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Guards of the Sacrament – UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage in the Hall-Wattens region

The tradition of guarding and honouring the Eucharist at religious processions has been upheld for centuries in Hall, Thaur and Volders. The four Sacramental Guards (‘Partisan Guard of Hall in Tirol’, ‘Partisan Bond of Thaur’, ‘Partisan Bond of Volders’ and ‘Salva Guardia of Schwaz’ known as ‘Tyrolean Guard of the Sacrament’) were inscribed on the list of UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2013.

History: Mention was first made of persons guarding the Eucharist in the town of Hall in Tirol in a document dated 1326. Our Lady’s Confraternity started escorting priests on their visits to dying Catholics in 1435. Within the framework of the revival of the Catholic faith in Hall, Archduchess Magdalena, founder of Hall’s House of Secular Canonesses, decided that a guard of honour wearing the black costumes of the Spanish court should escort processions held by the Sodality of Our Lady. Since these guards carried partisans (polearms), a common weapon of the time period, they were called the Partisan Guard. A Partisan Bond has also been in place in Thaur since 1660 and still escorts processions today. By contrast, the tradition of guarding processions only goes back to 1854 in Volders. The special thing about the guard in Volders is that only the captain is allowed to wield a partisan. The other members of the guard carry precious imperial halberts (battle-axes) dating back to 1558 and 1564.

A living tradition: All three guards of honour still escort religious processions and are entrusted with guarding the Eucharist in their municipalities. A highlight they all shared was undoubtedly the honour of escorting Pope Johannes Paul II when he visited Innsbruck in 1988.