A day of celebration where roses and books become the main characters
The festivity of Saint George is a day that is celebrated with a lot of enthusiasm and joy in Catalonia. On April 23rd, the streets of the cities and towns are crowded with people and stalls selling books and roses. It is about celebrating the patron saint of Catalonia and perpetuating this tradition based on love and culture.
The Legend of Saint George
The legend explains that long ago, in Montblanc (Tarragona) a ferocious dragon, capable of poisoning the air and killing with his breath, had frightened the inhabitants of the city. The inhabitants, scared and tired of the dragon´s ravages and misdeeds, decided to calm him by feeding him one person a day that would be chosen randomly in a draw. After several days, the princess was the unlucky one.When the princess left her home and headed towards the dragon, a gentleman named Saint George, dressed in shining armor, riding a white horse, suddenly appeared to rescue her. Saint George raised his sword and stabbed the dragon, at last releasing the princess and the citizens from this turmoil.From the dragon's blood a rose-bush grew with the reddest roses that had ever been seen. Saint George, now a hero picked a rose and offered it to the princess.
The representation of the Legend in Casa Batlló
The legend has been a source of inspiration for many artists. Antoni Gaudí staged the legend of Saint George in the architecture of Casa Batlló so that, over the years, this fantastic tradition would continue to live on.
The mythical legend is represented in Casa Batlló on the facade and in two specific places inside the house. On the roof the DRAGON‘s back comes alive with the ceramic tiles in the form of scales and the back is pierced by the cross of four arms that evokes Saint George´s triumphant SWORD.
On the top floor we find a flower-shaped balcony alluding to the THE PRINCESS’S BALCONY.
On the lower floors, the remains of the dragon´s victims are located on the balconies in the form of SKULLS and the pillars of the gallery that resemble the BONES.
In the Batlló family’s private entrance hall, there is a staircase where the upper part looks like the vertebrae of an animal and which, according to popular culture, could refer to the spine of the DRAGON’S TAIL. Finally in the attic, the main hall of the catenary arches reminds us of the RIBCAGE of a large animal.
Saint George´s Roses
Sending roses is the most significant thing about this fesitval. Anyone can make this offering, although as tradition dictates it is the man who must give a rose to his beloved. According to the legend, Saint George saved his princess by killing the dragon from whose blood grew a rose. That is why some consider it the Catalan Valentine´s Day, because Saint George is said to be, par excellence, the patron saint of lovers in Catalonia.
World Book Day
In addition, April 23rd is the World Book Day that was declared by Unesco in 1995. That is why on this day, in addition to exchanging roses, giving away books is the way to commemorate one of the traditions that is most rooted in the Catalan culture. It should be added that it has become a classic tradition to get the latest literary novelties, special editions or the signature and dedication of your favorite author.
Where is Saint George celebrated?
The legend of Saint George is common in some other European countries, such as England, Greece and Portugal.
In Barcelona, streets such as Las Ramblas, Paseo de Gracia and Rambla Cataluña stand out for the crowds and the number of stalls selling roses and books. The atmosphere is very special and it is an ideal day to contemplate and delight without motive. In other parts of Barcelona we can find sardanas, exhibitions, Open Doors Days of emblematic buildings, “castells” (human towers) or even cultural activities like photography contests, readings or concerts.
In Catalonia the celebrations of the population of Montblanc also stand out. During the “Montblanc Medieval Week” theatrical acts and musical performances flood the streets to celebrate and revive the legend. In the old town there is an area called Saint George´s Portal where it is said that the knight went out after killing the beast.