It is a very appropriate moment for travellers to enjoy the hospitality of citizens of Priego.
The festival of Corpus Christi – the body of Christ – was first celebrated in Priego in the mid-16th century, and is likely to have been encouraged by the evangelist known as “the Andalucían Apostle”, Saint John of Ávila: he wrote a treatise entitled Concerning the Holy Sacrament, and between 1525 and 1569, he preached extensively in the provinces of Córdoba, Granada, and Jaén. In Priego, he enjoyed the patronage of the senior local clergyman Marcos López, the founder of the College of Saint Nicasio: it was this cleric who took charge of organising the celebration of Corpus Christi.
The festival was adopted very quickly with enormous enthusiasm: at the beginning of the 17th century, Priego was described as “the most outstanding town in which to celebrate this great festival”. Corpus Christi, and the feasts of the Immaculate Conception and the Descent from the Cross were financed by the Town Hall, and every year, a group of councillors was chosen to organise the celebrations with the utmost pomp and ceremony. We are told that in 1820, the new local council – of Liberal hue – approved a budget of 4,400 ducats for Corpus Christi, a far greater sum than the public purse had given to any other celebration.
Nevertheless, it seems that over the years, the way in which Corpus Christi is celebrated has become more modest in tone, especially if we look at the festivities of days gone by. In the 16th and 17th centuries, there were productions of biblically-inspired theatre or “divine comedies”; there were dances performed in a variety of styles – Portuguese, Gypsy, Pastoral, from the Indies, in the courtly French manner – and there were impressive firework displays.