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Valais villages celebrate Christian festival in style

Soldiers march through the Loetschen Valley villages, harking back to the days when local men fought as mercenaries

(Keystone)

Alpine villages in canton Valais are celebrating their annual Corpus Christi feast.

The two most colourful festivals take place in Visperterminen - a village located high above the Rhone Valley near Visp and in the villages of the isolated Lötschen Valley.

The festivals draws throngs of spectators each year who come to see the colourful Corpus Christi procession.

The feast, which celebrates the founding of the sacrament of the Eucharist, is held on the second Thursday after Whitsunday and the following Sunday (June 2).

The Visperterminen festival begins just after four o'clock in the morning, when the ringing of the church bells wakes the whole village up. Musicians gather in the village centre and begin to play.

Day's highlight

A long procession of marching bands - the highlight of the day - begins at 9am. It is accompanied by woman in traditional dress and girls in white carrying statues and objects of devotion to the Virgin Mary.

Visperterminen also claims to possess Europe's highest-lying vineyards, which stretch up to 1,100 metres above sea level. The Heida grape variety flourishes at this altitude and is used to make a dry white wine.

The Corpus Christi festival provides an excellent opportunity to visit well-preserved alpine villages in canton Valais, known for their tall wooden houses, blackened by the sun.

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