Belgium: Giant ‘dancing’ horse, cute medieval knights as historic Bayard Steed parade returns after 12 years

Bayard Steed, a historic parade featuring four children riding a giant horse, returned to the streets of Dendermonde as tens of thousands of people flocked to the Belgian town on Sunday May 29. As the media mentioned, Dendermonde, the city of courier Bayard, is apparently the only place in the world where the heroic horse is the central theme of the colorful parade. It’s a historical re-enactment with roots in medieval Europe. The unique parade is usually held every ten years, but due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it has been postponed twice. Known as “Bayard Steed”, the 4.85 meter tall wooden figure carried by 12 men had not been shown to the public for 12 years. His last appearance dates back to May 30, 2010.

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The director of the municipal museums of Dendermonde, Carolien Van Hecke explained that there are twelve men who carry the horse and that they are three hitches. She mentioned that they change because the horse is quite heavy. With all the ornaments, the horse weighs 1,000 kilograms.

The horse is 5.2 meters long and is made of wood, iron and other materials. He arrived in the central square of the city and rushed towards his assailants.

According to a police count, some 86,000,000 spectators saw the one-tonne statue pass through the Flemish city. It was “dancing” to the rhythm of a brass band, accompanied by giant figures, acrobats and some 2,000 actors in period costumes. Children dressed up as medieval knights.

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“At times the horse dances to the music of the band that accompanies it and at times it also (staggers) greets certain people in certain places,” Hecke said, as quoted by Reuters news agency.

The parade was inscribed in 2008 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO and will take place again in 2030.

Watch the video here:

What’s the story?

The saga of the courier Bayard has its origins in a medieval chanson de geste – or chivalric tale – involving the Frankish Emperor Charlemagne asking for a local warlord’s prized warhorse in exchange for a peace deal.

(With agency contributions)


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