Corpus Christi

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Corpus Christi procession in Meckenbeuren in 2007

The Feast of Corpus Christi ( Latin Sollemnitas Sanctissimi Corporis et Sanguinis Christi , Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ ) is a solemn festival in the liturgical year of the Catholic Church , with which the permanent presence of Jesus Christ in the sacrament of the Eucharist is celebrated.

The term Corpus Christi is derived from Middle High German  vrône lîcham  for 'the Lord's body', from vrôn 'what concerns the Lord' (see also Fron ) and lîcham ('the body'). In the liturgy the feast is called the solemn feast of the body and blood of Christ . In other languages, the Latin name of the solemn festival, Corpus Christi , is common.


The date and the concern of Corpus Christi Day, a festival of ideas , are closely related to Maundy Thursday and the associated institution of the Eucharist by Jesus Christ himself at the Last Supper . Because of the quiet character of Holy Week , Maundy Thursday does not allow the festivity to unfold. For this reason, the feast of Corpus Christi was put on the first Thursday after the octave of Pentecost when it was introduced . In countries where Corpus Christi is not a public holiday , the solemn festival can also be celebrated on one of the following Sundays.

Corpus Christi procession 2005 in Ladenburg

The most important part of the feast of Corpus Christi is the holy mass , whose liturgical texts ( Gen 14: 18–20  EU , 1 Cor 11 : 23–26  EU and Lk 9: 11–17  EU ) refer directly to the meal with Jesus and the institution of the The Eucharist and the priesthood . The festive liturgy has a sequence , namely Lauda Sion Salvatorem . In many places, the Corpus Christi service is celebrated outdoors.

The holy mass is usually followed by the procession , regionally also called “ divine costume ” (from mhd.  Trahte , noun to “carry”), in which the believers hold the monstrance carried by the priest or deacon with the holy of holies (a consecrated host ) accompany in a pageant through the streets with prayer and song (“ theophore ” procession). The monstrance is covered by a fabric canopy called a "sky" . With a Statio to up to four outer altars (Blessing altars) elements of a corridor are added; At each station a passage from the Gospel is recited, intercessions are made and the sacramental blessing is given in all directions, over the place and the corridor. The procession usually ends in the parish church with the Tantum ergo and the Te Deum .

Today's meaning of the procession is usually based on the image of the wandering people of God , whose center is Christ, "the bread of life ". The connection between procession and holy mass is emphasized more strongly.

Until 1955, the Feast of Corpus Christi had an octave, which after a liturgical reform by Pope Pius XII. omitted. The day after this octave, the third Friday after Pentecost, the solemn feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is celebrated, which is thematically related to the festive mystery of Corpus Christi.


Corpus Christi procession in Hofgastein , Adolph Menzel , 1880
Corpus Christi procession on today's Bebelplatz in Berlin, 1928

The feast of the bodily presence of Christ in the Eucharist was celebrated for the first time in 1247 in the diocese of Liège in the basilica of St. Martin and in 1264 Pope Urban IV raised it to the feast of the whole church through the bull Transiturus de hoc mundo . The trigger for this decision was the blood miracle of Bolsena , which he recognized as a real miracle in 1263 . Among other things, Urban IV wrote:

"Therefore, in order to strengthen and increase the true faith, we have considered it right and fair to decree that in addition to the daily remembrance that the Church shows this Holy Sacrament, every year on a certain day a special festival, namely on the fifth day of the week after the Pentecost octave, on which day the pious people will zealously to hurry in large numbers to our churches, where the clergy and laypeople will sing hymns of praise full of holy joy. "

The inspiration for the creation of this festival goes back to a vision of St. Juliana of Liège , an Augustinian choir woman , in 1209, who reported that she had seen the moon in a vision , which was darkened in one place. Christ had explained to her that the moon meant the church year, the dark spot the lack of a feast of the sacrament of the altar. The feast, introduced in the Latin Church with the Bull Transiturus de hoc mundo, was the first to be included in the liturgical calendar of the Church as a whole by a Pope.

The fourth Lateran Council in 1215 specified the change of the Eucharistic figures with the doctrine of transubstantiation and elevated it to dogma . The Catholic Church teaches that in Holy Mass the Eucharistic figures truly become the body and blood of Christ through the change and that Christ is and remains present in them.

