For those of you lucky enough to be visiting the city on Monday, you will be here for the best day of the year, Saint Jordi (Saint George in English). There are many festivals throughout the year, but in my time here, nothing compares to Sant Jordi, where Barcelona turns into something spectacular. Books and roses will be on display and sold throughout the city as everyone will be clamoring to get there partners a book or a rose. Las Ramblas will be even more crowded than the norm, Plaça Sant Jaume will see happy crowds, and all around the city a special spirit will be in the air. While not a national holiday, it will appear to be. So if you are fortunate enough that your vacation coincides with this magical day, here’s what you need to know:
What is el Día de Sant Jordi?
Basically, it’s Valentine’s Day with a twist. This is lover’s day here in Catalunya and on this day the ladies receive a rose while the fellas receive a book. All of this has to do with the legend of Saint George, which becomes Jorge in Spanish and Jordi in Catalan. Yes, the same Saint George from England and many other places, Saint Jordi is also the patron saint of Catalunya.
It is legend that in Montblanc, Tarragona (to the south of Barcelona) there was a dragon terrifying the town. When the dragon unsatisfiable appetite couldn’t be with the farm animals, the princess was taken. About to be devoured by the horrifying beast, she is saved, as Saint George gallantly appears riding his noble stead striking the dragon with his lance. Out of the dragon’s blood appears a rose, which Saint George presents to the princess. It is from this legend that on every April 23rd it is customary for the ladies to receive a rose.
The books come into play for a different reason. William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes, arguably the two most famous authors in their respective languages, both died on April 23rd, 1616. This amazing coincidence has lead to the creation of World Book Day.
Together with the legend of Saint George, Barcelona becomes an incredible sight. The whole city gets into the act; the Casa Batlló by Gaudí puts on its best dress, with roses decorating the balconies (the perfect attire for the façade that tells of the legend of Saint George each and everyday.
What can I do while I am here?
Take in the atmosphere. Some of the most important places will be Las Ramblas, Plaça Sant Jaume, and Passeig de Gràcia. These are also the places to avoid if you want to relax. Books and roses will be everywhere, as well as thousands of people looking for the best ones for their partners.
See the Sardanas. A traditional catalan dance, usually done outside of the cathedral Sunday monrings, will be performed starting at 19:00 in Plaça Sant Jaume.
Visit the Barcelona City Hall. The Ajuntament in the center of Plaça Sant Jaume will be holding its annual Open Door Event from 10:00 until 20:00. This is a chance that doesn’t come along too often to see an incredible building that dates back to the 1396 with the Consell de Cent (the Council of 100), Barcelona’s original city council.
Meet one of over 300 authors signing books. As every year, many authors from around the world make their way to Barcelona for book singings all around the city in various books stores and pop up stands. Yes, most will be Catalan or Spanish language authors but there are always english language authors about too! Ian Gibson will be signing his newest book about the assassination of Garcia Lorca, which he himself claims to always sign with a green pen, at various stores like La Central on Carrer Mallorca at 17h. Mary Beard, author of the very popular, SPQR, will be singing there as well, at 13h.
Any author requests can be found by searching here.
Looking to get in the spirit?
If you want to take a little bit of Barcelona back with you and get involved in the holiday, a book is the perfect way to do so. Every year books are published close to the April 23rd date and this year is no different. 2018 will see the republishing of the famous Barcelonas by Manuel Vázquez Montalbán, famous Barcelona journalist and novelist. Other options if you are looking for some literature set in this incredible city:
Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. The first book of the series is an international best seller and takes you through the streets of Barcleona as Daniel Sempere tries to track down the mysterious person destroying all of his favorite author’s books.
Cathedral of the Sea by Ildefonso Falcones. You have already been to see Santa Maria del Mar church (or you will at some point while you are here), this novel tells the story of its construction while Barcleona is becoming a maritime empire.
Origin by Dan Brown. The author of the Da Vinci Code takes Robert Langdon away from Italy and finds adventure in Barcelona. A quick read that was published just this past October visits sites like the Sagrada Familia and La Pedrera.