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Catalan folklore

Sant Jordi: the patron saint of Catalonia

Written by Dylan

La Diada de Sant Jordi is a festival whose origins vary by location but is celebrated on April 23rd throughout the Christian world. However, none rival the romanticism celebrated in Catalonia on this special day.

Related article: History and Legends of Barcelona: Wilfred the Hairy

Origins of the legend

Legend has it that an ancient village in the Kingdom of Cappadocia, whose very landscape is said to mimic dragons teeth, was under constant siege by a ferocious dragon.

The king sacrificed two lambs each day to quell the dragon’s hunger but as the population of the kingdom’s lambs dwindled, the dragon’s taste for fresh meat did not. In order to keep the dragon at bay and ensure his kingdom’s survival, he decided that they would only sacrifice one lamb per day and instead of the second lamb, a child from the village.

Dragon toothed landscape in Cappadocia, Turkey

Photo by mariusz kluzniak via Visualhunt

After many of the villager’s children had been offered, eventually, the princess of the kingdom and the king’s only daughter was selected to be offered up to the dragon. As she accompanied the lamb to the dragon’s lair where the hungry beast awaited his meal, she came upon a knight by the name of Jordi (George) who immediately fell in love with her. Upon learning what the princess’s fate was to be, he vowed to defeat the dragon and free the kingdom from the beast.

Jordi rode to the dragon’s lair wielding his weapon. The knight charged at the immense beast but his lance shattered upon contact with the dragon’s impenetrable scales and he was thrown from his horse. As Jordi lay on the ground, the dragon moved in to finish him. But Jordi quickly unsheathed his sword and pierced the creature below the wing right through its heart, killing it instantly.

Blood flowed like a river from the dragon’s lifeless body and from it grew a single red rose. The knight carefully took the rose and offered it to the princess as a symbol of his love for her. To show his gratitude, the king built a church named after Jordi and in which it is said, flowed enchanted water which used to heal the sick.

Present Day

Today, on the 23rd of April, it is customary in Catalonia for men to give roses to women and for women to give books to men. This Catalan tradition of love and literacy is a sight to behold as makeshift stands selling roses and books pop up for the day all over Catalonia, not to mention the many public performances and book readings held throughout Barcelona. Upwards of six million roses and almost one million books are sold during this time every single year.

Related article: Step back in time to medieval Catalonia

Where to buy your Sant Jordi gifts?

Photo via Visualhunt

If you are a man, then your duty is to offer roses to your girlfriend or wife. On the days leading up to Sant Jordi and the day itself, you will find a lot of street vendors selling bouquets or single roses, particularly down Las Ramblas. While it may be easy to buy your flowers from street vendors, they will often charge you an inflated price, especially in the more touristic areas of the city. If you have the time, try going to a florist instead. Navarro Floristeria is one of the best flower shops in the city, selling an impressive variety of bonsai trees, cacti and all kinds of flowers. This venue is open 24 hours a day, which means you can go grab your roses when it is most convenient. Another good option is La Toretta. Located in the heart of Poblenou, this flower shop has been in business for over 35 years. The store offers both synthetic and fresh flower arrangements exquisitely prepared by Emilia Sorribas, who was trained in Catalonia’s School of Floral Art.

If you are a woman, then it’s time to go shopping for a book for your hubby. There are plenty of excellent bookstores in the city for you to choose from, it really depends on what you are looking for. If you are looking for books in English, then we suggest you visit Come In, BCN Books or Hibernian Books, this last option selling both used and new books. If you need to find books in different languages, then you have Llibreria Jaimes, for French books, and Le Nuvole, for Italian books. Other large chains of bookstores like Casa del Libro and Fnac also offer a selection of books in foreign languages, though their main focus is books in Spanish and in Catalan.

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Sant Jordi: the patron saint of Catalonia
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About the author

Dylan

Dylan is a freelance writer in Barcelona, enjoying the Spanish culture and weather along with the incredible opportunities life has to offer.

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