Feast of Corpus Christi in Croatia – Tijelovo

Tijelovo (Corpus Cristi) is celebrated across Croatia
Tijelovo (Corpus Christi) is celebrated across Croatia

Tijelovo (Corpus Christi) has been a national holiday in Croatia since 2001. The full name of this Catholic holiday is Svetkovina presvetoga Tijela i Krvi Kristove (Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ).

Tijelovo is marked on the Thursday after the Trinity, called Presveto Trojstvo – on the ninth Thursday after Easter. Since the date of Easter changes each year, so does the date of Tijelovo.

In this post, we cover:

The facts are these…

What is Tijelovo (Corpus Christi)?

Tijelovo is a Christian and national holiday in Croatia. On Tijelovo, Christians commemorate the Posljednja večera (Last Supper) that happened on Veliki četvrtak (Holy Thursday). On this day, Jesus had the last supper with his apostles before his torment and death. Holy Thursday is the Thursday before Uskrs (Easter).

[Read: How Croatia celebrates Easter]

Tijelovo is a commemoration of the Presveti oltarski sakrament – Euharistija (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:

  • Brašančevobrašno translates as flour in Croatian; flour is used for baking bread which becomes the Body of Christ during the Holy Mass
  • Brešančevo
  • Brošančevo
  • Božji blagdan (God’s feast)
  • Božji dan (God’s day)
  • Božji don
  • Korosante – in Dubrovnik and on the Pelješac peninsula
  • TilovoTilo translates as body in Dalmatia

[Read: The 3 Croatian dialects: Što, Kaj, and Ča]

History of Tijelovo in Croatia and abroad

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. Three significant stories are related to Tijelovo.

Story of Saint Juliana

The first story about Tijelovo is related to Sveta Julijana (Saint Juliana). 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 discover 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 liturgical celebration.

Julijana didn’t tell anyone about the voice for a very long time. After 20 years, she mentioned it to Bishop Robert de Thorete and Archdeacon James Pantaleon. 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.

Event in Bolsena, Italy

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.

Event in Ludbreg, Croatia

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.

Croatian customs on Tijelovo

Since Tijelovo is a national holiday, state institutions, as well as banks and some shops, are closed that day or closed early. Tijelovo is marked in churches and chapels through prayers, vows, feasts, processions, and pilgrimages. Christians celebrate the Holy Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

The procession organized on Tijelovo is called Tijelovska procesija. It is usually organized around churches or in city centers. During the procession, the priest carries the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar, 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.

[Read: Croatian culture of gardening]

In Požega, people would organize a gathering for residents 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 in which people form 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.

View our other holiday posts

Hrvatska : Državni Blagdan : Tijelovo 2023
DANAS JE TIJELOVO: Znate li što time obilježavamo? by Jutarnji list
Kako se još u Hrvatskoj zove Tijelovo i što ovaj blagdan označava by Večernji list
Znate li što je Tijelovo i zašto ga slavimo? by tportal.hr

Please note: Information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal or financial advice in any form. Croatian laws and bureaucratic rules often change, and each personal case is individual, so different rules may apply. For legal advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. For financial advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian tax advisor or accountant.

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