CORPUS CHRISTI

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CORPUS CHRISTI, or corpus Domini Jesu Christi, means the consecrated host at the Lord's supper, which, according to the doctrines of the Catholic church, is changed, by the act of consecration, into the real body of Jesus the Savior. This doctrine, which was prevalent even in the 12th century, caused the adoration of the consecrated host, which, as it was thought, should be worshipped as the true body of Jesus. On that account, the people in the Catholic churches fall upon their knees whenever the priest raises the host; and throughout all countries in which the Catholic religion is the only one tolerated, as Spain, Portugal, Italy, &c, the viaticum (the name of the host when carried to the house of a sick or dying man, that he may partake of it privately) is saluted with the same marks of adoration by every one who sees the priest pass with it, or who hears the bell of the boys of the choir, when they go by. All who are riding dismount or leave their carriages to exhibit this mark of respect. All business, conversation and amusement is interrupted until the viaticum has passed. The Catholic church has ordained, for the consecrated host, a particular festival, called the corpus Christi feast. It owes its origin to the vision of a nun of Liege, named Juliana, in 1230, who, while looking at the full moon, saw a gap in its orb, and, by a peculiar revelation from heaven, learned that the moon represented the Christian church, and the gap, the want of a certain festivalthat of the adoration of the body of Christ in the consecrated hostwhich she was to begin to celebrate and announce to the world! On this account, the archdeacon James went to Liege (the same who afterwards became pope under the title of Urban IV) in order to ordain such a festival; and he was confirmed in his purpose by a miracle. In 1264, while a priest at Bolsena, who did not believe in the change of the bread into the body of Christ, was going through the ceremony of the benediction in his presence, drops of blood fell upon his surplice, and whenhe endeavored to conceal them in the folds of his garment, formed bloody images of the host. The bloody surplice is still shown as a relic at Civita Vecchia. This circumstance forms the subject of one of the beautiful pictures of Raphael, in the Stanze di Rqfaello. Urban IV published, in the same year, a bull, in which he appointed the Thursday of the week after Pentecost for the celebration of the corpus Christi festival throughout Christendom, and promised absolution for a period of from 40 to 100 days to the penitent who took part in it. Since then, this festival has been kept as one of the greatest of the Catholic church. Splendid processions form an essential part of it. The children belonging to the choir, with flags, and the priests with lighted tapers, move through the streets in front of the priest, who carries the host in a precious box, where it can be seen, under a canopy held by four laymen of rank. A crowd of the common people closes the procession. In Spain, it is customary for people of distinction to send their children, dressed as angels, to join the procession; the different fraternities carry their patron saints, carved out of wood and highly adorned, before the host; astonishment and awe are produced, as well as feelings of devotion, by the splendor and magnificence of the procession, by the brilliant appearance of the streamers, by the clouds of smoke from the censers, and the solemn sound of the music. The festival is also a general holyday, in which bullfights, games, dances and other amusements are not wanting. In Sicily, all the freedom of a masquerade is allowed, and passages from Scripture history are represented in the streets. The whole people are in a state of excitement. The festival is kept with more simplicity and dignity by the German Catholics. In Protestant countries, they merely go round to the churches in processions, and celebrate their worship with peculiar solemnities. (See Sacrament.) CORPUS DELICTI (literally, the body of the crime or offence). It is a figurative expression, used to denote those external marks, facts or circumstances which accompany a crime, and without the proof of which the crime is not supposed to be established. We have no correspondent expression in English, and the preceding exposition is peculiar to the civil law of continental Europe. We should say, that certain proofs are indispensable to establish a crime, and that, unless they exist, there is no legal ground to convict the party ; so that corpus delicti is equivalentto the proofs essential to establish a crime. The following observations have reference to the jurisprudence of Germany. The marks of guilt, which constitute the corpus delicti, are, in many cases, perceptible in the traces remaining (facta permanentia); for instance, the wounds inflicted upon a man; a lampoon posted up; written or printed words; counterfeit writings: in other cases, such traces exist only in the memory (facta transeuntia); as words merely spoken, &c. A criminal trial must always rest upon a corpus delicti clearly substantiated. Unless the death of a man is fully proved, and shown to have been occasioned by the cooperation of another, no sentence of homicide can be passed. An inspection of the body, in case of murder, or the statement of the injured party, in less heinous offences, confirmed with an oath, &c, is, accordingly, the first condition of a criminal process. Entire deficiency of the corpus delicti can be supplied by no confession; and the latter remains without any effect; as, for instance, if a person should accuse himself of having stolen something from another, or of having killed some one, and no person could be found from whom such thing had been stolen, or who had been killed. In the cases where the corpus delicti cannot be discovered by means of immediate examination, because the doer has destroyed all traces of it (for instance, by a total burning of the corpse of a murdered person), other circumstances must be sought for, which can afford certain proof of the crime; and without them punishment cannot be legally pronounced by the court It must further be ascertained, in a case of murder, that death has ensued in consequence of the wound ; or, rather, that the wound inflicted was, in itself, a sufficient cause for the death. In this respect, the courts in Germany often go too far, by seeking for the most remote possibility, by which the corpus delicti may be rendered uncertain. In the famous trial of Fonk, in Cologne, it was one of the greatest faults, that the corpus delicti (the wounds in the head of the dead man, Conen) had not been examined with sufficient medical accuracy, and that there was a search for a murderer before the murder was ascertained. It has happened more than once that a person has been executed as a murderer of a missing person, who, after some time, has reappeared. No reliance ought, in most cases, to be placed upon the circumstance, that several persons pretend to have seen the corpse of the individual believed to have been murdered, until the corpse has actually been discovered, or until infallible evidence of the murder has been adduced. In crimes which leave no traces, the whole possible proof rests on witnesses and confessions. Even a confession of guilt by an accused party must be supported by other circumstances; e. g., actions which have been observed by other persons, and which have a bearing on the crime, and render it probable. In the investigation of the corpus delicti, in a great many cases, the science of medicine must assist the law. Nevertheless, great uncertainty often remains, after all the aid which can be thus attained; for instance, in poisonings, and in cases where the point in question is, whether an infant was born alive or not. Frequently, questions are proposed to the physicians, which they cannot answer at all. In such cases, nothing is required of them but the declaration that nothing can be said with certainty. It is a very important question, whether preference ought to be given to the testimony of the physician who has attended the deceased till his death, or to the opinion of the physician of the court at the official examination.* In a famous case, in Germany, the inquest found traces of poisoning by arsenic, though not the arsenic itself, whilst the physician attending during the last illness of the deceased asserted that no symptom of poisoning had shown itself, and that the disease had taken its natural course. In another case, the physician declared that the deceased had died of the lockjaw, occasioned by a wound, whilst the legal examiners maintained that the wound had been without influence upon his death.