Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Corpus Christi in Łowicz

I've got to tell the truth, I'm a sucker for traditional costumes.  Lederhosen, kimonos, you name it.  Anyway, practically every Polish girl I meet gets the same question, "So, do you have a traditional Polish dress?  No?  Why not?"   And why not indeed, they are adorable.  They're bright, flashy, garish, totally impractical in today's world.  They also are expensive (around 1000zl per dress) and weigh a ton.  (NOTE:  Not every girl gets treated to that question, but I have asked it on occasion.  I just wanted some hyperbole in this thing and to add a dash of danger and mystery.)
Anyway, on Corpus Christi, there is a procession in Lowicz, a town to the west of Warsaw and about an hour away by train.  The procession in Lowicz is fairly well known, as is the beautiful cathedral that stands in the center of the town.  As soon as I was told that there'd be a 'parade' with these costumes, followed by a fair, I was like, "I'm there!"  So, I high-tailed it to Lowicz to catch the procession and take all sorts of pictures (be warned, there are many, because I just couldn't make my mind up.)

The start of the procession.

The first group of girls in costumes.
 The day was rather dreary and threatened rain, but that didn't put anyone off.  Everyone was out in force, and the procession was walking around the cathedral square.  I whipped out my trusty digital camera and joined every other person there in shooting as many pictures as I could of these wonderful clothes.  About six pictures in, my camera batteries gave out and I was left cursing myself for not preparing well.  Luckily, there was a kiosk not far away that sold batteries, and I was back making digital records of everything I saw.  Also, luckily, the procession proceeded  ploddingly, often stopping for long periods of time while prayers were said and hymns were sung and everyone watching swarmed the folks walking in the procession, taking enormous amounts of pictures.  (Seriously, half the show was watching everyone snapping away while the people in the procession posed, chatted with friends and family, or just sat.)  Halfway through, a mass was said (and I believe the celebrating priest was a Frenchman speaking as a guest.)  During these long pauses, the marchers often sat down, because, as I said before, the weight of their dresses was significant.  Most had to be helped up from their resting spot.  With weight comes good insulating ability, and just walking down the road could make one perspire in such a getup.

Both the very old and the very young were dressed up. 
When not marching, many posed and showed off their beautiful gowns.

A banner of a parish in Lowicz.
Who were these folks marching?  Well, they were mostly from Lowicz and the surrounding areas.  They were arranged in groups, each from a parish, and each carrying a banner (usually dedicated to Mary the Mother of God).  Men in spiffy outfits carried the poles to the banners, while the women and girls (and sometimes little boys) carried ribbons attached the the banner.  Sometimes a small pillow, again with the likeness of Mary on it, as well.  The pillow doubled as a seat when pauses were in effect.
There were also a group of Polish veterans, a troop of Ukrainians (invited in to dance and sing at the fair), and I guess anyone else who wanted to show off his or her fancy outfit.

Elderly women carrying an enormous rosary.

The procession of the banners.

Banners and marchers.

Looping around the square.
 The procession wasn't actually physically very long, 100 yards maybe, but they did move pretty slowly.  Every time the procession stopped, the men carrying the poles set them down, then turned around and faced toward the aft of the procession (I'm not sure why).

I like this getup: this poor fellow has two speakers as a backpack to project the mass.

Stopped and posing.

A Ukrainian troop marched as well as part of a Ukrainian exhibition at the fair.

Showing off her apron.

Listening to the Mass.

Little tiny bagels!  She seems to be enjoying herself.

Taking a rest from the walk.
The dresses themselves are pretty interesting.  There are many layers: petticoats, blouses, vests, skirts, and all wrapped up by a big, stiff apron.  The apron is what everyone sees and can be mistaken for a skirt.  They're big, stiff, and heavy.  They also kind of make every girl look pregnant (by the shape they take).
The men, in my opinion, kind of looked like Swiss guardsmen.  They also carried birch springs tucked into the back of their belts.  I was not able to find out the significance of the springs.

This beautiful young lass was kind enough to explain about the dress.

Lifting up her skirt so we could peek at what's beneath: her petticoats.

One method of sitting down.
Most of the girls had a standard leather boot with a small high-heel and red laces.  Others, wore stilettos (not the brightest decision, based upon their facial expressions), or simple flats.

Most of the girls wore these shin-high leather lace-ups.

Resting in a group, their backs to each other.

Standing around in those iron maidens can be tough.  It looks  kind of like they're all drunk.

The guys have their own costumes.  Also, the carried birch sprigs in their belts.

The inside of the Lowicz Cathedral.

The marching band!  (At the end of the procession.)

1 comment:

scott davidson said...

Nice way to decorate your walls. I have never done that. My effort to beautify the walls in my house was to order big-sized canvas prints from, from images of western art. I use the same angel motifs in all of the rooms painted by different painters, such as this one by very interesting English artist Stanley Spencer,