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Community / Public space

Spanish cities create beautiful sawdust carpets to celebrate Corpus Christi

There’s a good chance you didn’t do much to celebrate the Catholic festival of Corpus Christi this year. It was on Sunday. Miss it? Yep, us too. 

But in Spanish cities, you’d have had a hard job avoiding it. Streets throughout the country were decorated with enormous, brightly coloured “sawdust carpets”, which mark out processional routes. The designs are created by carefully pouring down coloured sawdust in precise patterns. The woman in the image above, for example, is putting the finishing touches to one in Elche de la Sierra, a town in southeast Spain, in the early hours of Sunday morning.  

By the looks of things, creating the carpets takes incredible precision and a great deal of time. Unfortunately, though, they don’t have long to live: the religious processions walk all over them on the Sunday of the feast, and the designs are mostly ruined. 

The tradition actually stems from a much older tradition of creating flower carpets, which started in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. However, this is of course more expensive, and equally easily destroyed during processions, so designs made of coloured sawdust were gradually introduced instead. This tradition is now common across Spain and South America, plus in some Catholic areas in the US. 

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Here are some children walking along one of the carpets in Elche de la Sierra (you can see they can’t quite bear to walk down the centre): 

And here’s a craftsman working on one: 

This gives a rough idea of what’s left once a hundred or so people have walked over one of the carpets:

This one shows Don Quixote:

Lovely, aren’t they? 

All images: Getty.
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