The popular religious festivity of Corpus Christi in Barcelona

The festivity of Corpus Christi is a Catholic celebration to revere the Holy Communion. This is one of the city’s oldest and most distinguished festivities, noted for its popular and participatory elements. Barcelona is decorated for the festival, which this year takes place from 30 May (Corpus Christi) to 2 June.

Corpus Christi (‘body of Christ’ in Latin) is a Catholic festival in reverence to Holy Communion. This festivity on the liturgical calendar falls on the Thursday following the Octave of Trinity. With its origins in medieval times, the festival was instituted by Pope Urban IV in 1262, in order for the Church to publicly revere the sacred rite of Holy Communion and exalt the doctrine of the body of Christ before those who denied it. The festival became more universal in the Christian world from 1316 onwards, following a papal bull by Pope John XXII. The tradition spread throughout Europe, gaining importance over time. From that point it on became a Europe-wide festival, and even in the 21st century, six hundred years later, it is a hugely significant social, religious, cultural and festive event. In 2021, the Government of Catalonia declared Barcelona’s Corpus Christi as a Heritage Festival of National Interest.

Barcelona City Council decided to recover the Corpus Christi celebrations many years ago, one of the city’s oldest and most distinguished festivals. It focused on two of the most popular and participative aspects of the festival, resulting from the collective inheritance of Barcelona residents: the procession and the dancing egg. The end of spring sets the scene for a festival where floral decorations and festive events transform the city. Some historic buildings are decorated for the occasion, along with some streets and facilities, making Barcelona’s Corpus Christi celebrations an ideal time to go for a stroll and discover Barcelona in a different way. This year’s programme includes religious celebrations as well as other events linked to popular culture.

The procession, held in Barcelona since 1320, has been hugely significant for the city and its people over the years. Barcelona and Girona were the second cities in the world to celebrate Corpus Christi with a procession (other places in Catalonia, such as Valls, did so in 1319). These Corpus Christi processions were the forerunners to the current parades, which form part of numerous local festivals in towns and cities today. Barcelona City Council has been organising this bright and festive parade since 1992, preceding the procession of the faithful and setting off after the Corpus Christi mass to follow the Monstrance containing the Consecrated Host to the throne of King Martin. The procession is usually held on the Sunday following the Corpus Christi festivity (this year on 2 June). The various elements in the parade set off from the City Hall courtyard, accompanied by music and following a strict order. After the presentations and formal dances, the festival procession makes its way along Carrer del Bisbe to Pla de la Seu. The ecclesiastical entourage joins the festive procession there.

The route and times for the procession on 2 June is as follows: 

  • 6 pm: Corpus Christi Mass in Pla de la Seu, presided over by the Archbishop of Barcelona, Cardinal Joan Josep Omella.
  • 6:50 pm: an exhibition by the Falcons de Barcelona human-tower group, and dancing from the Gegants nous de la Casa de la Caritat o de Corpus, in Plaça de Sant Jaume.
  • 7 pm: The festive procession sets off from City Hall with the parade of traditional folk figures. Presentation of the festival’s figures as they set off from City Council. Route: Plaça de Sant Jaume, Carrer del Bisbe, Plaça Nova and Carrer del Arcs.
  • 7:40 pm: the festive procession resumes, incorporating the liturgical procession. Route: Plaça Nova, Carrer dels Arcs, Carrer de Cucurulla, Plaça de la Cucurulla, Carrer del Pi, Plaça de Sant Josep Oriol, Plaça del Pi, Carrer del Cardenal Casañas, Pla de la Boqueria, La Rambla (going up), Carrer de Ferran, Plaça de Sant Jaume, Carrer del Bisbe, Plaça Nova and Avinguda de la Catedral.
  • Around 9 pm: arrival of the Monstrance followed by the festival figures, the Àliga de la Ciutat dance and Gegants de la Ciutat dance, in Avinguda de la Catedral.

The Dancing Egg is one of Barcelona’s most unique celebrations, and a defining element of the Corpus Christi festivities since 1636. The Dancing Egg consists of making a hollow eggshell dance on a jet of water, in a fountain decorated with an abundance of flowers and plants. This image has been identified with the figure of the Holy Communion at the point of elevation, but the allusions between the egg and fertility, fullness and the fact that this custom comes right at Corpus Christi, can suggest other interpretations and readings. Beyond the discussion about its origins, the truth is that the tradition has become firmly rooted in Catalonia, the only place in the world where the Dancing Egg occurs today. The celebration forms part of the city’s collective tradition. This year, the dancing egg celebrations had to be adapted to the climate emergency and the drought conditions. Given this exceptional situation, organisations have sought different solutions based on the possibilities that each location offers, with the aim of preserving the celebration. Wherever water can be reused for irrigation, quantities have been minimised, while other spaces have had to use flowers to decorate waterless fountains or make the egg dance on a jet of air. The are a number of places in the city where you can enjoy The Dancing Egg. This year, you can find the Dancing Egg at the Ateneu Barcelonès, the Arxiu Històric de la Ciutat (Casa de l’Ardiaca), the Capitania General, the Rubió i Lluch Gardens, the Cathedral, the Frederic Marès Museum, the Barcelona Maritime Museum, Basílica de la Puríssima Concepció, Carrer de la Llibertat, the Castellers de Barcelona, the Can Deu Civic Centre, the El Sortidor Civic Centre, the Centre de Gràcia, the Escolàpies Llúria, the Church of Sant Àngel Custodi, the Masia de Can Cadena, the Oratori de Sant Felip Neri, Parc de Sant Martí, the Church of Santa Maria del Taulat, the Reial Monestir de Santa Maria de Pedralbes, the Seminari Conciliar de Barcelona, the Sant Camil workshop and Torre de la Sagrera, among others. MORE INFORMATION AND LOCATIONS HERE.

Another typical Corpus Christi tradition is floral mosaics. These are beautiful and natural works of temporary art. Works which would be trodden on by the Corpus Christi procession and the festive entourage or parade. Yet in the past they were actually respected by all the participants in the procession, with the exception of those carrying the Monstrance, as these represented the essence of Corpus Christi. Though the mosaics are not exclusive to Corpus Christi, this is when they are the most likely to be seen. At first, they were simply meant to transform the festive space and release a pleasant scent, especially when they were trodden on by the passing procession. This year, Barcelona’s floral mosaic decorations may be seen at various points around the city. This year, there will be floral mosaics at Barcelona City Hall, the Basílica del Pi, Rubió i Lluch Gardens, the Casa dels Entremesos, the Cathedral, the Museu Etnològic i de Cultures del Mon (Montcada building), the Francesc Boix Library, Can Galta Cremat, Carrer de la Llibertat, Espai 30, the Church of Sant Àngel Custodi, Parc de Sant Martí, the Church of Sant Joan Maria Vianney, the Church of Santa Maria del Remei, the Church of Santa Maria del Taulat, Plaça d’Orfila, Plaça de Carme Balcells, Plaça de la Virreina – Church of Sant Joan Baptista de Gràcia, Rambla de Guipúscoa, the Seminari Conciliar de Barcelona, Torre de la Sagrera and Tradicionàrius, among others. MORE INFORMATION AND LOCATIONS OF ALL FLORAL MOSAICS HERE.

Another notable aspect in this recent proliferation of associations of bell ringers in various neighbourhoods, who announce the celebration by filling the city’s soundscape with their chimes.

View the entire #CorpusBCN 2024 programme HERE (Catalan).

Read the article on the Corpus Christi festival HERE (Spanish).