Thursday, 4 June 2015

Corpus Christi in rural Mazovia

Today, a day off work. Each year between late May and late June (depending on the date of Easter Sunday), the Catholic Church celebrates Corpus Christi (Boże Ciało). Processions of the faithful visit specially prepared altars (four - one for each Gospel). Heading south out of Warsaw, I try to catch as many as I can. As it happened, I met two processions on the move and passed by another two that had finished and had returned to their parish church.

Riding through Jazgarzew, south-west of Piaseczno, I came across a vast procession (below). This is the back of the procession, which has halted at the first altar...

And below... this is the head of the procession, on the move to the second altar. Note the ZTM bus stop - this is still commuterland. The procession was properly marshalled with police motorcycle outriders to control traffic.

All over my route there were altars, either awaiting the procession or already visited. One way to tell whether the procession had passed was by seeing whether the asphalt was strewn with petals. This altar (below) was near the parish church of Pieczyska.

The weather was perfect today; brilliant sunshine but not too hot; after 31C yesterday, today's temperature at noon was 21C. Comfortable for processions. Below: three more altars. Texts on them from left to right: 'God loves you,' 'Christ the Lord feeds us with his Holy Flesh', and 'Follow Christ'.

Do not confuse altars with shrines. The latter are permanent structures, very common in rural Poland. Many villages have more than one. Below left, a Marian shrine, still decorated for the celebration of the Marian month of May; below right, a traditional wayside crucifix.

I came across my second procession near the village of Stromiec. This one was on a main road, the DK48, which links Tomaszów Mazowieckie with Dęblin taking in Białobrzegi and Kozienice. It was between the last two towns that this truck, which had mercifully slowed down as it entered a built-up area, came head-on with a procession as it rounded a bend. No police escort, just one volunteer fireman in charge of safety. Had the driver been going faster, or drunk, the consequences could have been tragic.

Worth noting the the role of the OSP (voluntary fire service) in rural Poland. After the church, this is the second-most powerful institution across Poland's villages. The remiza strażacka  (fire station) is where christenings and weddings are celebrated; the OSP gives people the chance to wear a uniform and play an instrument in a brass band. In both processions I saw today, there was a sizeable OSP contingent.

This is the rural Poland that voted Duda on 24 May. Here, in the run-up to the second round of the presidential elections, I didn't see one Komorowski poster. Socially conservative Catholic Poland is alive and well in the countryside. While churchgoing might be in decline in the cities, here it is tradition, it is what you do.

The question in my mind as I returned home via Nowa Wola and Zamienie, where entire housing estates are emerging from the arable fields, is whether these new communities will ever become part of the local congregation, or does the spread of the Warsaw agglomeration threaten traditional ways at the metropolis's edges?

This time last year:
25th anniversary of Poland's transition

This time three years ago: This time two years ago:
Poland's infrastructure progress

This time four years ago:
Wetlands in late-spring

This time five years ago:
Jeziorki's flood of floods: Puławska and Pozytywki

Jeziorki's flood of floods: Sarabandy and Karczunkowska

Jeziorki's flood of floods: Trombity and Kórnicka

This time six years ago:
Another time, another place

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