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What to know about Spain’s amazing Corpus Christi carpets

Esme Fox
Esme Fox - [email protected]
What to know about Spain’s amazing Corpus Christi carpets
What to know about Spain’s amazing Corpus Christi carpets. Photo: DESIREE MARTIN / AFP

At the beginning of June, various towns and villages throughout Spain celebrate the festival of Corpus Christi by creating intricate floral carpets to decorate the streets.

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What is Corpus Christi?

Corpus Christi is a religious celebration, meaning the body of Christ. It is held around 60 days or nine weeks after Easter and this year falls from Thursday, June 8th to Sunday, June 11th. 

It is celebrated in churches and on the streets with various festivities, processions and decorations.

Castilla-La Macha is the only region where June 8th is a holiday in all its provinces (Toledo, Guadalajara, Cuenca, Albacete and Ciudad Real). It’s also a local holiday in Seville and Granada.

How is it celebrated?

Corpus Christi is celebrated in different ways all over Spain, but some of the best celebrations are those involving elaborate street carpets made from flowers, plants or coloured sawdust. Locals spend many hours creating these intricate designs that will last just a few days.

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They were made to create a special route for the Corpus Christi processions that typically run from the church and through the town or village. Somehow it has evolved so that the carpets have become more and more intricate and locals try to outdo themselves, and other streets, to create the best.

People make carpets out of sand and flowers during the Corpus Christi festival. Photo: DESIREE MARTIN / AFP
 

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Origins

The origin of Corpus Christi dates back to the Middle Ages when in 1208 the nun Juliana de Cornillon came up with the idea of ​​celebrating a festival in honour of the Body and Blood of Christ. Later in 1264, Pope Urban IV endorsed this religious festival.

Already in the 16th century, it was decreed that every year the body of Christ should be carried in a procession through the streets of the towns.

There are various theories as to how the tradition of the carpets started, but they vary from region to region and town to town. Read on to find out how they started in each place. 

Hundreds of people watch the carpets made of flowers to mark the Corpus Christi festival. Photo: DESIREE MARTIN / AFP
 

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Where to see the best Corpus Christi carpets

Elche de la Sierra, Castilla-La Mancha, June 9th – 11th

The small town of Elche de la Sierra is located in the Albacete province of Castilla-La Mancha. In 1964, 10 neighbours decided to make a beautiful carpet out of coloured sawdust as a surprise for those in the Corpus Christi procession. The tradition has continued until today and each year locals try to excel making them better than the year before. The weekend is filled with festivities including concerts and sports competitions.

Ponteareas - Galicia, June 11th

In the Galician town of Ponteareas, carpets are created out of spectacular floral arrangements and petals. All through the night before the Corpus Christi procession, the residents of the town gather to help them. The origins of the tradition here date back to the beginning of the 20th century, when the potholes along the route would be covered over with flowers.

La Oratova - Tenerife, June 15th

The flower carpets in this Canary Island town are a little different from the detailed patterns of the other tapestries. Here, the decorations depict religious scenes and ornamental motifs. The sand tapestry that covers the Plaza del Ayuntamiento, takes an entire month to complete and is famous throughout the country. It's made using volcanic earth and sand from the Mount Teide National Park. At night, a procession passes along the route marked by the floral carpets and ends in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento with a religious ceremony. 

This huge mosaic is made with volcanic sand extracted from El Teide National Park to mark Corpus Christi. Photo: DESIREE MARTIN / AFP

Sitges, June 8th - Catalonia, June 11th

The coastal resort of Sitges is the best place to see the Corpus Christi carpets in Catalonia. Here, many of the town streets are covered in elegant floral tapestries made mainly from carnation petals and other organic materials. Judges award prizes for the best carpets, which will later be walked over during the procession of the Blessed Sacrament. Other events that take place at the same time are the National Carnation Exhibition, the Bonsai Exhibition, and the Contest of Floral Ornamentation of Facades and Balconies.

San Cristóbal de la Laguna, Tenerife - June 11th

This celebration takes place on the Canary Island of Tenerife. It’s also known as the festival of flowers because petals, shrubs, plants and heather are used to create the intricate street rugs. References to the celebration of Corpus Christi here date back to the 15th century, but the tradition of decorating the streets with flowers did not arrive until the beginning of the 20th century. 

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