Barcelona and la Merced

Barcelona is a city and metropolis on the Mediterranean coast of the Iberian Peninsula. It is the capital par excellence of Catalonia, being the capital of both the autonomous community and the province of Barcelona and the region of Barcelonés and the second city in population and economic weight in Spain. The municipality grows on a plain embedded between the coastal mountain range, the Mediterranean sea, the river Besós and the mountain of Montjuïc. The city is home to the headquarters of the most important self-government institutions in Catalonia: the Generalitat of Catalonia and the Parliament of Catalonia. For having been the capital of the county of Barcelona, it often receives the nickname of “Ciudad Condal” (the city of the county).


After Pope Pius IX had declared the Virgin of la Merced the patron saint of the city, Barcelona started celebrating its patronal festivities in September; a suitable month as the main agricultural activities had finished by then and it was the moment to give thanks for the harvests and celebrate it.

La Merced as a festivity began in 1902, when led by Francesc Cambó, a Major Festivity was celebrated which became a model of those that still take place today in the whole of Catalonia. In any case, the festivity of la Merced suffered many ups and downs due to the civil war, the post-war shortcomings and the years of Franco.

With the arrival of democracy, la Merced achieved the character of an authentically popular festival, thanks to the collaboration of the entities throughout the city. Today, la Mercè is a festivity that festively occupies a large number of public spaces with a programme centred on Mediterranean culture. In less than a week, Barcelona brings together a huge programme of street art, parades, concerts, traditional dances and other many activities that give the city a very happy and jovial air. All these entertaining activities are, in reality, a compendium of popular culture all over Catalonia. The Girona Sardana, the Castles and Devils of the field of Tarragona appear, the dances that even today are still kept alive throughout the Catalan geography, as well as the excitement caused by the “gigantes y cabezudos” (giants and big-heads).

The great speciality of Barcelona is the “pasacalles” (parades), related to the processions that were celebrated centuries ago on Corpus Cristi. Today, as yesterday, the organization of the parades has popular cultural groups that work side by side with street artists. Their joint work serves to maintain the festive and theatrical vocation with which these shows were born.

In the religious sphere, it was only a few years ago that the traditional procession of la Mare de Déu de la Mercè was recovered. It goes from the Basilica to the Cathedral, where it ends with the celebration of the Holy Mass. The Novena of la Merced also takes place, with the praying of the holy rosary and the mass is preached by a different priest every day. On the day of la Merced lots of devotees of the Patron saint go to the Basilica to visit her, submit their requests and give thanks. During the day several masses are held, all overflowing with parishioners, the most representative being the Mass of the authorities at 10 am, which is usually presided over by the archbishop of the city and is usually attended by a representation of civil and military authorities of the city.