The whole town of Spello, Italy celebrates the feast of Corpus Domini (Corpus Christi) by preparing stunningly beautiful floral carpets along the narrow streets. My friend Lorraine has long dreamed of seeing this wonderful event with her own eyes. Since we were so close to Spello, Lorraine, Betsy and I ventured for the day away from our group to explore the festival, known as Infiorata.
But we weren’t on our own. We had vivacious Anne of Anne’s Italy as our most excellent guide. Here she is (below) after her glasses accidentally fell onto a floral carpet.
It was, without question, one of the most wonderful experiences of my life. Just imagine: the medieval city with its cobblestone meandering street lined with 88 separate floral carpets! According to Anne, the tradition started in the early 1900’s when a woman of Spello threw flower petals before the procession of Corpus Domini to welcome Christ. That simple act has developed through the years into what it is today, a marvelous spectacle. For more information, see Anne’s blog post: http://www.annesitaly.com/blog/umbrias-flowers-of-passione/
What impressed me most about the festival is the young age of most of the artists. They were young adults, in their 20’s and younger. They spend months leading up to the day planning and preparing. They start working on the floral carpets the night before and continue working through the night until the last petal is placed. Amazing, right?
Below is my favorite…it depicts the story of the woman caught in the act of sin brought to Jesus in an attempt to trick him. Jesus continues writing in the sand, presumably noting the sins of the accusers. He says without looking up “He who is without sin be the first to cast a stone”. One by one, the accusers leave. Jesus says “Woman, is there no one left to accuse you? Then neither shall I.”
A stroke of brilliance, the woman is depicted as Botticelli’s Venus!
Below you can see a catalog of the flower petals used in this infiorata as well as a description of the scene.
What makes the event most beautiful is its temporality. Just after Mass, shortly after the floral carpets are finally complete, the procession of Corpus Domini, including the bishop holding the Body of Christ, walks directly over the carpets. All of that beauty to honor and welcome our great guest.