Störtebeker Festival and Medieval Spectacle

Since 1993, the Störtebeker Festspiele (Störtebeker Festival), held every summer, has become the biggest single tourist attraction on Rügen and possibly in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern as a whole. For ten weeks every summer, 120 people, 4 ships, and 20 horses restage every night on a natural stage in Ralswiek an episode from the life of the pirate Klaus Störtebeker. Every show ends with fireworks over the water. In 1996, 218,000 people saw the Festival, which in the previous year had formed part of the celebrations of '1,000 years Mecklenburg'.
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It is important for the organisers that each story has got its historical foundation. The facts which are mentioned and around which every episode revolves are always based on historically documented events.


An in some respects similar event was the Mittelalterspektakel (Medieval Spectacle), organised by the company Specktakulatius, which took place from 14.7. until 20.8.1995 in Altefähr, likewise on Rügen. On the ticket it is proclaimed as the biggest European Medieval Spectacle, with the company name written in the old German font. The text continues:

"Specktakulatius vereint nahezu 300 Mitwirkende, die über 40 mittelalterliche Gewerke betreiben & pflegen—Spielleute mit historischen Instrumenten, Komödianten, Gaukler und allerhand 'Leut', die sich dem mittelalterlichen Treiben verschrieben haben. Es werden u.a. Fecht- und Prügelszenen und Ritterturnierspiele gezeigt. Wagenburgen, mittelalterliche Dörfer, Hütten und Werkstätten werden mit sehr aufwendigen, z.T. originalen Requisiten wie Schildern, Fahnen, Wappen, Fässern & Waffen gestaltet. Detailiert inszenierte Märkte, Burgfeste, Planwagentouren bieten für regionale historische Anlässe wie Stadt-, Schloss- und Hafenjubiläen oder Zunftfeste ganztägige Unterhaltung."
The leaflet listed the various events which are offered over the course of the evening:
"Lebendiges Mittelalter—absolut finster, über 300 Darsteller aus ganz Europa, Feuerspucker, Gaukler, Vaganten, Spielleute, Scherbenwälzer, Narren, Alchimisten, Scharlatane, über 50 mittelalterliche Zünfte, echtes Handwerk, authentische Szene 'Die Finstere Nacht', das 'Narrengericht', Ritterturniere (...)
Finstere Szenen aus dem Mittelalter werden lebendig. Die Pest kommt in die Stadt. Ketzer werden gefasst... Die letzten Jungfrauen tummeln sich im Badehaus. Im Badezuber gibt es für die Gäste Freiwein. Jeden Abend riesiges Feuerspektakel, grosse Gauklershow und vieles mehr. Neben vielen anderen Künstlergrössen kommt 'Barrabas', der Weltrekordinhaber im Feuerspucken."

Similar Medieval markets travel all around Northern Germany during the summer and stop in the bigger towns. In 1996, I saw another one in Schwerin.

These enormously popular 'Medieval' festivals, spectacles and markets of the modern age are examples of history culture in contemporaneous society. Their enormous popularity is based on the attractive themes and meanings of the past which are addressed. The advertising texts cited above contain references to an adventurous and exciting past which is at the same time entertaining and authentic. A little bit of nostalgia is also part of the experience.


Note:

all details and citations are taken from publicity material distributed by the respective organisers as well as from the constantly up-dated Störtebeker Festival web-pages and from a report about the Störtebeker Festival published in the newspaper Der Rüganer on 2.8.1995.

© Cornelius Holtorf