Activities in Barcelona: Las Festes de Santa Eulàlia

Santa Eulàlia
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The story of Santa Eulàlia is not a happy one.  With this weekend hosting the festival celebrations in her name I thought it was high time to learn more about her.

One of the two patron saints of Barcelona, (along with our Lady of Mercy), Eulàlia was the young martyr who suffered horrific torture at the hands of the Romans when she refused to renounce her Christian faith.  As the legend goes, During the persecution of the Christians during the reign of Emperor Diocletian, Eulàlia sought out the governor of Barcino (Roman Barcelona) to reproach him for the persecutions.  Faced with Eulàlia’s staunch refusal to renounce Chrisitanity, he condemned her to 13 tortures, one for every year of her young life.

These tortures ranged from imprisonment, whipping, tearing her flesh with hooks, burning and cutting off her breasts, covering her in boiling oil and melted lead, and throwing her into a pit of quicklime.
Another torture involved putting her in barrel of broken glass and nails and blades and rolling her down the street.  In the Gotico you will find a street named ‘Baixada de Santa Eulàlia” where this took place.  However after all these tortures she apparently emerged unscathed and still refused to bow to their demands.

Finally Eulàlia was brought naked through the streets to be crucified on an X shaped cross.   According to the legend, during the crucifixion snow began to fall, covering her naked body & maintaining the purity of her body.  Then, to top it all, they chopped off her head and a white dove flew from her neck.

Santa Eulàlia’s sarcophagus in the Cathedral.  Photo Credit:

Her body now lies in the Cathedral, and it is said still perfectly preserved since her death. However, don’t think about opening her tomb because no mortal eye may bear her sight. In the 18th century, apparently, an incautious bishop decided he was holy enough to sneak a peek at her remains and was struck blind.

Over the years the celebration of her feast day on 12th February has turned into a weekend festival of activities for children – from sardanes (the traditional catalan dance) to correfocs (fire runs) and castellers it is a celebration of culture and youth.

When Barcelona’s other patron saint’s day is celebrated during La Mercè Festival in September it is said that it always rains – and that these are the tears of Saint Eulàlia , abandoned and forgotten for one day.

You can learn more about this year’s activities here which take place on 6th, 7th, 8th & 12th of February 2015.

The festival coincides with the Light (Llum) Festival, and all around the Gothic quarter various light installations bring an eerie yet beautiful aura to buildings and monuments. Last year’s festival brought together an impressive array of activities, see below my photo gallery from last year.

Santa Eulàlia and the Festival of Light (Llum) February 2014

The city lit up in a variety of art displays and installations.  The Town Hall (Ayuntamiento) Building provided a surface for colourful ‘mappings’, and various monuments around the Gothic Quarter and Ciutadella Parc were beautifully illuminated.

A parade of Giants and Big Heads ended in the square, and the figures danced to music – I find the human figures a little scary myself!

Castellers, or human towers, performed in the square in front of the town hall.  These impressive towers showcase the strength, balance and determination of the Catalan people, and the bravery of the children who climb to the top!

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