The Dancing Egg

While traditionally the Feast of Corpus Christi is celebrated on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, here in the Archdiocese of Washington we are marking the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ this coming Sunday. In the post-conciliar period Corpus Christi does not seem to have as much popularity in the U.S. as it did at one time, but in certain places in Europe it remains a very popular holiday. In Catalonia, for example, there are usually many parades and other festivities, while the seaside town of Sitges is famous for laying out displays of carpets made out of flowers over which the processions will pass.

In Barcelona beginning in 1588, the Cathedral began a tradition which is still practiced today, known as “L’ou com balla”, roughly translated as “the dancing egg.” A hollowed-out eggshell, symbolizing the Body of Christ, is placed on a jet in a fountain of the Cathedral cloister, where it appears to dance about in the spray. The fountain itself is usually decorated with fruits, flowers and potted plants.

The practice was originally intended as a tool for catechesis, particularly for children. Over the years it became so popular, and the lines to see the dancing egg after mass on Corpus Christi became so long, that it spread to other churches of the city possessing fountains, including the old Templar church of Santa Anna and the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. Eventually the tradition even spread to some of the secular institutions such as the Academy of Fine Arts (and which originally in their membership would not have been as secular as they are now.) The practice has now spread to other parts of Catalonia and Spain.

Here are some examples of the kinds of displays one may see this weekend:

The Cathedral Cloister:

At the Mares Museum of Sculpture (part of the Old Royal Palace):

Here is a display in the cloister at Santa Anna:

Here is a display in the patio of Royal Archives:

And here is a display in the official residence of the Cathedral Archdeacon:

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