The festival La Mercè, which is held in honour of the patron saint la Mercè (the Virgin of Mercy) on September 24 each year is the "Fiesta Mayor" - the main festival - of Barcelona. It is the largest and most colourful festival in the city's festival calendar and the absolute climax of Barcelona's event schedule.
The main events of the festival take place on September 24, mainly around the Gothic Quarter. But during the entire week before and after La Mercè there are many events in Barcelona. The events 2011 take place from September 22 to September 25.
Quite often there are up to 500 events taking place in the scope of the Festes de la Mercè in the area of the whole city, mainly in the center.
But there are some top events for which the Festes the la Mercè are famous:
Castellers - the human towers
The human towers of the castellers, as their builders are called, are to be as high as possible. Performances take place at the Plaça de Sant Jaume in the Gothic Quarter, which is then filled with thousands of people.
Correfoc – the procession of the fire-breathing dragons
The procession usually takes place on the Via Laietana (Metro: L4, Jaume I.) at nightfall. Fire-breathing dragons, accompanied by dangerous devils and other monsters march the streets and scare the people with lots of fireworks and bangers.
There is a more harmless Correfoc for children taking place before the actual Correfoc.
Our tipp: Put on some clothes that will not be ruined by a few sparks. If you want to see the dragons at a close range, it is advisable to wear glasses. At the Correfoc for adults, the sparks of some fireworks are whirled directly at the visitors.
Gigantes – the giant parade
Giant figures of queens and kings, nobles and saints march the streets of Barcelona. The giants dance on the streets, march around in circles, accompanied by the play of flutes and drums.
Mercè - the patron saint of Barcelona
Legend has it that on the night of 24 September 1218, the Virgin of Mercy appeared to King James I of Aragon, Saint Peter Nolasco and Saint Raymond of Penyafort at the same time. She gave all three of them the order to liberate the Christian monks, who were held captive by the Saracens, as the Moorish occupants were called. It was a time of religious wars.
Centuries later, in 1687, the Virgin of Mercy shielded Barcelona from a plague of locusts and freed the city of pestilence. The city council made her the patron saint of Barcelona, which was not recognized by the pope, though. The decision was only ratified two centuries later in 1868. During the Spanish Wars of Succession, she was handed the command over the city's defence in a hopeless situation in 1714. On 11 September 1714, Barcelona was taken by the Spanish and French Bourbon armies.
The image of the patron saint is now kept in the Mercè Basilica at the Plaça de la Mercè (Metro: L3, Drassanes).
La Mercè became the most popular festival of the city thanks to the cooperation of organisations from all parts of the city. Today, several hundred events take place in the entire city area with the general topic of Mediterranean culture. The events show that the festival Le Mercè lives up both to the tradition and modern art and culture.
The town festival La Mercè is the biggest festival in Barcelona and it takes place around the 24th September.