Corpus Christi

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Corpus Christi

The origin of the Corpus Christi feast goes back to the Belgian city of Liege in the 13th century, where the devout woman Juliana de Mont Cornillón promoted the establishment of a festivity on account of the vision of a full moon darkened on one of its sides. This was interpreted as sadness for the absence of a date in the calendar devoted to the Holy Eucharist. In 1264, Pope Urban IV extended the celebration to all Christianity and the processions began in 1447 when Nicolas V walked the streets accompanied by the Holy Eucharist. People testify their religious piety before the living bread and creator of life while members of brotherhoods feel their beliefs intensely.

Corpus Christi arrived in Spain in the first half of the 14th century, and cities like Barcelona, Lérida and Valencia were the first to celebrate it, though the events in Toledo or Seville would soon achieve great importance. In Málaga, Jaén or Baeza the feast was also important in spite of the fact that at the beginning it was called ‘Festum de hoc excellentissimo Sacramento’, ‘Dies Sacramenti’ and ‘Festivitas Eucharistiae’.

Among the localities which celebrate this religious festivity, Toledo stands out. This historic and monumental city prepares for the event five weeks before and the entire route is adorned with street lamps and garlands in order to keep the monstrance under cover. Throughout the procession, seats mark out the way and some manor houses open their courtyards and gardens for the enjoyment of visitors. Without leaving the province, it is possible to see a very old fight between good and evil in Camuñas which is performed by the Brotherhoods of Sins and Virtues, who dress up in masks and ornaments. Some of them represent the seven virtues and the others the World, the Devil and the Flesh in a spectacle where dances also form part of the performance.

Few cities keep these traditions as intact as Seville and even more so if they are religious. The Corpus Christi procession gathers thousands of believers in the streets carpeted with sedge and rosemary to welcome the Body of Christ. The people of Seville contemplate the splendid monstrance, such as the Arfe, a real silver jewel over three metres high, and the altars installed by the brotherhoods and some associations.

The picturesque tone in the celebrations comes from the flower carpets of Ponteareas and Gondomar (Pontevedra). The custom of adorning the streets became a characteristic of these localities in the middle of the 20th century. The villagers promote parallel activities in order to attract more tourists, such as the carpets made of myrtle, fennel and bullrush, among other materials. This practice had such repercussion that in 1980 it was declared of national tourist interest and since then thousands of visitors gather in this village.