Festival of La Mercè

Every year, in late September, the city of Barcelona erupts celebrating the Festival of La Mercè, the city’s largest official holiday. Though the actual feast day of La Mercé is September 24, festivities begin a few days before the feast and generally extend until the 25th or 26th of September.

The holiday was initially organized in the 19th century to celebrate the Virgin of La Mercè, Barcelona’s Patron Saint. Legend states, that the Virgin of La Mercè first appeared in the 13th century to inspire an order of monks to defend the city, and later in 1687 she returned to save Barcelona from a locust plague. Centuries later, the feast day was officially acknowledged by the Papacy, and in 1871, the first official festival of La Mercè took place. In 1902, the event adopted its modern format, and some of the most famous features of the celebration were introduced.

The Castells is a genuinely astounding portion of La Mercè. A crowd of thousands will pack into Placa de Jaume to watch as castellers—castle makers—stand upon one another to build up human towers. The towers are comprised of three parts, a pinya (base) a tronc (trunk), and the pom de dalt (crown of the castle). The castle is only considered crowned after a child ascends the monument and salutes the crowd at the top. Castells are raised in various forms and sizes, but each assembly is a wonder to watch.

Gigantes, or the Giants Parade, is another well-loved mainstay of La Mercè. Giant statues of kings and queens make there way through the city, dancing to traditional music, and delighting the crowds. The giants often represent many of Barcelona’s neighborhoods, and are well-supported as they parade along the city’s streets.

Perhaps the most exciting feature of La Mercè is the Correfoc, or “fire-run.” Beginning at dusk, groups of individuals portraying dragons, devils, and other monsters run through the streets setting off bangers, sparklers, and fireworks. One of the few fire-runs that take place each year in Barcelona, the Correfoc is an annual crowd favorite.

These highlights of La Mercè have long since been ingrained in Barcelona’s history. Yet, with thousands of events taking place in a multitude of outdoor venues at each annual festival, La Mercè is truly an event worth experiencing for yourself. Join VBT on our Spain: Under the Andalusian Sky vacation and take part in Barcelona’s latest and largest summer celebration.