If you walk around the streets of Seville at the end of May you will be struck by two things. Your primary thought will be how perfect the weather is. But once you’re done admiring the weather, you’ll turn your attention to all the decorations being put up everywhere and start to wonder what they’re for. The answer is Corpus Christi. In terms of celebrations, Corpus Christi festival in Seville can be thought of as the little brother of Easter. It is, in actuality, the Catholic celebration of the real presence of the body and blood of Jesus during mass. It celebrates the transubstantiation of the bread and wine turning into Jesus’ body and blood.
Why is Corpus Christi celebrated?
The feast owes its existence entirely to one nun. St Juliana was born in Liege, Belgium, in 1191. After being orphaned at the age of five she was raised by Augustinian nuns, and subsequently became one. For twenty years, from when she turned sixteen, she had continued visions of Christ telling her to institute the festival. She kept these a secret. But, when she eventually told her confessor it was relayed to the bishop and the idea spread like wildfire. The first Corpus Christi was held in Liege in 1246, and has since become one of the biggest events in the Catholic calendar.
When is Corpus Christi?
Corpus Christi in Seville is no different to the rest of the world, in that it happens the Thursday after Trinity Sunday. This makes it exactly sixty days after Palm Sunday, which in 2018 will be May 31st. What is special about the Corpus Christi festival in Seville, however, is that the festival carries on into the weekend. With events happening every day from the Wednesday evening to the Sunday.
What Happens During Corpus Christi in Seville?
Although originally a modest affair, over time this festival has evolved, especially in the Spanish world, to a full blown fiesta. The Corpus Christi festival in Seville is one such example. The festivities here centre around a procession. The route for this procession was established in 1532 and has followed the exact same course ever since. The whole town goes into over drive for the procession, with every balcony and spare inch of land decorated to impress during the parade. The centrepiece is a giant archway on Plaza San Fransisco, but the balcony decorating is also a serious event. The act has become so competitive that now a jury awards prizes for the best decorated balconies.
Where is the Best Place to Experience Corpus Christi in Seville?
All the best festivals need iconic venues to host them. It should come as no surprise, then, that Corpus Christi festival in Seville centres around the Cathedral. After all, what can be more impressive than the worlds largest gothic cathedral? The Cathedral took one hundred years to build due to the extravagance of the project. It’s even said that the architects, when designing the church, proclaimed “Let’s build something so massive that future generation will think we were mad”. As you join our private tour of the Cathedral and Alcazar, you will surely agree that this building is indeed a great feat in, not just engineering, but madness. It is hard to make such an expansive building feel full, but such is the volume of worshippers entering during Corpus Christi, that this is exactly what it becomes.
When do the Events Happen?
On the Wednesday afternoon, the pasos (figurines) which are to be used in the procession go on display in the Cathedral ready for the big day. On the Thursday morning, the people of Seville are awoken to the sound of La Giralda’s bells calling them to mass at eight. As soon as the eucharist is completed, the procession starts. A traditional dance called ‘las seises’ is performed and choirs sing the procession on its way. Much like on our extended walking tours, participants of Corpus Christi festival in Seville march around the city for four hours before returning back to the Cathedral. Where the procession differs from our tour, is that, instead of an informative guide, those gathered follow the pasos around. Afterwards they once again disperse onto the streets, this time to eat and drink. The rest of the day turns into one big party. There is no better way to experience the essence of this party than joining us on a tapas tour, so go ahead and book onto one today!
If a relaxed party in the Spanish sun sounds like something you’d enjoy then why not come down and experience the Corpus Christi festival in Seville (or indeed any of the myriad other festivities throughout the year) and select from our many varied tour options to see the city at your own pace and really see how it is to live in Seville during the party season!
Davey Womack is a tour guide and avid traveller. Read more from his adventures in Spain and around the world by visiting his personal blog.