“Priestly orders wound their way” (MS IA, g.1; MS IX; Poems ; Works )—
to Mary Richardson
, on Thursday, May 16
, in Cassel
, the Ruskins witnessed
a celebration of Ascension Day: “we saw a procession pass which consisted of many images of the Virgin
, supported and followed by most of the town people”,
the procession starting “from the church” and winding “all round the town to the church again. Just before it passed many people came out of houses carrying large bundles of grass (dʼherbes)
which they strewed on the road for the procession to walk on”. The family watched the spectacle from inside the hotel,
admitting that the procession was the “first thing of the kind I had ever seen”.
Emerging after the procession had passed, they found the “people on their knees” and “muttering prayers which we neither understood nor heard”
(Diary of Mary Richardson, 1833
, Ascension Day did indeed fall on May 16
; however, some details in Ruskin
ʼs poem, along with his drawing,
suggest that he may have conflated the Cassel
celebration with a procession of Corpus Christi (or copied an illustration from a printed source),
which is held sixty days after Easter (June 6 in 1833
) to commemorate the real presence of Christ
in the Eucharist.
The canopy, which Ruskin
mentions in his poem and shows in his tailpiece drawing, shelters the sacrament carried in a monstrance by a priest and his attendants.
, Frances Trollope
described such a procession in Ostend
“I rejoiced to find myself, on the 9th of June
, in so very Catholic a country;
for the ceremonies by which the Fête‐Dieu
were really splendid, considering the size of the town. The streets were lined with double rows of young straight‐grown fir‐trees;
every house being charged with the expense of purchasing such, and having them stuck in for the occasion.
In the open places of the city, groups of these same slender trees supported wreaths and garlands of flowers,
under which the host was carried in a splendid ark. The Curé, who bore this in his hands,
was himself superbly dressed; and at each corner of the canopy, borne above his head, walked a child of four or five years old,
in fancy costume, that looked as if it had been arranged by a ballet‐master.
Three of them had wings; and the fourth, dressed as an infant St. John
, would have been a beautiful model for a painter.
The procession consisted of all the military in the garrison, a numerous cortège of priests,
with their attendants, and the various associated companies of the town.
But by far the prettiest part of the spectacle consisted of the double row of little girls, elegantly dressed in white,
their heads adorned with wreaths of roses, and long white veils. Above two hundred of these pretty creatures,
looking all smiles and gladness, followed the host; and when the procession paused,
while the awful symbol was laid on the altar of the different reposoirs
prepared to receive it,
they, as well as the assembled multitude who followed them, prostrated themselves upon the ground before it.
The children all visited the Curé in his sacristy as soon as the ceremony was over,
and each received from him a little cornet
(Trollope,Belgium and Western Germany in 1833
On 6 June 1833
, the Ruskins were in Karlsruhe
found the “churches too like a theater”, and they traveled onward to Baden‐Baden
where a fête was in progress (Diary of Mary Richardson, 1833