Weißer Sonntag (LFS 1421 5 Weißer Sonntag)

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The White Sunday procession and First Communion in Philippsburg 1962.


The White Sunday procession and First Communion in Philippsburg 1962.


Reference / film number :  LFS01421 5
Date :  1962
Coloration :  Color
Sound :  Mute
Running time :  00:01:58
Reel format :  8 mm
Genre :  Amateur movie
Thematics :  Identity, Traditions, Religious feasts and events
Archive :  Haus des Dokumentarfilms

Context and analysis

In the Catholic Church is the White Sunday the first Sunday after Eastern, which usually takes the First Communion. In Philippsburg with its Catholic majority it is a highlight of the church year. The city is predominantly Roman Catholic due to the membership of the bishopric Speyer. Philippsburg was until 2008 the seat of a Roman Catholic deanery in the archdiocese of Freiburg; the first Protestant church was built in 1936. Around half of the population is Catholic (2011: 50.3%). It's not just the procession, the official part of the event, captured by the nearly two-minute film from 1962, but there are also scenes that precede the procession. With his cinematic presentation, the event of communion moves into a temporal sequence: The moving images reveal the before that belongs to this first important event for Catholic Christians.

In ever new moods, the children approach the camera, the boys in suits, the girls in white dresses, and they all wear their communion candle. The background of the street is gray in the picture and makes the Communion children in the foreground stand out all the more. Sometimes the boys are in front, sometimes the girls, then they walk side by side across the street, while behind a car drives past. With the passage of the children, the film shows in an inconspicuous way the transition to an event, on which the young Christians have prepared for months with the catechesis, the communion lessons. The scenes on the street are themselves part of the transition that represents the First Communion event. The scenes only become scenes through the film camera, for which the children can create an 'image' of themselves.

The name of White Sunday originally refers to the white christening gown worn by adults in the early church after their baptism for a week. For the children, who are usually about ten years old, the consecration of the communion candles to the baptismal candles. First communion, with the renewal of baptism, accomplishes the conscious incorporation into the Christian community. Prerequisite for this is the so-called rational age, the age from which they are mature enough to deal with their faith. In the communion class they have learned the important beliefs and are able to distinguish between simple bread and wine and the changed gifts. They have made their first confession and can now stand in front of the altar for the first time to receive the sacrament.

The amateur film shows the children before they join the procession. With the different locations he points to the individual and the collective, to the past and present, to the separated, which is to connect with the procession for the children as they enter a new stage of their Christian life. The children disappear in a procession, strictly separated first the boys in black, then the girls in white. The procession may be more in relation to its temporal pre-dating than the well-known ritual with its representative function. The procession becomes the 'performance' that lets the film begin before, the 'medium' of the transition that the young Christians make. The performance is the medium that holds the different times together: they come together on a path of transition that can be experienced by the children on this side of the familiar symbolic rhetoric.

First of all, in the shot, there are the ministrants with the symbol flags and the brass band of the place, before a slight swing shows the children in contrast to the clothes, the dark suits and the white dresses. Again and again they move into the picture: in another half-total with the church representatives at the front away, until then in a half-close the movement is even more noticeable, as they pass row after row with their candles. Finally, the train appears in a rear view, the shot lets the children pour into the picture, and the procession moves away slowly with waving flags.

The moving images of this private film connect the movement of beginning and end: The first Communion children come to the camera in small groups, and they move away from the camera, in pageant on the way to the church. They make the movement of the day appear in the different scenes - in the context of a movement, from which the sacred space, the 'scene' of the procession first emerges. They present the timing of the day as a fact - and they can thereby make another time palpable: the event of the transition that this day can be for the children.

Reiner Bader

Places and monuments


  1. This film analysis is still in progress. It may therefore be incomplete and contain errors.