The history of Frankfurt's Main Festival

The Main Festival was originally a fair for fishermen and boatsmen. It was supposedly derived from the consecration of the Dreikönigskirche (Church of the Three Kings), which took place on 23 July 1340.

Mainfest mit Gerechtigkeitsbrunnen
Mainfest mit Gerechtigkeitsbrunnen - © Tourismus+Congress GmbH Frankfurt am Main. Fotograf: Holger Ullmann

The Main Festival was originally a festival for fishermen and boatsmen. It was supposedly derived from the consecration of the Dreikönigskirche (Church of the Three Kings), which took place on 23 July 1340. The purpose of this festival was to give thanks and pay homage to "the river and its bounties". The fishermen and boatsmen celebrated with "roasted oxen on a spit", made wine flow from the Fountain of Justice ("Gerechtigkeitsbrunnen") and generally enjoyed the entertainment. Festival attractions included passion plays staged by school children in "huts" representing the "Kingdom of Heaven", goose-plucking, duck-catching by fishermen, gun salutes, wine fountains, illuminations, fireworks and colourful four- or six-in-hand carriage parades along the banks of the River Main.
The dedication of the new "Alte Brücke" (Old Bridge) brought back memories of old Main Festivals and thus the tradition of holding an annual public festival by the River Main was re-established. The destruction caused by the Second World War interrupted this tradition; happily, the festival was the reinstated by Dr Walter Kolb, the lord mayor at the time. Construction work caused another break; as a result, the Main Festival was moved to the Ostpark for a short time. It returned from its exile back to the riverside in 1973, making a sensational comeback to the Römerberg and the banks of the River Main.