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Barcelona,
city of art and colour

Barcelona and St. George

Spain zone

 

 

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Barcelona and St George

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Barcelona is a lively city on the Mediterranean coast that has become a centre for architectural innovation, art and culture.

Barcelona is also the capital of the Spanish province of Catalonia. St George is the patron saint of Catalonia.
Come to Barcelona on the 23rd of April and join in the transformation of Barcelona into a town of celebration.

Although this is not a national holiday, the crowded streets and the bustle of rose and book-buying and carrying give a happy party atmosphere. Of course, clement warm weather helps too.

Everywhere there are stalls selling single, dragon’s blood red, roses, decorated with the red and yellow Catalan colours, or the stalls sell books, or both. The streets, metro stations, even the roof top of a Gaudi house open to the public have a stall, or sometimes a couple of students, selling roses or books. The bookstalls alone number over three hundred.

About 2,000,000 books are sold on the day of Sant Jordi and some 3,500,000 roses. Japan now imitates this ‘Catalan Day of the Book and the Rose’.

 

On the front of the buses flutter flags, of red and yellow stripes for Catalonia and white with a red cross for St George, or his Catalan name, Sant Jordi (San Jorge is in Spanish).

 

But why this sudden fever for books and roses? In Catalonia, whose capital is Barcelona, on St George’s Day, gifts are exchanged between sweethearts - a rose to the woman, a book to the man. This day is also called “the Day of Lovers”.

The roses are given in memory of St Jordi, who rescued a princess from the dragon he slew. The blood spilt from the dragon grew into a rose that Jordi gave to the rescued princess, a symbol of love and friendship, or at least so they tell me. Books started being given on St Jordi’s day from 1923 when a Barcelona bookseller started the custom to help sell books, using as a hook the death date of two famous great writers on 23rd April 1616: Spain’s Miguel Cervantes, author of Don Quixote, and England’s William Shakespeare.

23rd April has also been designated International Book Day by UNESCO.

It is estimated that 6 million roses and 400,000 books (half Catalonia’s yearly book sales) are sold in Barcelona on St George’s Day. Note that devoted sons may buy their mother a pot of orchids or other flowers instead.

Saint George is the patron saint of the Crusades, and so is much celebrated by countries that participated in these campaigns against Muslim invasion.

end notes

  1. Antoni Gaudí i Cornet (1852 - 1926) was a Spanish architect who has designed and built many buildings in Barcelona. His style is decorative and entertaining, making much use of ceramic mosaics and frequently avoiding straight lines and angles. abelard.org intends to produce a page on his work.

  2. Various versions of the mythology about George or Jordi here, here and here. Note that these links are chosen for being less embroiled in Christianist dogma.

 


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