Ommegang


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Ommegang

First Thursday in July and the previous Tuesday
A medieval pageant presented on the Grand-Place of Brussels, Belgium, and one of the country's most popular attractions. The pageant in its present form dates only from 1930, the year of the centenary of Belgium, but it is a reenactment of the Ommegang of 1549. And that Ommegang had gone back at least to 1359, when it was first recorded.
The word ommegang is from the Flemish words omme ("around") and gang ("march"), and was a word used for processions around monuments. The present Brussels Ommegang is linked to the story of BÉatrice Soetkens.
The year was 1348. BÉatrice, a poor but honest woman, was told by the Virgin Mary to go to Antwerp to get a miracle-making statue. BÉatrice ordered her husband to start rowing his boat to take her to Antwerp, and there she was able to get the statue, despite the interference of the sexton. On the way back to Brussels, her husband, exhausted, had to stop rowing, but the drifting boat safely arrived in Brussels at a spot where archers practiced. A church was built there, and every year the statue was carried around under the protection of the "Grand Serment," the Archery Guild.
That was the start of the Ommegang. At first wholly religious, in time profane elements were mingled. The royal princes were admirers of the Ommegang, and details of the 1549 Ommegang are known through the works of Juan Christobal Calvete de Estrelle, the chronicler of Philippe II, son of Charles V. The 1549 Ommegang was dedicated to Charles.
The Ommegang disappeared after 1810, but has been the same since its 1930 revival. It is preceded by strolling musicians, followed by a parade of people representing the magistrate and various city officials; the court of Marie of Hungary, with pages, ladies-in-waiting, and a hunting group of dogs and falcons; and the Court of Charles V, with mounted knights bearing banners. Many of those representing the court figures are descendants of the original noble families.
Then the actual procession takes place, led by the Knight of Peace and the Theban trumpets. Participants include trade groups with floats, archers and crossbowmen, and stilt walkers and groups of dancers and Gilles (clowns) dancing around symbolic animals: the legendary horse Bayard and the four sons of Aymon see Giants, Festival of the (Belgium)] surrounded by eagles, a pelican, unicorn, dragon, lion, and serpent.
CONTACTS:
Ommegang-Brussels Events
180 Rue des Tanneurs
Brussels, B 1000 Belgium
32-2-512-19-61; fax: 32-2-502-6835
www.ommegang.be
SOURCES:
BkHolWrld-1986, Jul 2
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3) Alan Nelson, 'Easter Week Pageants in Valladolid and Medina del Campo', Medieval English Theatre 1 (1979), 62-70; Meg Twycross, 'The Flemish Ommegang and Its Pageant Cars', Medieval English Theatre 2 (1980), 15-41 and 80-92.
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