Corpus Christi is one of the Catholic holidays whose background is hardly known to most. Questions and answers about the festival, which will be celebrated on June 16 this year.

On Corpus Christi, Catholics publicly express their belief that God is in their midst in the bread and wine. As a visible sign, a richly decorated monstrance with a consecrated host is carried through the streets in a solemn procession.

Corpus Christi is the “solemnity of the body and blood of Jesus Christ” in the Catholic Church. It is closely related to the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday. According to church teaching, Jesus instituted the sacrament of the Eucharist when he gave the disciples bread and wine and said the words “This is my body” and “This is my blood”.

Corpus Christi has nothing to do with death or a corpse. The word comes from Old High German. There “vron” stands for “Lord” and “licham” for “body”.

Unlike Easter, Christmas, Pentecost and most other festivals, Corpus Christi does not go back directly to the Bible. However, there is a close connection to the last supper, which is reported in the Bible.

Always on the second Thursday after Pentecost. The day is meant to commemorate Maundy Thursday. Celebrating on this day itself would not suit the quiet character of Holy Week. In cities and countries where Corpus Christi is not a public holiday, the processions often take place over the following weekend. Pope Francis also celebrates Corpus Christi in the Vatican on Sunday.

Pope Urban IV officially introduced the festival in 1264 for the whole Church. It goes back to a vision of the Augustinian nun Juliana of Liège in 1209. Around 1270 there was a Corpus Christi procession for the first time, through the streets of Cologne.

The most important are the often magnificent processions, in which the communion children usually go along again in their festive robes. In many communities, the procession paths are specially decorated with flags, small altars and flowers. In some regions there are colorful carpets of flowers, some of which are several hundred meters long.

In Cologne, the “Mülheimer Gottestracht” on the Rhine with more than 100 boats and ships, which has been handed down since the 14th century, is part of the tradition. The lake procession on the Staffelsee, founded in 1935, starts from Seehausen in Upper Bavaria. In the Bamberg procession, which has been taking place since 1390, 18 men carry the late Ottonian cathedral cross, which weighs 15 hundredweight. These and other traditions can be maintained again this year after they had to be canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to Corona or could only take place to a very limited extent.

For a long time, many Corpus Christi processions were militant demonstrations of Catholic piety, reports tradition researcher Manfred Becker-Huberti: “For a long time, the main motto of these pious demonstrations was: show the Protestants how beautiful it is to be Catholic.” .

During the Nazi era, the heyday of political marches, the procession of believers through the city was in many places an act of passive political resistance. Even today, many want to make it clear in the special services that, in their opinion, faith does not belong in a quiet room, but in society, on the streets and squares.