Since 1589 the oldest neighborhood in Barcelona, the Gothic, has kept alive some of its richest traditions in honor of Sant Roc, a pilgrim from Montpellier (Occitania, then part of the old Kingdom of Mallorca) who traveled to Italy to dedicate to the care of the plague patients. The legend says: “that during a visit to the city he fell ill with the plague and sheltered in the Roman walls. Everyone despised him, except for the neighborhood baker’s dog, who fed him every day with bread rolls. Thanks to that, he recovered and continued the path accompanied by the animal”.
When the plague appeared in the city, none of the neighbors of the Barcelona Cathedral district died from the bubonic plague of 1589, and people started attributing Sant Roc the protection against the pandemic. In gratitude to the Saint, they created the Brotherhood of Sant Roc de la Plaça Nova. To this day Sant Roc’s celebration is a renewal of the vow made to the Saint to ask that the city was protected against the plague. Sant Roc is considered the patron of dogs, the Protector Saint to all kinds of epidemics, and protector of pilgrims, nurses and surgeons among others to this day.
Each year the streets of the Gothic Quarter and the Plaça Nova mainly, held some of the most interesting activities, spectacles, ceremonies, games, parades, exhibitions, and workshops for all ages. It’s been 430 years that Sant Roc festivities started and new elements and customs have been added. This year the celebration will be from August 14-17 and some of the important traditions we will be able to see are:
- Cucanya: A traditional children’s game consisting of a greasy pole where kids must cross to the other side and return without falling.
- Dance of the giants: they dance to the sound of the drums or some specific songs composed for them.
- Sardana dances: symbolize Catalan unity and pride.
- The dog festival: the program includes the presentation of all the dogs of the neighborhood, dog exhibitions, and training tests.
- Panellets of Sant Roc: delicious treats made with a secret recipe only available during Sant Roc’s celebration.
- Porró Llarg: a traditional wine container with a spout of 75 cm large filled with wine where anyone can drink from (for those who feel adventurous!)
- Correfoc: fire runs. Represent the epic battle between God and evil. Every year a group of devils known as the “Diables de Sant Roc” walk through the streets of the Gòtic displaying a great pyrotechnic spectacle accompanied by the ‘Vibria’ (a medieval mythological figure representing a wicked, female dragon with a snake’s tail, bat’s wings and woman’s breasts that dates back from 1339. (If you are interested in watching this spectacle check out this blog post from seasonedtravelr to know how to prepare to attend the Correfoc)
- Traditional fireworks: held on the last day of the ceremony as a closing act.
For all the details about date and time where all the event will take place here is the official page with the Program 2019 Festes de Sant Roc (the program is only in Catalan but you can use your preferred translator).
We also recommend checking alternative nearby transportation metro stops like Catalunya (L1/L3), Urquinaona (L1/L4), Liceu (L3) or Jaume I (L4) and bus numbers (H14, H16, D20, V13, V15, V17, 19, 22, 39, 45, 47, 52, 55, 59, 62, 91 and 120 (no service on Sundays). Walking will be the easiest way for moving around and to be able to get through the Gothic and all the activities taking place during those days. Please visit https://www.tmb.cat/en/home to plan your journey ahead or install the TMB Apps on your smart phone.
Have you been to any Sant Roc festival in Barcelona? Are you looking for more information and recommendations on what to see and do in Barcelona while you are visiting? Feel free to contact us and also to join us at any of our Barcelona Food Tours. Have a great time and enjoy the festival!
August 13, 2019 | Words by Eye On Food Tours