Festes de la Merçè

Mercè festivities of Barcelona

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Once again this year, Barcelona closes the summer season with its biggest festival of each year: La Mercè 2019. During the days when the celebration takes place, the streets and squares of Barcelona are filled with people who participate in the hundreds of activities planned, which give this festival the charasteristic Mediterranean that everyone loves. The festival commemorates the feast of Mare de Déu de La Mercè (Virgin of La Mercè), patron saint of the city since 1687 —when Barcelona suffered a plague of locusts that was eradicated after putting itself in the hands of La Mercè— and not ratified by the Pope until two centuries later, until 1868. La Mercè 2019 will be held between the 20th and the 24th September.

To know the history of this festivity we have to go back several centuries. Specifically on the night of 24 September 1218, when the Virgin of La Mercè appeared simultaneously to King James I, Saint Peter Nolasco and Saint Ramon of Penyafort to ask them to create an order of monks dedicated to saving imprisoned Christians.

This festival, which therefore has a religious origin, is also full of cultural traditions: with a very popular character, the festival of La Mercè is characterised by leisure in the streets, which are filled with giants and bigheads, fire and demons, human towers known as “castells” and music. But don’t be scared, although it sounds a little strange, and even dangerous, in fact it’s not. The gegants are nothing more than tall figures, with heads and hands of papier-mâché, who have the rest of the body covered with clothes. They have a wooden structure inside and there is a person inside them to make the giants dance. The bigheads are large carton. And to make it clear, the demons are the name given to the people who make the correfoc (fire corridor), typical of Catalonia. Sounds fun, doesn’t it?

Beirut, the guest city for La Mercè 2019

Like every year, Barcelona invites a city to celebrate the festivities of La Mercè. Reykjavik in 2017 and Lisbon last year were the last two cities invited. In 2019, the chosen one is Beirut, a city which, despite the scourge of war, is currently one of the great centres of cultural activity in the Arab world. For this reason, the festival also includes in its programme numerous shows by groups of music, dance and street arts related to the culture of the city, as well as a cycle in the Filmoteca de Catalunya dedicated to Lebanese cinematography.

Free concerts, activities for children, popular races, dances, exhibitions, gymkhanas, photo contests, jugglers, storytellers, and the already popular fireworks show to end the party. We know how the Mercè ends, but we also know how each year begins: with a proclamation made by an important personality of Barcelona. This year it will be given by the emeritus judge and ex-mayor of Madrid, Manuela Carmena.

We cannot forget the poster of this year, work of the illustrator Maria Corte and in which we can see represented a Mercè “of the world”: black or mestizo that can be of here or immigrant (like the parents of the own author, of Argentine origin). From her hair emerge castellers, musicians, sculptures and elements of fire, finished off by a sea in which a ship sails from which people are rescued at sea.

Photo by: Miquel Angel Pintanel Bassets

La Mercè festivities: where to stay

If you are looking for accommodation in Barcelona for La Mercè, at MH Apartments we have different options of tourist apartments in Barcelona. Specifically, 11 holiday apartment buildings in the centre of Barcelona (Las Ramblas, Eixample and Sagrada Familia).

Don’t forget to check Barcelona City Council’s website to find out everything about La Mercè 2019 programme. Don’t miss the opportunity to stroll through the streets of Barcelona and enjoy its people and culture.

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