I still remember from my Catholic childhood the celebration of Corpus Christi. Being the ‘heathen’ I am, I think since this falls so close to the summer solstice the two share a common symbolism. Corpus Christi is one of those moveable feasts and falls on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday which is the Sunday after Pentecost which is the Sunday 50 days after Easter, Phew! In other words it is usually in June!
Tenerife, in common with much of Spain, has many festivals based around the Catholic calendar. In much of Europe, these medieval observations faded after the Reformation, but in staunch Catholic strongholds they continue to survive and indeed flourish. I don´t know why Corpus Christi is associated with flowers but it seems that this is very common.
In Ponta Delgada, Portugal the people make a flower-petal carpet almost three quarters of a mile long. In Germany streets are decorated with flowers and greenery. In Spello, Italy people transform the main street into a carpet of colour using flower petals and closer to home, the streets of Seville are scattered with rosemary followed by the local tradition of eating delicious churros, those sugary strips of deep-fried batter dipped in hot chocolate. Even in Arundel Cathedral in Sussex, a magnificent carpet of flowers is placed down the central aisle on the eve of Corpus Christi each year.
The above are photos I took when I visited La Orotava in 2009
In Tenerife, the finest of these is undoubtedly in La Orotava. Dazzlingly colourful carpets of flowers and sand line the streets to mark the procession route. Weeks, probably months beforehand preparation for the day begins. The same local families’ that started the tradition back in the 19th century decide the theme for the carpets. Early in the day men and children, (youngsters get introduced to making carpets at an early age so the tradition gets handed on through the generations) lay out the design, while the women snip petals from crates filled with flowers before painstakingly arranging them on the ground. Everybody in town takes part. As you can see from many of Phil Crean’s slides it is backbreaking work. The most spectacular carpet is the one in Plaza del Ayuntamiento. It is made from coloured volcanic sands from Teide and represents different biblical scenes, as well as being spectacularly beautiful it made the Guinness World Record as the largest of its kind in the world.
As thousands of people visit the town each year most excursion shops offer a tour, this is the easy option. If you are doing your own thing, and I wouldn´t recommend it as parking is horrendous, aim to get there is early. You can easily fill the time by making several laps of the route watching the images take shape and progress from outline to finished masterpiece. From Avda Obispo Benitez de Lugo, signposts direct you towards the route where a circuit is formed between the Ayuntamiento, the church and Casa de Los Balcones. If you can drag your eyes away from the carpets look around, the balcony and window dressings are also pretty fantastic.
There are other floral carpets on the island, in the south you could visit Adeje which is something I am going to do this year. I believe their carpets include coloured salt as well as petals and seeds and the event lasts longer so you have more chance of getting a glimpse. They start to construct on the Friday, the public can view on Saturday and Sunday then like all of these events at the end of the day the procession of priests and town dignitaries brushes them aside as they walk over them and the street cleaners remove all traces until the following year when of the work done by the alfombristas start all over again.
I have heard that there is a flower painting in front of the church in El Medano so if anyone has details I would love to hear about it, it could be yet another to add to the list.
The above gallery is taken from Arthur Jackson’s Picasaweb Page where you can see more wonderful images from 2012.
An finally so you get a true feel of what is involved a short video from the City of La Orotava