Sant Jordi, the catalan valentine day
The Sant Jordi day is a special day in Europe but since 1926 in Barcelona, this day is more than the international book day declared by UNESCO in 1996.
Indeed, the april, 23rd is the day of lovers, like the Saint Valentine day in february, with its own rules.
Historically, the San Jorge day is to commemorate the death of Jorge de Capadocia the april, 23rd 303.
He was a roman soldier of Capadocia who won his popularity during the high middle ages (period of crusades and cavalries) until to be considered as a patron saint across the christian, muslim and afro brazilian world.
One of his famous legends is born in the 4th century as a member of the personal guard of the roman emperor Diocletian (284 - 305 AD). In 303, the emperor gave orders to persecute christian people but Jorge refused it because he was himself a christian. Knowing that, the emperor ordered his torture and later his execution in front of the Nicomedia walls.
In spite that this story is a little doubtful, his martyr may not be. Pilgrims, from a church built in Diospolis for his honour during the reign of Constantine I, spread stories about him and quickly the place became the oriental worship center for Jorge. Through the history, the place has been destroyed and rebuilt again and in the 5th century, his popularity reached the occidental part of the empire.
But the most famous legend appeared in the 9th century about him on white horse killing a dragon known as “San Jorge and the dragon”. The story tells about a dragon who decided to live at a fountain near a town. Each time that a citizen needed to take water, they had to sacrifice a person and one day, it was the princess. Just before to be devored by the dragon, Jorge appeared on horse and after a hard fight, he killed it and saved the princess. From this moment, citizens gave up the paganism for the christianity.
The former christian interpretation of the myth described Jorge as the believer, the white horse as the church and the dragon as the paganism and Satan. In the 12th century, Santiago de la Vorágine, archbishop of Genoa, wrote a book about patron saints and legends and of course, Jorge was one of them.
In Catalonia, he won his popularity in 1096 when he helped the king Pedro I of Aragon to win the battle against muslims. To reward him, the king named him not lord of the cavalry but of the nobility. With the time, the celebration day has been converted to a lover day on which men offer a red rose to his beloved and women, a book in exchange.
This nowadays tradition is said to be originated from the past when women received a red rose to assist to the mass celebrated in the San Jorge chapel of the palace of the Catalonia government. The rose came with a “senyera” (the typical flag of Catalonia) and an ear of corn. The red color of the rose symbolizes the passion, the senyera the patron saint of Catalonia and the ear of corn, the fertility.
The month of april in Barcelona is full of book stands in its streets, above all one of its main street “passeig de gracia” and flower shops prepare their roses but also in the streets, you can find rose stands of occasional vendors. Normally there are some activities organized in libraries and concerts in the streets and you can see on buses and on balconies the flag of the autonomous region.
One of the interesting to do, it is to visit the Catalan Government Palace on the sant jaume square. Open to the public for this special day, you will be able to discover different spaces like the gothic gallery, the saint George chapel, the beautiful orange courtyard of Pere Mateu… And of course, without forgetting the national dance called sardana, to spot it and why not to dance with the citizen, go either on the square or near the cathedral of Barcelona.
The cross of San Jorge is the first emblem of the Catalonia government and it appears in the shield of Barcelona and on its flag, there are 2. So if you are here the april, 23rd, don’t forget to offer a rose (if you are a man) to someone you love and if you are a woman, be ready with your book because the rose can come from an unexpected guy !!!