fact checker february
(Almost) All You Need to Know about: Santa Eulália
Name: Eulàlia of Barcelona
Born: c. 290
Feast day: February 12th
Patronage: against drought, Barcelona, Barcelona cathedral, boatmen, mariners, safe sailing, safe seafaring, sailors, watermen
Representation: young woman with a palm and cross in her hand
Profile: Sanctified virgin. Martyred at age 13 during the persecution of Christians. Co-patron saint of Barcelona.
This month sees the celebration of the feast of Santa Eulàlia, co-patron saint of Barcelona. Eulàlia was a brave, 13-year-old virgin, born at a particularly bad time to be a practising Christian, who suffered martyrdom in Barcelona.
When Eulàlia spoke out against the repression of her community, Roman emperor Diocletian sentenced her to 13 tortures, one for every year of her life, including rolling her down a street (Baixada de Santa Eulàlia) in a barrel lined with shards of broken glass. And as if that weren´t enough, she was then crucified in the form of an X. In the moment of her crucifixion, it began to snow and a white dove flew out of her mouth, believed to be her soul.
Her body was originally interred in the church of Santa Maria de les Arenes (now Santa Maria del Mar) until 874, when her relics were transferred to the site of the main cathedral of Barcelona—the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Santa Eulàlia. She was canonised and made patron of the city, inspiring citizens through difficult times for many centuries.
In 1687, however, Santa Eulàlia faced some competition. Barcelona was attacked by a terrible plague and the desperate city-dwellers prayed to her for help. When the plague continued, they turned their attention to Our Lady of Mercy, who they found was much more successful in answering their prayers.
When the plague ended, the superstitious Barcelonians ditched Eulàlia for ‘La Mercè’, who, to this day, continues to be the better known, and more celebrated patron of the city. It is said that when it rains during the Festes de la Mercè, it rains the tears of Santa Eulàlia. Nevertheless, the city still has a soft spot for the child martyr, often referred to as the children’s saint—the main cathedral is dedicated to her, she is commemorated with statues and street names across Barcelona and, true to form, her feast day never goes unmarked!