The Palmesel (or palm donkey in German) is a half-sized figure of Christ on a ass, mounted on a wheeled platform and drawn through the streets during the Palm Sunday procession. The Palmesel was used throughout Germany prior to the Reformation.
In the Palm procession it was customary to draw along a wheeled cart, on which was fixed a wooden stature of Christ seated on an ass. In Biberach this cart was placed in the churchyard until after vespers on the Vigil of Palm Sunday, when it was taken in procession outside the city gates. The Christ-figure was clad in a blue cloak, and the cart was drawn by members of the Butchers' Guild, which owned both cart and statue. Two butchers walked before it carrying candles, followed by the two city mayors and the rest of the citizenry. Church bells were rung and prayers said throughout the procession, which ended at a chapel outside the Obertor, where a Salve was sung. The cart and figure were left there, and the procession returned into the town, where a sermon was given in the town church, preceded and followed by a Salve. On the following morning, after early mass, palms were blessed at the altar, and the congregation carried them in procession to the chapel outside the city gates to lead Christ on the ass back into town. The returning procession stopped in the churchyard, where choristers sang hymns, their arms outstretched, pointing to the Christ-figure. The choristers then cast their surplices on the ground before the figure, and gave one another mock blows with their palms. After another hymn, the entire congregation threw their palms down before the figure, and returned into the church where the main mass was sung, including singing one of the four Passions. The figure on the ass remained in the churchyard all day, and after dinner many children went and played around it, while adults, 'especially the women', came to kneel before it.
(Popular Culture and Popular Movements in Reformation Germany, R.W. Scribner, p. 25)
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