Sant Jordi (St George) on the 23rd of April is the most romantic day of the Catalan calendar. In Barcelona, the main streets and squares are full of rose sellers and bookstalls, and traditionally the men give the women a rose and the women present the men with a book.
As legend goes, the patron saint of Catalonia killed a dragon to save a princess. He presented her with the red roses that grew from its blood. The day is also dedicated to books in honour of William Shakespeare and Miguel Cervantes who died on April 23rd 1616.
It is a day of Catalan pride. Sant Jordi cakes are iced in the colours of the Catalan flag and roses are bound with yellow and red striped ribbon.
Discover the Legend of Sant Jordi
The legend of Saint George was written in the 18th century by Jacopo della Voragine in his celebrated work, “The Golden Legend“. Centuries ago, in the medieval period, the catalan nobility organized jousting tournaments in the Born neighbourhood, in the centre of the Catalan capital. During these contests, young ladies were presented wit gifts of roses and other flowers. This year six million roses are expected to be sold throughout Catalonia on St George’s Day, which would mean a 10% increase compared to last year.
The sales forecast, despite the current economic crisis, is based on the fact that the big day will be on Friday and that a bigger demand has come from businesses in several sectors, such as restaurants, old people’s homes and airlines.
At present, 83% of the roses marketed in Mercabarna-flor come from other countries, chiefly from Holland, Colombia and Ecuador, while 10% are from Maresme and the rest from Alicante and the Canary Isles.
This year, the city’s wholesale market is offering personalised roses for each month of the year. That means roses and cereal ears will be arranged with materials, colours and textures specific to each month.
Every April, 23rd Barcelona is decked out with rose and book stalls for St George’s Day. According to tradition, a rose should be given to one’s beloved as a sign of love, although book giving has also become popular.
The Rambla is the main artery of this festival, with its numerous stalls, the scent of roses and crowds of people in search of a book. Hotel 1898 offers you the best view of Sant Jordi in Barcelona, from its Restaurant H1898 located on the first floor and overlooking La Rambla. Come today and enjoy the Special Tapas Menu to commemorate Saint George’s and the World Book Day.
The Legend: the dragon and the rose.
Once upon a time, a terrible dragon was terrifying the locals in a village in Catalonia called Montblanc. The dragon caused havoc among the population and ate up the village’s pasture animals. To assuage the dragon’s anger, the villagers decided they would sacrifice someone every day, chosen by lot and offered to the dragon as a gesture of good will.
But one dark day, the person who was going to be sacrificed was the king’s daughter. Before the dragon could swallow her, a splendid knight appeared and attacked the cursed beast. This was Sant Jordi (St George). He thrust his lance into the dragon and from the beast’s blood a rose bush with bright red roses arose. Ever since then, it has been a custom in Catalonia to present one’s beloved with a rose.
Sant Jordi, Patron Saint of Catalunya.
Sant Jordi (St George), the patron saint of Catalonia since the 19th century, became a symbol for Catalan territory with the Catalan Renaissance, a political and cultural movement that recovered Catalan symbols of identity. He also is the Patron Saint of Aragon, Georgia, Greece, England, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Russia and Serbia.
World Book Day.
This Catalan tradition came about at the start of the 20th century, when the Gremi de Llibreters (Guild of Bookshop Owners) and the Cambra Oficial del Llibre (Catalan Official Chamber of Books) established this date to commemorate the fact that it was on April, 23rd when the writers William Shakespeare, Miguel de Cervantes and Garcilaso de la Vega died. Other great writers such as Josep Pla or Vladimir Nabokov also died or were born on April, 23rd. It has also been World Book and Copyright Day since 1996, when UNESCO declared the tradition a world event.