Barcelona is a city and metropolis located on the Mediterranean coast of the Iberian Peninsula. It is the capital of Catalonia par excellence, being capital of the Autonomous Community, the province of Barcelona and the region of Barcelonès and the second city in population and economic weight of Spain. The city grows on an embedded plain between the coastal mountain range, the Mediterranean Sea, the Besòs River and the mountain of Montjuïc. The city hosts the headquarters of the most important institutions of self-government of Catalonia: the Government of Catalonia and the Catalan Parliament. Having been the capital of the County of Barcelona, it is often nicknamed “Ciudad Condal”.

The local festival

The origins

After Pope Pius IX declared the Virgin of Mercy patron of the city, Barcelona began to celebrate its local festivities in September. The festivity of the Mercy – La Mercè -took off in 1902 when, under the impulse of Francesc Cambó, a festival that is still the current model for others in Catalonia took place. Anyway, the story of the festivity of the Mercy suffered many ups and downs, even after the civil war and the Franco years.

Our Lady of Mercy, patron saint of Barcelona

Legend has it that one night, in August 1218, the Virgin appeared simultaneously to King James I, San Pedro Nolasco and San Ramón de Penyafort. She asked them to create a religious order dedicated to saving Christians imprisoned by the Saracens. Those were times of religious wars. Centuries later, in 1687,

Barcelona suffered a plague of locusts, putting itself in the hands of the Virgin of Mercy. After the plague, the City Council soon named her patron of Barcelona. The Pope, however, did not ratify this decision until two centuries later, in 1868. With the arrival of democracy, the festivity of La Mercè became a genuinely popular celebration, mainly thanks to the collaboration of organizations across the city.


La Mercè is a festival that playfully occupies a large number of public places with a programme focused on the Mediterranean culture. In less than one week, Barcelona hosts a huge large number of activities such as street arts, parades, concerts, traditional dances and others.

Barcelona’s specialty

The most traditional activities held during La Mercè are actually a compendium of Catalonia’s popular culture. We can enjoy “sardanas” from Girona, human towers, the Devils from Camp de Tarragona and traditional dances that are still kept alive throughout the Catalan geography. One of the greatest Barcelona specialities are parades, which are related to processions celebrated centuries ago on the occasion of Corpus. It is the most ancient street performance remaining today. Today, as yesterday, the organization of the parade features popular culture groups that work closely with street art performers. Their joint work serves to keep alive the festive and theatrical vocation born with these shows centuries ago.