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Entrega de la Rosa, Setmana Medieval de La Llegenda de Sant Jordi
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Many forget that Catalunya has a rich and celebrated history, which includes Greek and Roman settlements, the prosperous Middle Ages and modern battles, all of which have made the region what it is today. Thankfully, there is a series of historical reenactments going on this season and throughout the year that help us to relive and commemorate those momentous times.
SETMANA MEDIEVAL DE LA LLEGENDA DE SANT JORDI
The legend of Saint George and the dragon is perhaps one of the most patriotic and well-known tales in European lore; however, what is not always considered is that, according to Catalan tales, the infamous slaying of the dragon was alleged to have taken place only 100 kilometres away from Barcelona. Catalan folklorist Joan Amades, in his book Costumari Català (1952), states that the chivalrous act having taken place on the doorstep of Montblanc, in the province of Tarragona. To celebrate this historic occasion, in 1987, the townspeople of Montblanc decided to annually reenact the exploits of Sant Jordi, who was officially recognised as the patron saint of Catalunya by the Roman Catholic Church in 1667.
This year’s edition of ‘Medieval Week’ takes place between April 20th and May 1st, when there will be a series of theatrical productions and medieval festivities designed to create a realistic potrayal of life during this period. Over 500 costumed participants will furnish the town with medieval market stalls and the streets will be filled with dancing and entertainment. Houses will be adorned with the colours of the four noble houses of Montblanc, while the opening ceremony introduces us to the festival’s main characters. Witness a recreation of the Catalan Courts (the government of the time), take a shot at archery or attend the medieval feast (€25-50)! The festival culminates on Saturday April 28th with the celebrated feat of Sant Jordi rescuing the princess from the feared dragon and slaying the beast (€15, under-sixes get in for €5). According to Amades, a rosebush grew in the spot where the blood of the dragon was spilt and Sant Jordi chose the prettiest rose for the princess as a declaration of universal love, hence the Catalan tradition for lovers to exchange roses on the day of Sant Jordi. During the festival, this Entrega de la Rosa takes place on Monday April 23rd, the Catalan equivalent of Valentine’s Day. This date commemorates the death of the original Sant Jordi who was supposedly beheaded in Palestine on April 23rd, 303CE, after protesting against Emperor Diocletian’s persecution of Christians.
Back in Montblanc, a medieval tournament will provide audiences with an action-packed spectacle and there will be a series of daily processions and musical performances. And if just watching sounds dull, there is still time for you to perform in the proceedings by applying online (see More Info below).
Relive Catalunya’s Greek, Roman and Iberian heritage with the 17th edition of the Mediterranean Triumvirate on Saturday May 12th. The municipality of L’Escala in Girona and the nearby ruins of Empúries set the scene for Catalunya’s most diverse historical reenactment.
The area on the Costa Brava was known as Palaiapolis by the Indigetes population that resided there before the Greeks settled on the coastal spot of Empúries around 600BCE, while the Romans arrived in 218BCE; the settlement was abandoned in the third century CE. There is an impressive collection of archaeological exhibitions at the ruins and the nearby Museu d’Arqueologia de Catalunya (€2.40 entry fee).
The aim of the yearly Triumvirat fair is to demonstrate and transmit the legacy of coexistence between the three cultures that lived here, through an expansive programme of cultural, historical and recreational activities. These include craft and mosaic workshops, gastronomic exhibitions, boat rides, the sale of slaves, Olympic traditions, gladiator battles and military defence formations. The arrival of the legion and a fire show open and close the festivities.
Down the road from here, in Badalona, resides another archaeological site, the ancient Roman town of Baetulo, which was founded by General Scipio over 2,100 years ago. Between April 27th and 29th, a festival takes place dedicated to Roman practices and professions. Tasting a Roman menu, trying your hand at pottery, producing coins, working as a goldsmith and learning secret perfume and hairstyling techniques are but a few of the enticing options on offer this year. At the Badalona Museum, there will be several exhibitions and a production about the first Emperor of Rome (Augustus) to reflect how Roman society lived. Why not become a Roman citizen for the day?
L’ONZE DE SETEMBRE I GIRONELLA
By the river Llobregat in Gironella on September 11th, there will be a night-time, two-hour long theatrical reconstruction that recalls the 1714 Siege of Barcelona during the War of Spanish Succession. This saw Felipe V of Spain, backed by French forces, defeat Archduke Charles of Austria and his Grand Alliance, capture Barcelona and end Catalunya’s autonomous rule. Barcelona became part of the Bourbon dynasty’s centralisation efforts and September 11th has since become the National Day of Catalunya, a day which sits deep in Catalan hearts as they look back to the historical boldness of their nation in times past.
Setmana Medieval de la Llegenda de Sant Jordi - www.setmanamedieval.org
Triumvirat Mediterrani - www.triumviratmediterrani.org
Empúries - www.mac.cat/seus/empuries
Magna Celebratio - www.magnacelebratio.cat
L’Onze de Setembre i Gironella - www.lonzedesetembreigironella.com