Why Do We Celebrate La Mercé?

We’ll share the story behind Barcelona’s La Mercé – why it’s celebrated, when it takes place, and what awaits you in the city: concerts, culinary delights, markets, and the chance to witness live casteller performances.

When is La Mercè celebrated in 2023?

Every year, as September draws to a close, marking the end of summer, Barcelona hosts this vibrant, popular festival. From September 22nd to the 25th, the streets of the city come alive with drumming, music and festive spirit.

What activities can you enjoy? Aside from encountering various forms of street art, there are also concerts and traditional dances. As an interesting note, every year, a city is invited to become a part of Catalan culture for a few days (this year it will be Kiev). The highlight, and the most spectacular event, is the Piromusical, which serves as the grand finale of the celebrations. If you make your way to Plaza España, you’ll witness the Barcelona sky bursting with colors, accompanied by a magnificent musical performance.

What’s the story behind La Mercè?

In a period marked by religious conflicts, in the year 1218, a captivating legend unfolds: on September 24th, the Virgin Mary appeared simultaneously to Saint Peter Nolasco, Saint Raymond of Penyafort and King James I. She bestowed upon them a divine mission — to establish a monastic order with the sole purpose of liberating Christians held captive by the Saracens. Thus, the Mercedarian Order, known as the Mercedarians, came into existence.

Centuries later, Barcelona faced a locust plague that threatened to ruin the year’s harvest. On September 25th, the Merced Convent itself caught fire, seen as an ominous foreshadowing of things to come. To try and break the city’s streak of misfortune, the Council of One Hundred made a promise: if La Mercè could rid the city of the locust plague, they would declare her the city’s patron saint. In March of 1688, that promise was fulfilled as the locusts finally left the area.

However, the patronage didn’t become official until 1868 when Pope Pius IX confirmed it, designating September 24th as the day of celebration. Barcelona, as a result, gained two patron saints: Santa Eulalia (the sole patron until that point) and La Mercè.

Peones de un tablero ajedrez.

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The Virgin of La Mercè: Barcelona’s Major Celebration

Over time, La Mercè festival has become Barcelona’s most beloved celebration. Everyone involved chips in to organize points of interest and create a diverse cultural program.

As Barcelona’s culture is a melting pot of various influences, you’ll encounter traditional dances like the sardana from Girona, the Camp de Tarragona devils and numerous other dances from different parts of Catalonia, including, of course, the castellers.

We simply want to wish a happy La Mercè Day to all of us who are part of the City of Barcelona.

Feliç dia de la Mercè a tothom!

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