A Solemnity of the Roman Catholic Church is a principal holy day in the liturgical calendar, usually commemorating an event in the life of Jesus, his mother Mary, or other important saints. The observance begins with the vigil on the evening before the actual date of the feast.

The word is taken from the Latin sollemnitas, a term of uncertain origin but possibly derived from sollus (whole) and annus (year), indicating a celebration occurring at yearly intervals. The Church always celebrates each solemnity every year.

Solemnities of the General Roman Calendar

January 1 Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God formerly known as the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ
January 6 The Epiphany of the Lord commemorates the visit of the magi; observed in most dioceses on the second Sunday after Christmas (between Jan 2 and 8) in most dioceses, including those of the United States. The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord on the next Sunday (or on Monday 8 or 9 January if the observance of this Solemnity occurs on 7 or 8 January) ends the Christmas season.
March 19 Saint Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary transferred to Monday 20 March whenever it falls on Sunday but to the Saturday before Palm Sunday if it falls on Palm Sunday or during Holy Week
March 25 The Annunciation of the Lord commemorates the Archangel Gabriel's announcement to the Blessed Virgin Mary that she was to be the Mother of God; usually transferred to Monday 26 March when it falls on a Sunday but to the Monday after the Second Sunday of Easter whenever it falls on Palm Sunday, during Holy Week, or during the Octave of Easter; nowhere a holy day of obligation
22 March to 25 April (varies; set as the first Sunday after the first full moon after the first day of spring, the March 20/21 [vernal equinox]) Easter commemorates the Resurrection of Christ
40th day of Easter (30 April to 3 June) Ascension of the Lord commemorates Jesus' ascension into heaven, a short time after his bodily resurrection; always falls on a Thursday; transferred to the following Sunday in some areas
50th day of Easter (10 May to 13 June) Pentecost commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the [apostles]; considered the 'birthday of the Church'; always falls on a Sunday
Sunday after Pentecost (17 May to 20 June) Trinity Sunday always on Sunday
Thursday after Trinity Sunday (21 May to 24 June) Body and Blood of Christ Corpus Christi; moved to the following Sunday (24 May to 27 June) in most areas, including the United States of America; can conflict with the Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist
Friday eight (or five) days after Corpus Christi Thursday (or Sunday) (29 May to 2 July) Sacred Heart of Jesus nowhere a holy day of obligation; can conflict with the Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist or with the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles
June 24 The Nativity of Saint John the Baptist nowhere a holy day of obligation; can conflict with the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ or with the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
June 29 Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Apostles can conflict with the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
August 15 Assumption of Mary
November 1 All Saints
Last Sunday before Advent (20-26 November) Feast of Christ the King this is the last Sunday of the liturgical year; the first Sunday of Advent marks the beginning of the liturgical year
December 8 The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary transferred to Monday 9 December if 8 December falls on Sunday
December 25 Christmas holy day of obligation; also known as The Nativity of the Lord

Special Solemnities

These solemnities are observed throughout the entire Roman Catholic Church. In addition, there are some which are observed in particular places, regions, or in particular religious orders. For instance, when a parish or other church celebrates the feast or memorial of its titular saint or when it celebrates the anniversary of its dedication, it is treated as a solemnity. The feast of Saint Patrick on 17 March is a solemnity in Ireland, and the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on 16 July is a solemnity for the Carmelites.

Some solemnities are also Holy Days of Obligation, on which Catholics are required to attend Mass; some are not. Moreover, the canon law of the Catholic Church requires that on Holy Days of Obligation Catholics are to avoid "work" and "affairs" that "hinder the worship to be rendered to God" or interfere with "suitable relaxation of mind and body" just as is required on Sundays.


Solemnities never impede the Easter Triduum, Pentecost, Sundays of Advent, Sundays of Lent, Sundays of the Easter Season, Ash Wednesday, Holy Week, and the Easter Octave. No solemnity except the Resurrection of the Lord on Easter Sunday can fall during Holy Week or during the Octave of Easter; the Church transfers any otherwise scheduled solemnity to another available date.

Solemnities of the Lord (Epiphany, Annunciation, Ascension, Corpus Christi, Trinity, Christ the King, Nativity), Solemnities of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Mother of God, Assumption, Immaculate Conception), Solemnities of Saints Listed in the General Calendar (Joseph, Nativity of John the Baptist, Peter and Paul, All Saints), All Souls Day, and proper solemnities can impede other Sundays throughout the year.

For all intents and purposes, this means that a solemnity always can impede a Sunday in Ordinary Time.


The Creed is recited at Mass, and there are two scriptural readings and a responsoral psalm before the Gospel. When a solemnity falls on a Friday, the obligation to abstain from meat or do penance is lifted.

See also


External links

  • Universalis An excellent liturgical calendar of the Catholic Church including the liturgy of the hours and the mass readings.
  • "Solemnity" article from The Catholic Encyclopedia (1912)
  • Liturgical calendar for the year 2008 in the United States of America

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