Organizers for confirmation and further details.
Info & Contact
Official “Peter und Paul Fest” website: www.peter-und-paul.de
Vereinigung Alt-Brettheim e.V.
Address: Postfach 1628, 75006 Bretten, Germany
Bretten Town Council / Stadt Bretten
Address: Bürgermeisteramt Postfach 1560, 75005 Bretten
Tel.: +49 (0)7252 9210
Address: Melanchthonstrasse 3, 75015 Bretten, Germany
Tel.: +49 (0)7252 583710 | Fax: +49 (0)7252 583714
Images: Vereinigung Alt-Brettheim e.V.
Materials courtesy provided by Mr Ulrich F. Beyle in 2013
Further text sources: Vereinigung Alt-Brettheim e.V., Wikipedia, Bretten Town Council, Tourist-Info Bretten
Bretten on Google Maps:
Promos and video reportages of the event:
Visiting the enchanted gem Bretten: