Europæisk Middelalder Festival 
European Medieval Festival Horsens History

A brief history

The European Medieval Festival was a runaway success from year one with active participation from schools, scouts, kindergartens and social clubs. A lot has happened since then, and the festival has developed into an international medieval event with stall keepers and artists coming from all over Europe and approx. 60,000 foreign and domestic visitors.

The city of Horsens celebrated its 550th anniversary as a royal borough in 1992. The city had successfully hosted a national gymnastics event in 1990, and there was a can-do attitude towards having a big event to bring people together.

The anniversary celebrations became a fixture for a number of events, financed through a DKK 2 million grant from the Council and an corresponding sum from local businesses. The main attraction was a medieval fair held in the main pedestrian street. The festivities came to a conclusion on a bright November day after a resounding success and up to 20,000 visitors.

The Medieval Festival grows bigger
It would take another three years and a few more big events (such as the 1993 Europeade) to convince the City's decision makers that Horsens could successfully host large events. The Mayor at the time, Vagn Ry Nielsen, pressed the Council for action. Horsens needed its very own festival.

Municipal cultural officers examined current festival trends around Europe and found that medieval themes were very popular. That conclusion matched the city's own experience from the 1992 medieval fair. 

The first festival in 1995 was a great success with thousands of visitors, so it became an annual event in the city centre. While the event started out modestly in the pedestrian street Søndergade, the following years saw an expansion to include the Abbey Church, the Square of the Church of Our Saviour, City Hall Square, as well as Søndergade in the festival area.

The inclusion of City Hall Park
The Abbey Church underwent renovations in 2005, so part of the festival was moved to the park behind Horsens City Hall. The festival area now covered the Square of the Church of Our Saviour, City Hall Square, Søndergade, and City Hall Park. The festival's stall keepers were anxious – would visitors be able to find their way to the back of City Hall? But that was never a problem. City Hall Park became a very popular section of the festival with a cosy atmosphere under the trees, grass for the encampments, and lots of activities for children.

The beautiful Abbey Church and the restored abbey gardens rejoined the festival in 2011, expanding the festival area yet again.

During its first 18 years, the European Medieval Festival was famous for transforming Horsens' city centre into a large medieval market with a profusion of merchants, craftsmen, musicians, knights, street performers, etc. The festival had become an established cultural event and developed into one of Europe's biggest medieval fairs, and was well respected at home and abroad.

The Medieval Festival on the move
In spite of its long and successful history, the festival needed more space to evolve and stay interesting for both new and old visitors. In 2012, the Horsens City Council decided unanimously to move the location of the medieval festival to FÆNGSLET, the cultural centre at the old state prison. 

A cultural institution such as FÆNGSLET would allow the festival a fantastic opportunity to create the illusion of a medieval castle hosting a market fair with music, tournaments, public hangings, performances, food stalls, merchants, and craftsmanship. The move also provided the festival's stall keepers and other participants with something they had been missing for a while, and which had been in short supply in the city centre: large grass-covered areas for stalls and tents.

August 2013 saw the first medieval festival at the "Castle of Horsens". Expectations were high as a nervous festival crew welcomed visitors and participants. Luckily, the festival was a great success. The stall keepers soon fell in love with the new location, and approximately 60,000 people visited the festival in two days.


Horsens Kommunes byvåben

European Medieval Festival

Cultural Department
Rådhustorvet 4
DK-8700 Horsens

Telephone: Tel. +45 76292130