Religion and culture – including a solemn procession and a water fight – come together in Valencia at the beginning of June for the ‘great festival’ Corpus Christi.
Celebrated on Sunday six weeks after Easter, Corpus Christi is a religious festival which has evolved to become very important to Valencia. It begins at midday with the priest of les Roques riding through the city on a horse which is dressed with a black velvet blanket showing the city’s coat of arms. The priest invites everyone to take part in the solemn procession that evening.
Meanwhile, local dance groups tell stories through dance. ‘La Moma els Momos’ is the most famous: a man dressed as a woman is La Moma, wearing white and with a veil over the face, dances with men in black masks and black and yellow outfits. The story represents the fight against the seven deadly sins. Giants and dwarves dance to the music of tambourines and flutes in another story which symbolises the uniting power of the Eucharist.
La Poalà is a light hearted waterfight. The members of the Amics del Corpus Association walk through the Caballeros and Avellanas streets and people throw buckets of water over them.
Beautifully carved carriages are involved in the Carriages Parade at 4.30pm. They were built between 1373 and 1392 to act as the stage for performances of the Mysteries of Christ. The 11 wooden structures take the shape of ancient boats and have carved sculptures representing biblical figures and saints.
At 7pm, the Solemn Procession begins, led by the Senyera (the city flag). The Archbishop’s Cross is carried from the Cathedral and Les Banderoles (pennants or standards) are carried by three Reyes de Armas (Kings of Arms) wearing wigs, crowns and beards. Symbolic and biblical figures follow for this, the biggest spectacle of the day. Army personnel and six men dressed in 16th century style velvet and silk escort a ceremonial vessel called a Monstrance through the city as onlookers throw petals from the balconies on the procession route.
As a moveable feast, Corpus Christi falls on Thursday 30th May, with the procession taking place the following Sunday, 2nd June.