Italian Traditions: Flower displays, infiorate for corpus domini in Lazio region
- WTI Magazine #92 Jun 16, 2017
Corpus Domini, also known as Corpus Christi, is a Catholic feast day. It honors the Eucharist, and as such it does not commemorate a particular event in Jesus's life. Many places in Lazio celebrate the days around this festival with infiorata, or flower displays.
In some places, this is simply a pleasant art festival with designs composed of flower petals displayed in front of the main church. Certain towns, however, take it to a whole new level. As you can imagine, civic pride can really get into its zone on this one. Lazio is blessed with two big contenders.
Many towns in Northern Lazio put on grand displays of infiorata, such as in Ronciglione or Capranica, but the most famous is Bolsena, site of a miracle in 1263. A Bohemian priest, in doubt about the doctrine of Transubstantiation, reported bleeding from the host he had consecrated at Mass. Blood fell from the host onto the altar cloth and marble altar (the Cathedral in Orvieto was eventually built to commemorate the miracle and house the Corporal of Bolsena). This Eucharistic miracle led the Pope of the time, Pope Urbano IV, to institute the feast of Corpus Domini every year on the second Sunday after Whit Sunday. So Bolsena was the site of the miracle that gives the Catholic world Corpus Domini. A carpet of flowers is laid on the procession route for a distance of about 3 km using petals of flowers from gardens and from surrounding fields. Bolsena itself is perched on the shores of Lago di Bolsena, approximately 36km (22 miles) north-west of Viterbo.
Genzano di Roma
Genzano, in the Castelli Romani, approximately 30km south of Rome is also famous for its infiorata. The town has put on a real show since 1778, with a carpet of petals stretching almost the length of three football fields through the streets to the cathedral. Often, the petals are arranged to artistically recreate famous works of art.
The flower displays last a few days, but are best on the first day, so make sure you get there early. Most towns make a festival out of the whole thing, with a party atmosphere over the weekend with street food and a procession thrown in. It's a great way to get a glimpse into the local life of a town and to witness local culture in action.