Monday, June 04, 2007

The Feast of Corpus Christi

Fisen, Englebert (1655-1733)
Saints Juliana of Mont Cornillon, Eva of Liège and Isabelle de Huy in adoration before the Holy Sacrament presented by the Virgin (1690)
Oil on canvas 215 x 148cm
Collégiale Saint-Martin, Liège

St. Juliana of Liège (Julienne de Cornillon, c. 1192-1258), promoted the introduction of the Feast of Corpus Christi.

Aged 5, Juliana lost her parents and was brought up by the Augustinian nuns of Cornillon.

She became a nun in this convent of Cornillon in 1207. Shortly after, around 1210, she saw the moon divided into two equal stripes by a black stripe. She did not understand the vision, which was repeated several times.

Neither did the other nuns, so that God eventually revealed her that the moon symbolised the church and the black stripe a missing feast dedicated to Corpus Christi.

She made known her ideas to Robert de Thorete, then Bishop of Liège, to the learned Dominican Hugh, later cardinal legate in the Netherlands, and to Jacques Pantaléon, at that time Archdeacon of Liège, afterwards Bishop of Verdun, Patriarch of Jerusalem, and finally Pope Urban IV.

Bishop Robert called a synod in 1246 and ordered the celebration to be held in the following year.

She died April 5, 1258, at the House of the Cistercian nuns at Fosses, and was buried at Villiers.

Eve of St. Martin, a "protégé" of St Juliana continued the popularizing effort behind the Corpus Christi feast. Eve compiled Juliana's papers and presented them to the ecclesiastical authorities promulgating the feast.

Eve became an anchoress at about twenty, following Juliana's inspiration, and remained enclosed for forty years. Her anchorhold was in the Liege church of St. Martin where she is buried.

Urban IV, always an admirer of the feast, published the Bull Transiturus (September 8, 1264), in which he ordered the annual celebration of Corpus Christi.


The life of St. Juliana of Cornillon (1873) by George Ambrose Bradbury