If you happen to be in Italy during the latter part of May and the beginning of June (this year the festival is June 3) you may be lucky enough to experience the Catholic Festivity of Corpus Domini.
The story of this festival started many centuries ago, back in the 13th century. During the year 1263, a bohemian priest on his pilgrimage to Rome stopped to say mass in Bolsena (a province of Viterbo). While he was distributing the host (the communion bread, which is the body of Christ in Catholic ceremonies), he saw a few drops of blood, which came from the bread itself. Pope Urbano came to know of this and instituted the festivity in honour of the “Body of Christ,” or Corpus Domani.
The festival is so important that it is now celebrated all over Italy in the Catholic churches. It begins with a religious procession along a route covered with fresh flowers. Once it is finished, the local parish priest, dressed in the festive clothes of the Catholic Church and holding the chalice containing the holy Eucharist, will walk on the flowers.
When I was a little girl, these local processions were very simply decorated with spring flowers from the fields that we children used to pick and put in big wooden baskets. Then, the adults would spread them along the route. It is a beautiful tradition, that still exists to this day. Almost all parish churches will create their “fiorita” (flower procession).
It is work done by town volunteers who often work overnight to have it ready for the afternoon procession. Some are simple and some are very intricate and sophisticated, but always with religious themes as the subject.
One of the most important traditions in Lucca is within the city of Camaiore. Here, the fiorita is designed with fresh flowers, sawdust, sand and other materials. Each year marks a different design but always with a religious theme.
Catholic or not, if you experience the beauty, art and pageantry of this Festivity, I think you will agree with me that it is something not to miss!