According to legend, on 24 September 1218, Our Lady of Mercy – La Mercè – appeared before King James I and Saint Peter Nolasco, ordering them to found the Mercedarian Order to free the faithful who were prisoners of the Saracens. This manifestation of the Vir- gin was made patron saint of Barcelona later when, in 1687, the city overcame a terrible plague of locusts after oering up prayers to Her. Nearly two hundred years later, Pope Pius IX ocially recognised La Mercè as the city’s patron saint and the people of Barcelona began to celebrate Her feast, though the current format of a programme featuring Catalan traditions was not adopted until the late-19th century.
Getting the party started
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 22 / 7.45 PM Pl. de Sant Jaume
Those who want to experience the festival from the very start and, by the by, get a live taste of Barcelona traditional imagery, should come to Plaça de Sant Jaume. There you will nd the city’s gegants, giants, along with the Àliga, Víbria, the Bou, the Mulassa... ready to perform their traditional dances, some accompanied by reworks, to music played by the Ministrils del Camí Ral. This ensemble, which performs only once a year, is formed by some forty musicians, all playing traditional Catalan instruments: the gralla, the tarota, the abiol the tabal, and so on. Pure tradition.