Corpus Christi Day

by Petra Lessoing
Ramstein Public Affairs

Roman-Catholics in Germany and some other European countries observe “Fronleichnam,” or Corpus Christi Day, Thursday. It’s a religious festival that is celebrated 10 days after Pentecost.

In some, but not all, German states, Fronleichnam is an official holiday. Stores, banks and official institutions are closed in Rheinland-Pfalz, Saarland, Baden-Würrtemberg, Hessen, Bayern, in some communities in Saxony and Thüringen and in areas with a mainly Catholic population.

The word “Fronleichnam” derives from old German and corresponds to the Latin word “Corpus Domini,” Body of the Lord.

In 1264, Pope Urban IV ordered the entire Catholic church to observe the feast of Corpus Christi.

The fest commemorates Christ’s Last Supper the day before he died. It honors the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

Nowadays, the church holiday is a colorful event that includes solemn processions through the streets, which are decorated with flowers, little birch trees and church banners. Four altars are set up on the procession route to symbolize the four stops on Christ’s way to the cross, known as the “Stations of the Cross.”

A priest leads the procession and carries the Holy of Holies under a baldachin. Then the ministrants, communion children of that year and worshippers follow. At the altars, the procession stops and participants say a prayer.

The procession is accompanied by singing and usually ends at a church or a public place, where an open-air worship service is conducted.