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Barcelona welcomes another year the Fiestas de la Mercè, but what is the origin of this local celebration?

The Virgin of la Mercè is the most popular patroness of Barcelona, because for those of you who didn’t know, yes we have more than one! Together with the Virgin Eulalia, co-patroness of the Condal City who for many centuries was the only one who had this figure, they are the metropolis patronesses.

And you might be wondering, how come Barcelona have two patronesses?

The history that links these two figures goes back to beginnings of the 4th century when the roman emperor Diocleciano ordered to persecute the Christian faith that was threatening the cult to the Roman Empire.

The legend tells that Santa Eulalia revealed against the persecution towards Christians in Barcelona and her punishment was devastating. Emperor Diocleciano’s men captured and tortured her until Santa Eulalia finally died, after resisting being put inside a wineskin filled with shard elements and was thrown down a steep street of the city without compassion or regrets.

Santa Eulalia was finally crucified, however she managed to impress all the spectators with her bravery during the punishment, where something incredible happened… As the legend tells, right at the moment of her death her soul rose flying from her mouth in the shape of a white pigeon.

The history and courage that Santa Eulalia showed shocked the entire city of Barcelona in a way that made her a heroine and the Condal City named her patroness of Barcelona.

Centuries later in 1687, something happened that completely changed the course of the city’s history. A terrible locust infestation arrived in Barcelona and the locals desperately prayed to the Virgin of la Mercè for her to save their streets, promising that if she did they would name her patroness of the city. Santa Mercè saved Barcelona from the locust catastrophe and in 1868 Pope Pio IX named the Virgin of la Mercè patroness of the Condal City, completely eclipsing the existing patroness Santa Eulalia.

However fellow devotees of Santa Eulalia weren’t very happy with this decision, as they weren’t forgetting about the sacrifice that their early patroness had done centuries before. So that is how finally both virgins became patronesses of the city at the same time.

From that moment onwards the celebration of Santa Mercè on the 24th of September gained more and more spotlight. With the arrival of democracy on the 20th century this local celebration was proclaimed as the most popular and renowned in the city, as it united all of Barcelona’s neighbourhoods together that until the moment had been independent from one another.

Nowadays the fiestas de la Mercè are still one of Barcelona’s most popular festivities as they also represent the closing of the summer. However, the day of Santa Eulalia has also got its’ celebration day on the 12th of February, also known as Barcelona’s winter celebrations, in honour of the first patroness who has dethroned from her limelight in Barcelona.

There is an anecdote that legend tells that every 24th of September, the day of Santa Mercè, it rains in the Condal City. The popular culture believes these are Santa Eulalia’s tears, who cries in grief for having been delegated from her role and eclipsed by the Virgin of la Mercè.

No one knows the absolute truth about the drops that fall during these days, but if you are planning on celebrating this festivity in September plan beforehand to bring an umbrella with you before going out to the streets. You will never know if Santa Eulalia will let her tears drop over Barcelona or if it will simply end up raining…

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