A separate proprium for the hours of prayer and mass was created for the festival, created by Thomas Aquinas . The hymns have decisively shaped the character of the festival: Panis angelicus , Pange lingua , Adoro te devote , Verbum supernum prodiens and the sequence Lauda Sion .

The first sacrament procession in Bavaria took place in Benediktbeuern in 1273 , and in Cologne the festival was celebrated with a procession for the first time in 1279. The Corpus Christi procession reached its peak in festive design in the 17th and 18th centuries. In Munich the procession moved between the city walls, and the four Gospels were read at the four city gates Schwabinger Tor , Isartor , Sendlinger Tor and Karlstor .

The Reformation was opposed to the Feast of Corpus Christi, since it cannot be justified biblically. Martin Luther said in 1530:

“I am no longer hostile to any festival ... than this one. Because it is the most disgraceful festival. On no festival is God and his Christ blasphemed anymore, than on this day and especially with the procession. Because there one does all the disgrace to the holy sacrament, that one only carries it around for a spectacle and does idolatry with it. With its make-up and foreseeing holiness it fights against Christ's order and institution. Because he didn't order it to be carried around. Therefore, beware of such worship! "

The Council of Trent (1545–1563) confirmed the Feast of Corpus Christi and upgraded it, as it were, to a counter-Reformation demonstration:

"In addition, the Holy Council of Churches declares that it is an excellent, pious and edifying custom ... that every year this sublime and venerable sacrament ... be carried around through the streets and public places."

As a reaction to this, it became common in some mixed-denominational areas (such as Switzerland ) for Protestant farmers to spread the dung on the fields as a provocation on Corpus Christi; the Catholic peasants then responded with the same coin on Good Friday .

In the Age of Enlightenment , the Corpus Christi procession was criticized again. Among other things, the mass cutting down of birch trees and the breaking off of traverses , the shooting of volleys and the pomp, which was now perceived as improper, were warned. In the Electorate of Bavaria , masking and living images were banned in Corpus Christi processions in 1781, and shooting was forbidden a little later. In 1803 it was forbidden to ride horses, to set up trees and to create carpets of flowers.

In Landshut the particularly splendid Corpus Christi procession came to an abrupt end in 1807. In a royal order, the previous practice, according to which nine armed men on armed horses opened the procession and 24 Spaniards (courtiers) accompanied the Holy of Holies with twelve noble boys , was expressly forbidden, as this dishonored the "pure Jesus religion". Only the three armored people who symbolized the city coat of arms were allowed to stay.

In Prussia in the 19th century the Corpus Christi procession in various places ( Breslau , Essen ), in Münster the “Great Procession” in July, became a conscious protest attitude of the Catholic population against Prussian politics and brought about a revitalization in some cities, even in Spandau to re-emerge the procession. The Spandau procession moved from the 1830s, thousands of Catholics from Berlin and Charlottenburg and is the most important celebration of the Diaspora Catholicism in the Prussian capital. Protestants perceived the processions in the public street space as a provocation on the part of the small part of the population of Catholics to the non-Catholic majority of the population, and there were disruptions. The liberal side called for a ban and justified it with “street terrorism”. The conflicts were picked up by the ecclesiastical and secular press. In 1875, at the height of the Kulturkampf , it was no longer approved in Spandau. In Münster in 1876 the pupils did not get a day off, but up to 75% of the pupils were absent from class. In the following years, the students were not allowed to take part under the guidance of their teachers.

During the time of National Socialism , the Corpus Christi procession was understood by many as a demonstration of their faith against the National Socialist worldview and the dictatorship. In Cologne, from 1936, the closed participation of school groups in Corpus Christi processions, some of which had gone with the school's banner and school caps, was forbidden, as the National Socialists saw this as a provocation.

In 1959, the Congregation for Rites declared : The Corpus Christi procession is not a liturgy, but as a pious exercise it falls under the jurisdiction of the bishops .

In the Orthodox Church the veneration of the Blessed Sacrament is unknown. Here is a principle: we venerate the holy gifts because we keep them - for example for communion with the sick - but we do not keep them to venerate them. Just like the scholastic-rationalistic doctrine of transubstantiation , the feast of Corpus Christi is rejected.

