What’s Sant Jordi in Barcelona? A special day in which books parades are settled in the streets and roses are given to your beloveds.

International Book Day is celebrated on April 23th to commemorate deaths of William Shakespeare, Miguel de Cervantes and Garcilaso de la Vega. It coincides with Saint George’s Day, known as Diada de Sant Jordi in Barcelona. This day, all Catalonia dresses in book parades and roses to remember an ancient legend. A story that has inspired Gaudi’s buildings and other Spanish artists.

Once upon a time a dragon that tormented the inhabitants of Montblanc, a small village in Catalonia. He devoured animals and destroyed everything he found. Inhabitants didn’t know how to calm the beast so they decided to sacrifice a person every day; someone who’d be chosen randomly. No one was exempt from becoming his appetizer, not even the king’s daughter. One day, bad luck fell to her (but not for long).

Suddenly, when the animal was about to eat her, a knight appeared. He was Sant Jordi, who faced and  killed the beast by stabbing him with a spear. Legend states that lots of roses sprouted from the blood. The knight cut the most beautiful flower and gave it to the princess, a gesture that has remained in our days.

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A mural showing Sant Jordi’s legend at Casa de les Punxes, Barcelona.


Sant Jordi’s celebration

Sant Jordi has been the patron saint of Catalonia since the 19th century. In those times there was a movement called Renaixença (Catalan Renaissance) that wanted to revitalize Catalan language and culture. The Castilianization of Spain had relegated  both of them to a marginal use for centuries. Getting back the legend of Sant Jordi and the dragon was very important to achieve this goal, that’s why they became symbols of Catalan society.

The tradition of giving a rose dates back to the fifteenth century, according to the first documents. Theories point the rose fair in Barcelona, which was celebrated around April 23th. The tradition of installing book stands in the streets came with the 1929 Barcelona International Exposition. It was so successful that it was  decided repeat this action every year, until today.

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Sant Jordi in Las Ramblas, Barcelona main street.


The dragon of Sant Jordi

This beast is one of the most exalted symbols of Catalan modernism, the Bruno Cuadros House, the Pedrera or Park Güell are some examples of that. Barcelona is estimated to have around 400 dragons, ​​to the point that some call the city Drakcelona. There’s even an app to track them all. Maybe should be considered adding the Dracarys word to the shield of Barcelona.

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A Dragon in La Rambla.