Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

Corpus Christi, St Mary’s Bourne Street

Posted on by royvickery |

The Anglo-Catholic church of St Mary’s Bourne Street, in Belgravia, London, holds its Corpus Christi Festival on the ‘Sunday in the Octave of Corpus Christi’ – the Sunday after the feast of Corpus Christi.

According to a member of the parish’s clergy, writing in 1987:

‘The carpet on the floor is of leaves and herbs.  The herbs are sweet smelling, but most of them are straight kitchen herbs and then occasionally the odd spot of verbena or scented geranium gets included …  the smell of the church is like something in an especially aromatic wood.’

The 2017 celebration, on 18 June, was a highly theatrical event involving about 20 robed clergymen, which culminated in the removal of the Most Holy Sacrament from the High Altar and processing it to the Chapel of the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady, before returning it to the High Altar.  The procession included a couple of small children dressed in white who threw rose [Rosa] petals in front of the Sacrament.

A carpet was placed along the route of the procession, but few, if any, herbs appear to have been used in 2017.  Leaves and small flowering twigs of lime (Tilia europaea) seemed to form the bulk of the carpet, other leaves used included ash (Fraxinus excelsior), oak (Quercus), a yellow-leaved form of Mexican orange (Choisya ternata), and a variegated form of kohuhu (Pittosporum tenuifolium).  Compared with the carpets prepared elsewhere with their elaborate floral designs, the St Mary’s carpet is simple and almost primitive.

Photographs taken after the processions, thus showing scattered rose petals on the disturbed carpet.

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