Current practice in Germany, Austria and Switzerland

Flower carpet in Meckenbeuren
Mülheim costume , Corpus Christi 2013
Mardorfer triumphal arch

In addition to incense and altar bells, the Eucharistic Christ is often greeted with scattered flowers, in some places with a salute .

Decorating entire streets (in Austria mainly with birch branches) for the procession is still common today. In many places, in addition to the processional flags along the way, pictures, ornaments and writings from many individual flower parts are traditionally placed as a flower carpet in front of station altars and on the processional way. The town of Hüfingen and the municipality of Mühlenbach in the Black Forest are particularly well-known in Germany for their flower carpets on Corpus Christi .

Regionally there is the Corpus Christi procession also as a "procession on horseback" ( Antlassritt ) or as a ship procession . One of the best-known and oldest ship processions is the Mülheim costume on the Rhine in Cologne-Mülheim . There a “sacrament ship” sails, accompanied by small and large ships, from the formerly independent city of Mülheim to the old city limits of Cologne. In Austria, lake processions take place in Hallstatt and Traunkirchen in the Salzkammergut . From Seehausen am Staffelsee , the procession with boats leads across the Staffelsee to the island of Wörth . This tradition goes back to 1936.

In Mainz Cathedral there is a specialty with the Mainz blessing on the Corpus Christi festival. Already at the beginning of Vespers the blessing with the monstrance is given and at the end one more time.

In the north Hessian town of Fritzlar , the Corpus Christi festival is opened the evening before with the "cat's head shooting" according to old tradition. Before these cannons are shot down, all eight bells of the Fritzlar Cathedral ring out . This procedure is repeated three times. In the other former Electoral Mainz enclaves in Hesse , a comparatively rich tradition of Corpus Christi is cultivated, whereby Amöneburg-Mardorf with several triumphal arches is particularly noteworthy.


The date of the feast of Corpus Christi depends on the moving Easter festival circle. The festival is celebrated on the Thursday after the first Sunday after Pentecost, the Holy Trinity (on the 60th day after Easter Sunday ) and therefore falls on May 21st at the earliest and on June 24th at the latest.

Since the holiday falls on a Thursday, it triggers a so-called bridging day in the case of freedom to work , which means a long weekend for students and employees in many countries.

Corpus Christi in the years from 2016 to 2026:

  • 2016: May 26th
  • 2017: June 15th
  • 2018: May 31
  • 2019: June 20th
  • 2020: June 11th
  • 2021: June 3rd
  • 2022: June 16
  • 2023: June 8th
  • 2024: May 30th
  • 2025: June 19th
  • 2026: June 4th

Holiday regulations


In Germany , Corpus Christi is a public holiday in the states of Baden-Württemberg , Bavaria , Hesse , North Rhine-Westphalia , Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland as well as in some communities with a predominantly Catholic population in the states of Saxony ( Sorbian communities; more precisely determined by the Corpus Christi ordinance ) and Thuringia (in the entire district of Eichsfeld , the Eichsfeld localities of the Unstrut-Hainich district and parts of the Wartburg district ). In the other countries and regions there are special regulations, such as the right to unpaid leave for Catholic employees and the right to exemption from tuition for Catholic pupils. Catholic organizations, such as Caritas , regulate all-day time off for all employees in their respective areas.


Corpus Christi procession in Erschmatt (Valais)

In Switzerland , Corpus Christi is regionally a public holiday in the predominantly Catholic cantons of Appenzell Innerrhoden , Jura , Lucerne , Nidwalden , Obwalden , Schwyz , Ticino , Uri , Valais and Zug, as well as in certain municipalities in the cantons of Aargau , Freiburg , Graubünden , Neuchâtel and Solothurn .

Austria and Liechtenstein

Corpus Christi is a public holiday in all of Austria and Liechtenstein .

Belgium, France, Luxembourg and the Netherlands

In France , Belgium , the Netherlands and Luxembourg , Corpus Christi is not a public holiday; the feast is celebrated there on the first Sunday after Corpus Christi day.

Italy, San Marino and Monaco

In Italy , where Corpus Domini was abolished as a public holiday in 1977, the feast is celebrated on the following Sunday according to canon law (see Ascension Day ). Until 2016, the citizens of Rome continued to move in the evening hours of Corpus Christi day together with the Pope after the celebration of Mass from the forecourt of the Lateran Basilica to the forecourt of the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore , where the sacramental blessing is given. In 2017, the procession with the Pope took place for the first time on Sunday, "so that as many Romans as possible could take part." For several years now, however, attempts have been made to reintroduce Corpus Christi as a public holiday in Italy. To this end, several bills have already been introduced into the House of Representatives and the Senate.

