Scientific article

Relicts of dancing mania: the dancing procession of Echternach

ContributorsKrack, Paul
Published inNeurology, vol. 53, no. 9, p. 2169-2172
Publication date1999

In the small town of Echternach in Luxembourg, remnants of chorea St. Vitii can be found every year when pilgrims gather at the grave of St. Willibrord (658-739) to take part in the so-called Dancing Procession on Whit Tuesday. Miracles and healings are reported to have taken place in front of Willibrord's sarcophagus in the late eighth century. News of the miraculous healings inspired the celebratory folkdances in Echternach. Willibrord became the patron saint of patients with movement disorders. Important annual pilgrimages to the grave of Saint Willibrord, with pilgrims from Gallic and Teutonic provinces, were reported around 1100. The Dancing Procession is first mentioned in the Echternach city archives in 1497. In 1900, Henri Meige, a neurologist with a special interest in movement disorders, visited Echternach to observe the annual Dancing Procession. Although Meige was disappointed with the lack of hysteria, he concluded that the Dancing Procession of Echternach was not without grandeur. Outbreaks of mass hysteria with a background of religious fervor, pagan traditions, or superstition are the most likely explanation for the medieval dancing mania. This view is supported by the religious motivation behind the present-day Dancing Procession in Echternach, a ritual with mixed pagan-Christian origins related to Saint Vitus' dance.

  • Bipolar Disorder/history
  • Chorea/history
  • Dancing/history
  • History, 15th Century
  • History, 17th Century
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, Ancient
  • History, Medieval
  • Humans
  • Luxembourg
  • Medicine in Art
  • Paintings/history
  • Religion and Medicine
Citation (ISO format)
KRACK, Paul. Relicts of dancing mania: the dancing procession of Echternach. In: Neurology, 1999, vol. 53, n° 9, p. 2169–2172.
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Article (Published version)
ISSN of the journal0028-3878

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