Every year close to the end of September Barcelona holds its largest street party, the La Mercè Festival in Barcelona. All around the city you will explore the big festival with fire runs, giant people, human towers, dragons and more. If you happen to be in Barcelona on this day, you will for sure not miss it!
History of La Mercè Festival
The story is 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.
The festival has been celebrated since the Middle Ages when, in 1687, Barcelona suffered a plague of locusts. 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. The celebration of La Mercè has religious origins, honoring the Virgin of Grace, patron saint of the Archdiocese of Barcelona, and co-patroness along with Saint Eulàlia of the city.
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. La Mercè really took off in 1902, when under the impulse of Francesc Cambó, the festival became the model the those that are currently held all over Catalonia. In Barri Gotic in Barcelona, there is a basilica dedicated to the Virgin, where a wooden image of her is venerated.
Held in honor of Mare de Deu de la Merce, the Patron Saint of Barcelona, it’s an amazing five days of parades, performances, and fireworks, taking place at countless venues across the city.
What to do in the festival
La Mercè transforms Barcelona for a one week into a grand stage bursting with fantasy and imagination, creativity, tradition, and musicians outstanding voice. Over 600 activities and shows to go during the weekend with more than 2000 artists and professionals taking part.
Watch traditional performances
The festival is a perfect time to see Catalan’s typical shows. If you are not too scared of fire you should definitely take part in Correfoc, a parade of people dress as devils, dragons, and demons holding huge sparklers with an accompaniment of groups of drummers.
You can also watch impressive Human Towers at Plaça de Sant Jaume called Castells, which is a cultural phenomenon particular to Catalonia and consist of erecting human towers. The highest ones have a height of nine or ten people!
Other famous activities are parades of Giants, dancing shows of Sardanas and ritual weapon dances or concerts of traditional music bands and much more!
Enjoy local and international music on five
La Mercè also offers a lot of concerts of Catalan and international bands. Many different music styles, from folk to jazz, reggae, and electronic will be presented in parks, squares, and Barcelona’s venues. It’s a great opportunity to get closer to the musical part of Barcelona’s culture. Another good news is that all the shows are free of charge and they are open to everyone!
Meet the guest city Reykjavik
Barcelona has invited a different city from around the world to take part in La Mercè every year since 2007. The city of Reykjavik enthusiastically accepted the invitation to be the guest city at La Mercè 2017. During the festival artist from Iceland will present their cultural program full of concerts, exhibitions, and performances.
Visit the official website of La Mercé to learn more about the program.
When: From 22nd to 5th of September
Where: Many locations in Barcelona. Check out them here.