A large procession takes place in Orvieto place where the altar cloth with the stain of blood miracle of Bolsena is kept of 1263 in the cathedral.

In San Marino (Corpus Domini) and Monaco (Fête de Dieu) , Corpus Christi is a public holiday.


In Hungary , Corpus Christi is celebrated on the following Sunday.


Corpus Christi procession of the predominantly Polish population in Kęty , postcard from 1904

Corpus Christi is a public holiday in Poland .


Corpus Christi is also a public holiday in Croatia .


In Spain , the celebration of Corpus Christi with solemn processions and diverse customs has a very long tradition in many places, which is celebrated in the streets as extensively as Holy Week. However, since 1989 the day has no longer been part of the national non-working holidays. Only six public holidays are uniformly celebrated in the whole country, while the determination of the other mandatory public holidays (the legal number of which is a total of 14) is left to the autonomous communities , which also allow many locally deviating regulations within their area of ​​responsibility. Corpus Christi is currently not a general public holiday in any of the Spanish autonomies, but in some places it is a local or regional holiday without work (especially in Seville and Toledo , where the day is traditionally particularly important and extensively celebrated, and in Berga , Catalonia , where at this day the La Patum festival is celebrated). In the other areas of Spain, the church festival is a mobile holiday and is celebrated on the Sunday following the actual date.


Corpus Christi is a public holiday in Portugal . From 2013 to 2015, Corpus Christi was suspended as a non-working holiday.

Outside of Europe

Corpus Christi procession in Pirenópolis , Brazil

Corpus Christi is also a public holiday in Bolivia , Brazil , Chile , the Dominican Republic , Colombia , East Timor , Saint Lucia, and Trinidad and Tobago .

Corpus Christi games

Samson parade in Mauterndorf

The late Middle Ages brought about religious processional games that were performed on Corpus Christi. Conversations of the apostles and prophets or images from salvation history were also used as the content of the games . The games originated in England in the 14th century; the oldest game to be recorded in the German-speaking area took place in 1391 in the Stubaital in Tyrol. Later venues are Bozen (1472, 1543), Künzelsau (1479) and Freiburg (1516). The festival is particularly splendid in Italy. B. in Viterbo (since 1462), with the text taking a back seat to the scenic pomp. The Corpus Christi games in Spain ( Auto sacramental or Auto del Corpus Christi ), where they were alive well into modern times, were developed in terms of literary history .

The Samson parades on the afternoon of Corpus Christi in the Austrian Lungau and in neighboring Styria are interpreted as remnants of magnificent baroque processions. After the introduction of Samsons and other biblical figures had been banned in the course of the Enlightenment, the Samson parades were postponed to the afternoon of Corpus Christi day.

Regional names

In the alpine region the term blood day (or blessed blood day or holy blood day) is popularly used, which is also used as a name for Maundy Thursday . In addition, the term Prangertag is used , which can also denote the patronage festival of a parish elsewhere .


Every now and then the expression “Happy Kadaver” is used as a corruption of the word Corpus Christi , which is used as a dysphemism and occasionally as a provocation .

