On Thursday, May 30, 2024, the Catholic Church will celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi. In some federal states the festival is even a public holiday. You can find out where Corpus Christi has its origins and where the festival is celebrated here.

Corpus Christi – the name translates as “Festival of the Body and Blood of Christ”. It is derived from Old High German. “vron” stands for “Lord” and “licham” for “body”.

The focus of the Catholic solemnity of Corpus Christi on the second Thursday after Pentecost is the Eucharist – the transformation of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. Today’s meaning of the festival is based on the image of the wandering people of God, whose center is Christ, the “bread of life”.

In many parishes, from the 13th century until today, the consecrated host has been carried through the streets as the body of Christ during Corpus Christi processions.

Because of the great importance of the Eucharist, primarily for the Catholic Church, Corpus Christi is only a public holiday in predominantly Catholic federal states:

But there are also some deviations from this rigid classification. Some predominantly Catholic communities in Saxony and Thuringia have also made Corpus Christi a public holiday.

The festival goes back to a vision of the Augustinian nun Juliana of Liège in 1209, who was later canonized. In this, Jesus explained to her that the church year would lack a feast day. The Corpus Christi festival, first celebrated a few decades later in 1247, was made a general church festival in 1264 by Pope Urban IV in order to close this gap in the church calendar. In 1317 Pope John XXII. then celebrate Thursday as a feast day.

Today’s understanding of the festival is based on the image of the wandering people of God, whose center is Christ, the “bread of life”. During parades with the congregation, clergy carry particularly decorative vessels, so-called monstrances, with the host, venerated as the body of Christ, through the streets. A canopy is often held over the priest with the monstrance – a fabric canopy that is supported on the four sides with rods. During these processions, people sing, pray and read the Gospel at several places decorated with flowers and say a blessing.

During the Reformation, the festival developed into a feature that separated the denominations, because the churches that emerged from the Reformation did not celebrate Corpus Christi.

In 1527, Martin Luther described it as the “most damaging annual festival” that lacked a biblical basis. Good Friday, often viewed as a purely Protestant holiday, and Corpus Christi have long been “battle days” between faiths: on Good Friday, Catholics specially beat out their dirty carpets and on Corpus Christi, Protestants demonstratively washed their dirty laundry.

The contrast has long since weakened: For example, there were joint celebrations at Protestant church meetings that included the holiday. The processions are still part of the culture mainly in predominantly Catholic areas and cannot be observed elsewhere.

In the federal states where Corpus Christi is a public holiday, all shops and supermarkets are usually closed. FOCUS Online has summarized for you which supermarkets in major cities you can shop at on public holidays.

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