Corpus Christi (2)

Corpus Christi (French, Fete Dieu), the Feast of the Body of Christ, kept on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday (or the octave of Pentecost), was instituted in 1264, by pope Urban IV, for a procession bearing the eucharist, with an office and prose composed by Aquinas; the office is also attributed to Robert, bishop of Liege, inn 1249. Colleges at Oxford and Cambridge bear this dedication. It afterwards became the chief occasion on which the mysteries were acted by the clergy, and the miracle-plays by guilds. The mother churches began the procession on this day, and subordinate churches on or within the octave. It was an immemorial custom in Spain for the priests to carry the tabernacle upon these occasions raised upon their shoulders. In England, on Corpus-Christi day, they carried the silver pyx under a canopy of silk and cloth-of-gold, borne by four men, preceded by a pageant — Ursula and her maidens, St. George with spear and dragon, the devil's house, St. Christopher bearing the Infant, St. Sebastian pierced with arrows, St. Catharine with sword and wheel, St. Barbara with the chalice and cakes, followed by banners, crosses, candlesticks, reliquaries, cups, and images, which the priests lifted on high, while before them went many sacring bells and musicians, St. John pointing to the Lamb, upon which two, clad as angels, cast sweet-smelling flowers. The highway was strewn with boughs, every wall and window was decorated with branches. In villages the husbandmen. went among the cornfields with crosses and banners; and the priest, carrying the blessed bread in a bag round his neck, read the gospel at certain stations, as an amulet against the wind, rain, and foul blasts.

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