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Imagine the scene. It’s seven in the evening, and you decide to visit Plaza de la Virgen for a drink and enjoy the people-watching opportunity. Suddenly, two police on horseback clop-clop by, followed by the sound of a band playing music. A moment later, a medieval float is ushered into place in front of the basilica to a carefully marked resting spot in the plaza.

This is the festival of Corpus Christi, or el Corpus here in Valencia. Celebrated 60 days after Easter, this celebration goes back to medieval times when the popes and bishops instituted the practice of having a feast to celebrate the body of Christ (i.e. the church) in the world. Here in Valencia, the celebration lasts for the weekend, and really starts with this procession of floats into the Plaza de la Virgen.

As with much medieval art, images were chosen carefully to tell a story and instruct the viewer on the “correct” way to live. As a side benefit, this often frightened the heck out of little kids. What fun. Like stained glass windows in a church, the images are stylized and intense, and easy to examine for several minutes.

The floats are called rocas, or rocks, although it is not clear where this name originated. There is an amazing museum of these figures in Valencia, and worth a quick visit when possible.

The floats themselves are in the shapes of small boats (making more sense for the English word of “float” for a moving structure in a parade) with a significant scene above. In the pictures below, you can see St. George and the Dragon, turtles, a dragon, a boat on the waves, St. Joseph, the Virgin Mary, St. Vincent Ferrer, the Holy Grail (said to reside in Valencia’s Cathedral), something that looks like blind justice, and Lucifer and the seven vices. Almost all date back to the medieval period, and are extremely detailed works of art. Emblems, embellishments, and Valencian flags appear in many of the details.

Setting the stage… getting ready for the rocas.

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St. George and the dragon, a personal favoriteDSCN1712 copy DSCN5214 copy DSCN5215 copy DSCN5218 copy DSCN5219 copy DSCN5220 copyLucifer and the seven vices being rolled into place. DSCN5221 copy DSCN5222 copy DSCN5223 copy DSCN5225 copy

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Adam and Eve getting kicked out of the Garden of EdenDSCN5243 copy DSCN5245 copy

The Holy Grail rocaDSCN5246 copy DSCN5247 copy DSCN5248 copy DSCN5249 copy DSCN5251 copy DSCN5252 copy DSCN5255 copy DSCN5259 copy DSCN5270 copy DSCN5271 copy DSCN5274 copy DSCN5275 copy DSCN5276 copy DSCN5277 copy DSCN5281 copy DSCN5287 copy DSCN5299 copy