“The Dancing Egg” celebrates Corpus Christi

This curious tradition can be seen from the 19th to the 22nd of June in the cathedral cloisters and in the fountains of other emblematic buildings around the city

As with every year on the Thursday of Corpus Christi, “The Dancing Egg” (l'ou com balla) appears in numerous water fountains throughout the city. This is one of Barcelona’s oldest and most unique traditions and has been celebrated every year since 1637, though evidence suggests it took place in the fountain of Barcelona Cathedral cloisters as far back as the 16th century, when the celebration was entrusted to the altar boys.

The egg is blown out, the hole topped with wax and the egg is then placed in the jet of water from the fountain and, thanks to the Coandă effect, spins endlessly around on its own axis to surprising and hypnotic effect.

Numerous theories exist as to the origin of the tradition. For some it is a metaphor of the cycle of life and refers to both the eruption of spring and continual movement. Others associate it with the religious celebration of the Eucharist, where the egg represents the body of Christ and the fountain, adorned with seasonal fruits and flowers, the liturgical chalice. Other theories indicate that it could be mere entertainment, invented by the cloister’s gardeners or the nobility of the adjoining carrer Montcada to pass the time while waiting for the procession. Other historic documents place the origin of the tradition in Italy.

Aside from the cathedral, since 1994 other nearby buildings have participated in the tradition, the Ateneu Barcelonès, the Casa l’Ardiaca, the Santa Ana church, the Frederic Marés Museum, and the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, for example.

The Casa Elizalde and Casa Golferichs civic centres have organised a tour of numerous patios, cloisters and gardens where the eggs are made ‘dance’. The tour costs 11.25 € and will take place on Saturday the 21st of June at 10 am. Prior reservation (via the civic centres) is required.

Beginning at the plaça Sant Jaume at 6.45 pm on Sunday the 22nd, the Corpus Christi cortège will pass through the streets of the Ciutat Vella district accompanied by “gegants i capgrossos” (giants and big-heads), imaginary beasts and traditional dances as well as a performance by the human tower group, “Falcons”.

Publication date: Wednesday, 11 June 2014
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