Tuesday 11th June sees the annual UNESCO World Heritage Status ‘hopping procession’ taking place in Echternach, Luxembourg, in honour of St. Willibrord, their Patron Saint. Over 10,000 people will participate in the procession where they will hop from one foot to the other and they are known as “those who pray with their feet”.
Willibrord, an Anglo-Saxon from Northumbria, England, spent twelve years at Rath Melsigi, Milford, County Carlow, being formed as a missionary monk. He is one of the most important Saints in Europe. In AD 690, Willibrord led a very successful mission to Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, where his impact is evident to this day.
Carlow pilgrims participate in the Hopping Procession
Echternach is said to be the oldest town in Luxembourg. It is located in the valley of the river Sûre which forms part of the eastern border with Germany and France. It is here that St. Willibrord established his monastery and scriptorium.
The town boasts historic buildings such as the abbey, the Basilica, the market place, the remains of the town wall, the remains of a Roman villa, and three museums – these all remind visitors of Echternach’s long and varied history.
Thousands of visitors from all over Europe visit the Shrine of St. Willibrord in the Basilica, or take part in the UNESCO World Heritage Status Hopping Procession, on the Tuesday after Pentecost Sunday.
Echternach Basilica and a statue of St. Willibrord
Carlow and Echternach
On Tuesday 6th, June 2017, 60 county Carlow pilgrims became the first known Irish group to partake in the centuries-old ‘hopping procession’ in honour of St. Willibrord in Echternach. 39 large groups participated with each group being led by a band, all playing the same tune. The Carlow pilgrims were led throughout the procession by the Presentation School Band from Carlow town.
In 2017, the people of Echternach gifted County Carlow a beautiful Relic of St. Willibrord, a bronze statue of the missionary Archbishop, and it resides permanently in the Cathedral of the Assumption.
Bishop Denis Nulty acceptance speech for the Relic of St Willibrord, Echternach, Luxembourg.
The Relic of St. Willibrord
This Relic is a gift from the people of Echternach, through the Willibrordus-Bauverein, to honour the link between both areas and to say, ‘thank you’ to County Carlow for forming Willibrord in the 7th century. The Relic is a piece of his bone and is contained within the rose window of a scale model of the present-day Basilica of St. Willibrord, Echternach, which St. Willibrord is holding in his right hand while he holds his crosier in his left hand.
The bronze statue of the young Archbishop Willibrord is standing on a piece of sandstone taken from the remains of his original Echternach abbey. Mr Bernd Cassau, a German artist, was commissioned to make this beautiful statue.
St. Willibrord Exhibition
Carlow County Museum, College Street, has a free exhibition about St. Willibrord and his mission.
For further information read the free book “Re-discovering St. Willibrord, Patron Saint of Luxembourg and First Apostle of the Netherlands, and his County Carlow Connection”.