Corpus Christi, called “Tijelovo”, has been a national holiday in Croatia since 2001. The full name of this Catholic holiday is “Svetkovina presvetoga Tijela i Krvi Kristove”, which translates as “Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ”. Tijelo translates as body in Croatian.
Tijelovo is marked on the Thursday after the Trinity, which is called “Presveto Trojstvo”. To simplify, Tijelovo falls on the ninth Thursday after Easter (Uskrs). Since the date of Easter changes each year, so does the date of Tijelovo.
In this post, we cover:
- What is Tijelovo
- History of Tijelovo
- Croatian customs on Tijelovo
The facts are these…
Tijelovo is a Christian and national holiday in Croatia. On Tijelovo, Christians commemorate the Last Supper (Posljednja večera) that happened on Holy Thursday (Veliki četvrtak). Holy Thursday is the Thursday before Easter. On this day, Jesus had the last supper with his apostles before his torment and death.
Tijelovo is a commemoration of the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar (Eucharist) that happened on Holy Thursday. This holiday emphasizes a Christian belief that Jesus is a true God as well as a human being. On this day, Christians remember that God took human form to become close to people.
The Christian church wants to remind Christians that the Church lives from the Eucharist. This means that Jesus is still present in sacramental forms such as the body, blood, soul, and divinity.
In Croatia, Tijelovo is also called:
- Brašančevo – In Croatian, brašno translates as flour. Flour is used to bake bread which becomes the Body of Christ during the Holy Mass.
- Božji blagdan (God’s feast)
- Božji dan (God’s day)
- Božji don
- Korosante – In Dubrovnik and on the Pelješac peninsula
- Tilovo – Tilo translates as body in Dalmatia
Tijelovo has been around since the 13th century. During the 14th century, this tradition spread to western Christianity. In Croatia, it has been a national holiday since 2001.
There are three significant stories that are related to Tijelovo.
The first story about Tijelovo is related to Saint Juliana (Sveta Julijana). Julijana was born near Liège, Belgium in 1193. When she was 5 years old, she became an orphan. She moved to an Augustinian monastery. When she was 14, she was ordained. Two years later, she began to have visions.
One of Julijana’s visions was a full moon with a dark spot. Older nuns tried to help her with discovering the meaning of this vision, without any luck. Julijana prayed to God for days. A few days after her vision, she heard a voice from the sky.
The voice told her that the Church lacks one liturgical celebration – the feast of the greatest and holiest Sacrament of the Altar. It also said that Christians mention this on Holy Thursday when they remember Christ’s torment and death. Julijana interpreted the moon as the Church and the dark spot as a lack of the liturgical celebration.
Julijana didn’t tell anyone about the voice for a very long time. She mentioned it to the bishop Robert de Thorete and archdeacon James Pantaleon after 20 years. Later, James became pope Urban IV.
In 1247, Tijelovo was marked for the first time. It was first called The Feast of the Eucharist. The celebration was held in the parish of Saint Martin in Liège. Julijana found followers who promoted the idea of this holiday. They wanted to expand the custom to the whole church.
Pope Urban IV became a great worshiper of this celebration. In 1264, he decided that it would be celebrated annually, on Thursday after the Trinity. In the 14th century, Pope Ivan XXII expanded the feast to the whole Roman Catholic Church.
The second story is related to the so-called miracle that happened in Bolsena, Italy in 1263. While leading Holy Mass, a priest noticed blood dripping down the altar from the sacramental bread. He thought that the sacramental bread and wine had turned into the body and blood of Jesus.
In 1411, a similar event happened in Ludbreg, Croatia. During Holy Mass, a priest also suspected a miracle. He saw fresh blood in a chalice. This scared him, so he removed the chalice behind the altar and finished the Holy Mass.
Pope Julius II examined this case but didn’t finish the investigation. However, this made Ludbreg a popular destination for Christians around the world since the 16th century.
Since Tijelovo is a national holiday, state institutions, as well as banks and some shops, are closed or close early.
Tijelovo is marked in churches and chapels through prayers, vows, fasts, processions, and pilgrimages. Christians celebrate the Holy Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.
The procession organized on Tijelovo is called “Tijelovska procesija”. This procession is usually organized around churches or in city centers. During the procession, the priest carries the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. He is followed by four men who carry a canopy above him. Children dressed in white carry baskets with flower petals (usually rose petals). They throw the petals during the procession. Other participants sing and pray.
In Požega, people would organize a gathering for citizens of surrounding villages after the procession. They would bring horses and oxen. People would play brass music and bagpipes. Tamburaši (traditional Slavonian musicians) would also play their music and people would dance “kolo”. Kolo is a traditional Croatian dance where people form in a circle and dance.
On the island of Brač, children would carry flower bouquets in the procession. Fishermen would spread their fishing nets and wait for the priest to bless them. They would follow the procession in their boats with lighted candles.
Learn about other Croatian national holidays here.