La Mercè

26 Sep
copyright: Lisette van de Graaf

Palau de la Virreina

Happy Monday! Did you have a nice weekend? As I told you on Friday, this past weekend was all about La Mercè here in Barcelona, one of our two patron saints (the other is Santa Eulàlia), so my weekend was mostly dedicated to enjoying what the festivities had to offer…

It all kicked off on Thursday evening, when at the doors of Palau de la Virreina, Gegants (giants) and other figures, typically used on special days in Barcelona and Catalunya, were carried out in procession towards Plaça de Sant Jaume, where the traditional Proclamation to ‘open’ the festivities was taking place. Clearing a path along Les Rambles and Carrer Ferran for these figures , was a band of Trabucaires armed with and firing their trabucos (blunderbusses) making for a noisy and gun powdery atmosphere.

copyright: Lisette van de Graaf


copyright: Lisette van de Graaf


Many ‘Diables’ (you probably guessed it, they are devils) joined the festive procession, brandishing torches and pitch forks.

Following are some of the traditional figures. All belong to Ciutat Vella (each city area, and often each neighborhood too,  has its own) and although they may be quite new, the tradition and figures they depict, go back many centuries. Each figure has its own piece of music and instruments that play it, as well as an accompanying dance.

copyright: Lisette van de Graaf

El Drac de Ciutat Vella

The above dragon (constructed in 1987) is a peaceful one, as is shown by the flowers it carries in its mouth. Non peaceful dragons will shoot fire (i.e. carry fireworks) from mouth, wings and tail. The lion (this particular one was built in 1993) is a peaceful one too, and is known to have a very sweet and gentle disposition, which is also evident in the music and dance that accompanies it.

copyright: Lisette van de Graaf

El Lleò

copyright: Lisette van de Graaf

El Bou

Another benign figure is the ox, which weighs 40 kg and was made in 1993. The mule (below) can be seen bearing flowers (as on this occasion) or fireworks. This one was built in 1988 and weighs 55 kilograms. Imagine carrying that on your shoulders! And walking in procession through half of the city centre. And dancing! Quite a feat.

By the way, have you noticed the footwear the people are wearing? They are traditional ‘espardenyes’. If you like, you can buy them here.

copyright: Lisette van de Graaf

La Mulassa

copyright: Lisette van de Graaf

The Moor Mustafa

Mustafa and Elisenda belong to the same association, and have been around in one form or another, since 1601. For many years, due to prohibitions implemented by several Spanish kings, they were no longer seen on festive occasions, but these two have been taking part again since 1993, after the tradition to bring out giants in festive processions was recuperated. All of the figures shown here, belong to the Gegants del Pi.

copyright: Lisette van de Graaf


On Friday I checked out some concerts, as well as the video projection on the façade of the Ajuntament (city hall), but as my skills taking videos and night shots is in need of honing, I’ll just offer you the link to the video projection, here. It’s well worth watching full screen – enjoy!

On Saturday it poured so I stayed indoors (lazy me!), but yesterday was a gorgeous day so I had a wander around town and shot some more images for you, for example of these ‘castellers’ who were on a break (below). I’ll tell you more about castellers tomorrow, ok?

copyright: Lisette van de Graaf

Castellers on a break

copyright: Lisette van de Graaf

Local colours

People were out in droves (some in local colours, as above), and Plaça Sant Jaume (where the castellers were doing their thing) was actually blocked off for a couple of hours because it was too full. I finally managed to gain access to the square and enjoy the atmosphere there and see the wonderful castells that were ‘built’ by the different local ‘colles’. The one from Vilafranca (a town outside of Barcelona), was a guest, invited to participate yesterday.

copyright: Lisette van de Graaf

Casteller de Vilafranca

copyright: Lisette van de Graaf

One of many Grallers

Accompanying the castellers with their music, were the Grallers, or players of the ‘gralla’ a reed instrument typical of Catalunya, and which is carried in a rather lovely leather case – below.

copyright: Lisette van de Graaf

a leather Gralla case

copyright: Lisette van de Graaf

Painted face

There were so many things to do and see, and I didn’t see or experience even half of it, but all weekend the atmosphere was very festive, and young and old, locals and tourists enjoyed being out on the streets watching or participating in the goings-on.

copyright: Lisette van de Graaf


Yesterday evening, by the Porta de l’Infern (hell’s gate), with a final procession of devils and dragons, accompanied by loud drumming and of course, lots of fireworks, the festivities of La Mercè ended, and so we have to wait another year until we can enjoy these days of concerts, open doors at museums, dance, and other spectacles, all free of charge, again. The giants, bestiari, fireworks, demons and dragons will come out of hiding at the next public holiday, so we won’t have to wait that long for them.

copyright: Lisette van de Graaf

Resting drums


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