The Schäfflertanz (Coopers' Dance) is presumably the only medieval dance of a guild that has survived as a living tradition to this very day. It symbolises the solidarity of the guild. This is because the coopers gathered and performed a round dance that was popular in the middle ages. During the dance, they presented objects used in their handicraft: open hoops in a semicircle as an arch wrapped with box bush branches.
The coopers' guild remained virtually unharmed by the Bubonic Plague that spread throughout Europe. This was due to the fact that the coopers had to work outside of the cities because of the foul smell produced when barrels were sealed by heating pitch derived from resin by using fire. Beyond that, it is assumed that the strong smell and components of pitch strengthened the coopers' immune system so that they were also more resistant to the Black Death.
In order to be able to continue to live off of their trade, the coopers lured the fearful citizens from out of their homes with the help of their dance. This led to what is known as the Plague Vow in 1517: Every seven years, the guild was supposed to present their dance, thereby recalling this terrible period in history.
Murnau's Coopers' Dance is one of the oldest in Bavaria. Its tradition dates back to the year 1859, and the way it is performed has remained virtually unchanged since then: honour, arbour, summerhouse, cross, crown, cloud dance, contra dance, swinging hoops and Fasskasperl (barrel clowns). The highly symbolic dance patterns and the traditional costumes are a treat for the senses. Murnau's coopers offer this fascinating historic spectacle every seven years.
The next Schäffler Dance will take place in 2020. You can also find information on this event in our Calendar of Events (only available in German).
Verein zur Erhaltung des Murnauer Schäfflertanzes e.V.
Hagener Leite 9
82418 Murnau a. Staffelsee