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History and legends of Saint Eulalia, patroness of Barcelona

Eulalia was a young girl living at Sarrià during the 4th century, a town located in the outskirts of Barcino (name of Barcelona during the roman period). As christian, she believed in Jesus but during this period, the roman emperor Diocletianus ordered to destroy churches, to chase and to execute christians in order to restore the roman traditions and religion and it was what Dacian, the roman governor of Barcino, did.

Many Christians either fled or hid in/out of the city from the roman army but Eulalia did the contrary. She walked down to the city to meet Dacian and to tell him who she was and how unfair was the law. Surprised by her courage and her young age because she had only 13

years old, the governor told her that he would forget the matter if she reconverted her religion. Strong to her belief, she said no and instead to execute her immediately, she was imprisoned for pity inside a tower. According to historians, it can be either at:

  • the arc de santa eulàlia street
  • the volta del remei street
  • or the arc de sant ramon del call street

According to legends, it was situated at the arc de santa eulàlia street and if you walk on it, just spot an arch connected to the old wall. It was said that the sun was so upset about her imprisonment that it never shone again here from this moment until now.

Dacian decided to give Eulalia 13 chances, in fact 13 martyrs, corresponding one for each of her age before an inevitable death. At the end of each martyr, if she still refused to abandon her religion and to embrace the roman one, the next one would be executed. By chronological order, the final martyrs were executed on february 12th:

  • she was flogged
  • her flesh was torn with hooks
  • her feet were put on a brazier of burning coals
  • Her breasts were burnt
  • tuff were used to scratch her wounds
  • hot oil and melting lead were poured on her
  • she was thrown inside a quicklime pit
  • she was put naked into a barrel full of crystals and nails which was rolled 13 times down the sant sever and baixada de santa eulàlia streets. At the sant sever street, you will spot a shrine paying her a tribute
  • she was locked inside a yard full of fleas. According to legends, insect died after biting her from which a popular expression says biting by them on february 12th it is more painful than the other day of the year
  • she was put inside a prison where she found a way to escape but captured again. According to legends, an angel helped her
  • she paraded naked around the city.
  • she was crucified naked on a X shaped cross on the pedro square. According to legends, the sky covered her with a mantle of snow and on the square, you will see a statue of her
  • she was beheaded. According to legends, a white dove came out from her mouth when she gave her last sigh flying towards the sky.

After her death, the governor ordered that her body would stay here until that the crows would eat the very bones but people removed it and buried it secretly in the saint mary of the sands church (nowadays the saint mary of the sea church).

In 878, her remains were discovered and it was decided to move her to the Cathedral of Barcelona. According to legends, on the blat square, the chest became so heavy that the procession stopped and no one, no matter how much people tried it, couldn’t move it so the bishop asked to everyone to pray for help. Few seconds later, an angel went down from the sky pointing his finger to a priest.

Ashamed, he confessed that he stole one of her foot finger as a personal relic. Once the missing foot finger was replaced, the chest became light again and the square was renamed from blat to angel. Since her death, for Barcelona, she represents the symbol of solidarity, defense of the justice and commitment of the youth and as the Virgin, she is the patron saint of Barcelona. Each year, on february, there is a festival dedicated to her, to know more, read my topic La laia, the saint eulalia festival for children.

Actually, her corpse rests in the crypt of the cathedral of Barcelona. In 1456, a statue of her could be found on the square but because of the renovation of the area in 1865, it has been destroyed.

One of the curious stories that we can find in the cathedral is about the 13 geese in the cloister area. Eulalia is also the patroness of birds because when she was alive, she kept geese and also because of the white dove legend. On the other hand, the geese are because of the roman cult of cibeles using their voices to predict the future.

In the past, even now, when something bad happens to the city, people get used to pray to Saint Eulalia. For example, during drought period because according to a legend, one day she went to a local well for water but this one was totally dried so she put her shawl over the well and the water began to flow until to change into a river.

But in 1867, when there was a locust plague, people prayed to Our Lady of Mercy instead to Saint Eulalia. After saving the city, she was named also as patroness of Barcelona and each year, in september, a traditional festival is celebrated on her name. According to legends, during this month, if it rains, it is because Eulalia is crying for not been able to help. If you want to know more, read about my topic Mercè, Patroness of Barcelona.

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