The Fiertel Procession


The Fiertel Procession is a pilgrimage with the reliquary of Saint Hermes around the city of Ronse, following the bounds as near as possible over a distance of 32,6 km. The reliquary is carried by four bearers, preceded by a person indicating their cadence with two bells. The procession takes place every year on Trinity Sunday (May or June), following Pentecost, and is considered as the ducasse or dédicace, the consecration of the church. It is supposed to track a protective circle against evil around the city and its inhabitants. It is still in existence and appeals to ca. 5.000 participants. At its return, the reliquary is accompanied by a procession representing scenes of the town and the saints history. In contrast with most processions, the Fiertel is organised by laymen, with the approval of the clergy concerning the use of the reliquary.

It is also the start of a nine-day fair, which is closed by a trade fair.

Why on Trinity?

Trinity Sunday was installed as an obligatory feastday in the diocese of Liège and in the Rhineland, ca. 920, during the period that the relics were present near Aachen. This means that the church in Ronse, dating from ca. 940 and  excavated in 2000-2001, was consecrated on a Trinity Sunday, the day the Fiertel Procession and the fair took place. This original church was later replaced by a roman and a gothic one, but Trinity Sunday continues to be the reference up to this day.

When and why?

In 1089, an epidemy of ergotism broke out in the wide region of Tournai, which caused the Great Procession. Ergotism is caused by eating contaminated rye. The symptoms are the dying off of fingers and toes, followed by corrosion of the nervous system causing hallucinations and utterly death.

Wider sense

Besides adjuring external danger, the Procession confronts a whole range of heathen places and areas, such as sacred or boundary trees, prehistoric burial remains, from which derived a whole range of folk tales about whitches and devils, werewolves, evil creatures, and finally where gallows were erected. Some of these places were christianised by the building of a chapel on the location, but all remained dangerous and full of roaming souls.