See also


Web links

Commons : Corpus Christi  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Corpus Christi  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Calendarium Romanum. Retrieved September 24, 2019 (Latin).
  2. “If there cannot be a Corpus Christi procession in a congregation, it is recommended that they celebrate the Corpus Christi feast together with one of their neighboring congregations. There is also the possibility of catching up on the Corpus Christi procession on one of the Sundays following the festival if Sunday mass is being celebrated in that location. ”In: Called for common service. The management of religious services. Framework for cooperation between priests, deacons and lay people in the field of liturgy ; Secretariat of the German Bishops' Conference January 8, 1999. 7th edition. Bonn 2007.
  3. ^ Friedrich Kluge: Etymological Dictionary of the German Language , 23rd, extended edition, Berlin / New York 1999, ISBN 3-11-016392-6 , p. 830.
  4. "The church as a pilgrim people of God could be a valid motif of the design [ sc. The Corpus Christi procession]." (Karl Suso Frank: Corpus Christi . In: Walter Kasper (Hrsg.): Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche . 3rd edition. Volume 4 . Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau 1995. )
  5. Holger Guster: The Host Monstrances of the 13th and 14th Centuries in Europe . Dissertation. Heidelberg 2006, p. 26 , doi : 10.11588 / heidok.00010179 ( online [PDF; accessed on September 16, 2020]).
  6. ^ Pope Urban IV .: Bull for the introduction of the Corpus Christi festival, August 11, 1264. Translation by Georg Ott. In: Georg Ott: Eucharisticum. Pustet, Regensburg 1869
  7. Martin Luther: Interpretation of Joh 6. 1530, Kirchenpostille 1521, table speeches
  8. Hans Grassl, Alfons Beckenbauer: The "Lord's Gala Day". In: Herbert Schindler (Ed.): Bavaria in the Rococo. Süddeutscher Verlag, Munich 1989, ISBN 3-7991-6434-0 , p. 142.
  9. Josef Pfennigmann: "How many miraculous church trips ...". Popular piety and enlightenment in old Bavaria. In: Herbert Schindler (Ed.): Bavaria in the Rococo. Süddeutscher Verlag, Munich 1989, ISBN 3-7991-6434-0 , p. 132.
  10. Hans Grassl, Alfons Beckenbauer, pp. 145–146.
  11. ^ Lena Krull: Processions in Prussia. Catholic life in Berlin, Breslau, Essen and Münster in the 19th century. Würzburg 2013, especially p. 251ff. and 303; Location for "street terrorism" p. 253 note 754; Münster: pp. 162–172.
  12. Hans Michael Ehl, Willi Keller, Martin Koch, Jörg Vins: Holidays or days off? Pentecost, Corpus Christi and the dove. When familiar symbols become a puzzle. SWR cont.ra , May 21, 2010, archived from the original on January 13, 2012 ; accessed on January 1, 2017 .
  13. Bernd Distelkamp: A house full of glory looks. The Siegburg hymn poet Joseph Mohr. (PDF; 418 kB) In: Siegburger Blätter, No. 21 ,. February 2009, p. 7 , accessed September 24, 2019 .
  14. ^ Franz Schnellbächer: pupil of the institution from 1933 to 1941. In: Städtisches Hölderlin-Gymnasium, Cologne (80) -Mülheim (Ed.): 75 years Städtisches Hölderlin-Gymnasium Köln-Mülheim. Cologne 1987, pp. 74-82, here p. 80 f.
  15. God costume. Information about the Mülheimer Gottestracht (Cologne) with a photo gallery. In: Catholic Parish of St. Clement and Mauritius, accessed September 24, 2019 .
  16. Catholic Church - St. Peter Cathedral Parish, Fritzlar - Corpus Christi in Fritzlar - Katzenkoppschießen. In: Retrieved June 2, 2016 .
  17. ↑ Photo series about Corpus Christi in Amöneburg-Mardorf (Hessen) 2009 ., accessed on May 19, 2018.
  18. Saxon Corpus Christi Regulation in the legally corrected version of June 10, 1995. (PDF; 6 kB) Accessed on September 24, 2019 .
  19. Explanation of the Corpus Christi regulation of the Thuringian Public Holidays Act with community list
  20. Corpus Christi in Rome: “God's love story with us” ( Memento from November 16, 2017 in the Internet Archive ). In: Vatican Radio , June 18, 2017. Retrieved June 18, 2017.
  21. ^ Bernd Neumann , Hannes Obermair : Tyrolean games . In: Wilhelm Kühlmann et al. (Ed.): Killy Literature Lexicon . Volume 11. Berlin-New York: Walter De Gruyter 2011. ISBN 978-3-11-022040-7 . Pp. 546-548, here: p. 547.
  22. from Middle Low German resplendent to prank , ostentation, pomp, 'said Friedrich Kluge : etymological dictionary of the German language . 23rd, extended edition, Berlin / New York 1999, ISBN 3-11-016392-6 , p. 644; see also "pomp".
  23. aci: Corpus Christi - what is actually celebrated there? In: Spiegel online. June 14, 2017. Retrieved September 15, 2019 .
  24. Dorothea Backovic: Why is Corpus Christi always celebrated on a Thursday? In: Hessische / Niedersächsische Allgemeine. May 30, 2018, accessed September 15, 2019 .