CORPUS CHRISTI IN TOLEDO
Corpus Christi is the festival which is most widely identified with the city of Toledo. It is a religious celebration with variable dates, usually taking place between the end of May and middle of June.
Several weeks before the festival, work begins on placement of awnings and ornaments which mark the itinerary of the monstrance, imbuing the city with a sense of the festive atmosphere to come. On Domingo de Habeas-Sunday before Corpus Christi, everything is ready to receive the procession, unique in Spain, which winds its way through streets and squares full of people. Ancient confraternities, brotherhoods and chapters accompany the magnificent gold and silver monstrance in an atmosphere of aromas, music, songs and devotion.
The centre of the Corpus Christi procession in Toledo is the rich monstrance of the cathedral treasury. This 16th century jewel is wrought of gold and silver, with pearls, precious stones, enamel and tens of tiny figures and bells. On the morning of the Corpus, rich 16th and 17th century Flemish tapestries are hung on the cathedral walls. The floor is covered with thyme and rosemary, adding their scents to those of incense and the petals which are strewn along the path of the monstrance.
This festival, declared by the authorities to be of "Interest to International Tourism", is completed with a range of act and ceremonies which comprise what is truly the great week of the city, and which deserves to be experienced in all its intensity.
HOLY WEEK IN TOLEDO
Holy Week in Toledo is characterised by its sobriety in accordance with the surroundings of staid convent walls, narrow passageways covered by awnings and nighttime procession, and of course, the solemn cathedral. The penitents carry the images to the dry resonating beat of a tambourine which breaks the silence of the procession. Medieval-style street announcements by town criers, concerts and the possibility of attending religious ceremonies in the cloistered chapels of the cathedral-normally closed to the public-are other reasons to enjoy these days with special feeling.
The brotherhoods and confraternities make Holy Week possible by taking out the pasos (platforms bearing sculptured scenes from the Passion, carried through the streets in Holy Week) from the secluded churches or Barroque convent chapels. Their efforts remind us of the ancient brotherhoods dedicated to attending to social needs, and they live the penitential message of Holy Week, fervently accompanying the procession bearing their venerated images, some of which are of great artistic value. Together with those of habits with conical pointed hoods, there are confraternities of hooded monks who carry lanterns through the narrow and winding streets of Toledo, while bearing the Crucified Christ on their shoulders.
VIRGEN DEL SAGRARIO (Virgin of the Tabernacle)
The week of the 15th of August, a fair and festival are celebrated in honour of the Virgen del Sagrario, the city's patron saint. There is a procession inside the Cathedral and "water of the Virgin" is drunk from botijos (typically Spanish earthenware pitcher with a spout and handle). The celebrations include various events and ceremonies, as well as fairground attractions.
ROMERIAS (mass pilgrimages or processions
to a local shrine in the countryside)
Toledo's romerias are much celebrated. The most popular is that of the Virgin del Valle (Virgin of the Valley), on May 1st, when the virgin is taken in a procession through the nearby hills, and throughout the whole day, the sound of the shrine's bell can be heard, as tradition says that "he who does not touch the bell of the valley shall not marry".