Even before morning breaks, the great bell of the Parish Church of St.Maurice wakes the faithful. This startling wake-up call at 4.40 am on the second or third Sunday in May can be heard across almost the entire canton and reminds the people of Appenzell of their ancient vow. After the victorious battle of Stoss in June 1405, they vowed to make a pilgrimage to the site of the battle each year on the feast of St.Boniface (14th of May) to give thanks to their freedom and to remember the fallen. The Stoss pilgrimage is one of the oldest and most practiced traditions in Appenzell.
At 06.00 am the procession sets out from the St. Maurice Parish Church in Appenzell to the Stoss, nine kilometres in total. According to the pledge, an honourable man from each household should take part. For the members of the Standeskommission and the cantonal court as well as senior public oﬃcials from Innerrhoden, the pilgrimage is part of their duties. In the lead is the police and ﬂag bearers, followed by the clergy and altar servers, then the members of the government and ﬁnally students and members of the public, since 1991 also includes women and girls
Halfway to the Stoss at the historic hamlet of Sammelplatz, where the defenders of Appenzell gathered before the battle, the council clerk reads a document known as the «Fahrtbrief». This recounts the events of the legendary battle during Appenzell’s struggle for independence and names the fallen residents of Appenzell, including local hero Ueli Rotach. The Lord’s Prayer is then recited ﬁve times.
When Appenzell freed itself from foreign reeves and the dictatorship of the Abbey of St. Gallen, the Canton was undivided. It was not until 1597 that the Appenzellerland was divided into two half-cantons: a Catholic and a Protestant one. Thanks to the skillful negotiation of six other cantons the division took place without bloodshed.
A large part of the pilgrims’ path today runs on Ausserrhoden land. On some parts of the route, either along the road or on the meadows, depending on the weather, 300 to 500 pilgrims recite the rosary. At the ﬁnal destination, a chapel, a church service with musical accompaniment from the music group «Harmonie» is held in the open. After a short rest, the pilgrims then return to Appenzell on specially chartered trains.
Second or third Sunday in May, 06.00 am
The Pilgrimage will be on the 12th of May 2024.