Biblical characters, Noah, David, Melchizedek, and Judith, process through the streets of Valencia, Spain, during the Corpus Christi procession, June 11, 2023 / Credit: Photo courtesy of Rachel Thomas
Valencia, Spain, Jun 12, 2023 / 15:45 pm (CNA).
Year after year, the feast of Corpus Christi brings whole neighborhoods to the streets in Spain, with some enterprising families chaining lawn chairs to prominent viewing spots days in advance. This year was no different, with the procession lasting for hours and civic and religious leaders, as well as representatives of various religious groups, taking part.
Each city’s procession has something special. For example, the city of Toledo is known for lining its streets with thousands of flowers. Valencia, a city on the southeastern coast, has many memorable traditions.
Valencia’s first Corpus Christi procession was recorded in a historical document in 1355, and by 1372, it was an annual affair. Its particular characteristics stand out.
The Valencia cathedral has a chalice that some historians believe could be the Holy Grail. This gives the city a decidedly eucharistic feel, even when it’s not Corpus Christi. Naturally, the chalice is always featured in the Valencia procession.
Eucharistic procession for Corpus Christi in Valencia, Spain, June 11, 2023. Credit: Courtesy of Rachel Thomas
Valencia’s Corpus Christi celebration also boasts the largest processional monstrance in the world.
Valencia, Spain, claims to have the largest processional monstrance in the world and uses it in Corpus Christi processions. Credit: Courtesy of Rachel Thomas
While not centuries old like those used in other places, the monstrance has a special significance. It was constructed between 1945 and 1954 as an offering from the faithful in reparation for the sacrileges and tragedies of the Spanish Civil War, which had occurred some 10 years before. Already more than 2,000 people, including a number of locals, have been beatified from that three-year bloodbath known as Spain’s Red Terror.
Clergy process through the streets during Corpus Christi in Valencia, Spain, June 11, 2023. Credit: Courtesy of Rachel Thomas
During the Valencia procession, an umbraculum precedes the monstrance and a bell alerts those who are lining the streets that Jesus is about to pass by. Those filling the balconies prepare their flowers, and the eucharistic Lord is showered with red and white petals from two, three, five floors up.
During the eucharistic procession in Valencia, Spain, on June 11, 2023, the eucharistic Lord is showered with red and white petals from two, three, five floors up. Credit: Courtesy of Rachel Thomas
This year the Valencia procession once again offered an afternoon to soak in the word of the Lord. People dressed up as characters of the Old Testament — from Adam and Eve through the minor prophets, including Noah, Moses, David, and many others, known and less known — were part of the procession.
St. Michael the Archangel kicked things off, accompanied by a soul in glory and a soul in suffering, representing the age-old conflict between good and evil, and the archangel as the great defender of the Church.
Colorful banners line the streets for the Corpus Christi procession in Valencia, Spain, June 11, 2023. Credit: Courtesy of Rachel Thomas
The New Testament characters — from Simeon and Anna to the Twelve Apostles and four Evangelists — continued with the themes of Scripture. And favorite legendary saints are also part of the scene, especially notable for their link to the battle against evil, or the Eucharist.
St. George was there with his dragon, and also depicted was the lesser-known story of Martha (Lazarus and Mary’s sister) and the dragon-turtle she supposedly vanquished. St. Christopher carried little Jesus, and St. Mary of Egypt processed by, doing penance in the desert with only her three loaves of bread (symbols of the Eucharist).
Men dressed as The Elders from the Book of Revelation carry 35 lb candles in the Corpus Christi procession in Valencia, Spain, June 11, 2023. Credit: Courtesy of Rachel Thomas
The elders who stand before the throne of God in the Book of Revelation were particularly admirable in the procession. Bearded and robed in white tunics, they carried 35-pound candles that are about 6 feet tall. They served as a perfect illustration of how all the participants in the procession were both jubilant and penitential, enduring the heat (or this year, the sudden torrential rain) with a spirit of “offering up” the inconveniences of accompanying Jesus along the way.
These figures give the procession a decidedly catechetical flavor. Programs were distributed in the local Valencian dialect, with a brief explanation of each biblical character or saint in the order they would process through the city.
Members of a marching band process along the streets in Valencia, Spain, for the Corpus Christi procession June 11, 2023. Credit: Courtesy of Rachel Thomas
While some things have changed from century to century, the highlight of the procession is still the same: Jesus in the Eucharist processes through the streets of his city, cheered on by loving faithful.