Aug 31

La Mercè, the festival to end all festivals

The best way to mark the official end of the summer in Barcelona is definitely to participate in the greatest street festival held in the city from the 21th to the 24th of September: La Mercè Festival. This annual four days celebration is organized in honor of the patron saint of Barcelona, the Lady of Mercy, and hosts a large selection of events from morning to night covering a wide range of disciplines.

According to the legend, on 24 September 1218, the Lady of Mercy, also named La Mercè, appeared to King James I and Saint Peter Nolasco, ordering them to free the faithful who were prisoners of the Saracens. Another manifestation of the Virgin of Barcelona happened in 1687 when the city overcame a terrible plague after having offered up prayers to Her. But it is only about two hundred years later that Pope Pius IX officially recognized La Mercè as the city’s patron saint. Then, La Mercè really took off in 1902, when the festival was first held all over Catalonia.

Today, this religious celebration has become a popular festival throughout Catalonia that no longer meets only the people of Barcelona, but also gathers worldwide visitors. La Mercè is a very significant Festival because it represents all the Catalan culture through hundreds of activities to meet everyone’s tastes from music to fireworks, to the famous human towers and cultural representations. The most notable events that cannot be missed are the following:

-        The Giant’s Parade: this event is very popular! You will find giant kings, queens, and other nobles wearing beautiful and brilliant costumes and walking along the streets to the rhythm of drums and traditional music.

-        The Correfoc Fire Run: rooted in the culture of Barcelona, this fire parade sees fire-breathing dragons and a rabble of devils running through the streets throwing fireworks and bangers.

-        The Castellers Human Towers: It is a famous tradition coming from Tarragona and practiced all over Catalonia where teams compete to build the tallest human tower. The last to reach the top are the “riders”, small children, who hold up 4 fingers to symbolize the stripes of the Catalan flag.Merce Festival

As a major cultural city in the Mediterranean, Barcelona is open to other cultures and welcome each year a guest city in its program.  Thus in 2012 Montréal takes over Sant-Petersburg, who was the guest of La Mercè’s last edition. Besides Montréal and Saint-Petersburg, other cities have been invited in recent years like Dakar (2010), Istanbul (2009), Quito (2008) and Medellin (2006).

Do not miss the major festival of Barcelona where novelty and tradition combine to express themselves through art, music and theater. Moreover, you can enjoy this opportunity to discover the city of Barcelona, its people, its culture and traditions!

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