Last week, it was the feast of Corpus Christi. The Church has got Juliana of Liège, a 13th-century Norbertine canoness, to thank for the feast’s place in the Church calendar. Orphaned, she was raised by nuns and had repetitive visions of Christ that she kept quiet for 20 years before finally telling her confessor and starting the ball rolling.
The progression of the feast across Catholic Europe is a fascinating case study, as the Bishops exercised their power to adapt the Catholic calendar. It was almost 20 years later that Pope Urban IV made the feast official in 1264, and it became universal only when Pope Clement V’s “Clementines” (laws that consolidated certain previous Papal bulls – not small oranges) were enforced in 1317 by Pope John XXII. It’s now celebrated in a number of weird and wonderful ways: in Catalonia, there is a dancing egg tradition (you couldn’t make it up), and, since 1620, a small village near Burgos holds a baby jumping festival.
Let’s not forget, however, that Juliana did quite well for herself: other medieval women are sometimes remembered less fondly. Any historian should delve into the work of Margery Kempe (a barmy English mystic responsible for the first ever English autobiography) and maybe have a glimpse at the contrasting life and times of her contemporary Julian of Norwich (that’s a girl – and she probably slightly less barmy than Margery, but don’t quote us on that).
This is all good material for you Historians looking to delve off the beaten track of A2 Nazi Germany, but it’s also a jolly good topic for Theology students to consider.