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Fiesta San Mercè (end of summer)

29 September, 2008 (07:17) | Living in Europe | By: admin

The one thing the people of Barcelona know how to do, it is how to have fun. No matter how dismal the news of the global economy spiraling downwards, the Fiesta San Mercè has arrived just in time for us city folk to let off steam and immerse ourselves in the 10 day celebration of the patron saint of Barcelona, San Mercè. (Our Lady of Mercy).

Festivities include a traditional parade (cavalcada) of gegants and besties (giants and beasts), the exciting correfoc (fire run) which I share with you in the clip above, the castellers (human castles) along with hundreds of bands performing between Sept. 19 and 24. It is the biggest party of the year, and unlike my local Fiesta Mayor de Gracia, it takes place simultaneously in many venues, all of them downtown or on the beach.


The Correfoc of San Mercé, is the biggest fire run of the year. It features fire spitting dragons, eagles and devils with pitch forks throwing fireballs into the crowd, creating chaos and mayhem as they slither, hop and hiss towards the beach, making us all literally dance when they spew fire at our feet. People in the know wear a hat or a box over their head and fire repellant attire. We twist and jump around under the spitting flames. Dads with kids all dressed in fireman gear come to dance in the flames of the demons as they pass by. Some little kids even have shields, apparently to fend off the flames. It is both exciting and scary to jump into it and film the above clip. The Correfoc fire run begins at the top of calle Laetana and ends at the Barceloneta harbor, after which there are fireworks along the beach of Barceloneta.

Fresh back from Italy, I didn’t make it to many of the events this year, only Correfoc. But theres lots more going on. On my bike ride through Ciutadella Park yesterday, for example, there were food stalls of cuisine from around the world, as well as other exhibits intended to raise awareness in people.

from the local info website:

The last blast of summer before the autumn starts, La Mercè is the festival of festivals, where, in just a few days there are hundreds of activities like these:

* Barcelona Acció Musical (Barcelona Musical Action): to hear new sounds
* Barcelona Street Arts: artists performing amongst the public
* Festival of tradition: human castles, bigheads, giants and all the festive beasts of the city, accompanied by guests of the Mediterranean
* Festival of the sky: acrobatic meeting of jets, balloons, ultra lights, etc.
* The Fire Festival: all kinds of sparks from the musical fireworks to the Fire Run…

Basílica de la Mercè
La Mercè, patron saint of Barcelona

The legend goes that on the night of 24 September 1218, the Virgin appeared simultaneously to King Jaume I, Saint Pere Nolasc and Saint Ramón de Penyafort. She asked all three to create an order of monks dedicated to saving Christians imprisoned by the Saracens. It was the time of the wars of religion.

Centuries later in 1687, Barcelona suffered a plague of locusts, and placed itself in the hands of the Virgin of La Mercè. Once the plague had been overcome, the Council of the City named her patron saint of Barcelona. The Pope did not ratify this decision until two centuries later, however, in 1868. After Pope Pius IX declared the Virgin of La Mercè the patron saint of the city, Barcelona began to celebrate a festival in the month of September to herald the end of summer and the onset of the autumn months.

San Mercé traditionally ends with an air show on Sunday, which we caught by chance by going to the beach.