Barcelona’s Sweet Tradition: Sant Medir Festival Honors Patron Saint with Sweets and Celebration

March 1, 2024
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The Sant Medir festival stands as a deeply ingrained tradition within the historic confines of Gràcia. Its hallmark spectacle revolves around the shower of sweets and toffees cascading down from horses, floats, and lorries parading through the streets. Morning sees the festival groups, or colles, winding their way through the neighborhood before embarking on a pilgrimage to the Ermita de Sant Medir, nestled in the Collserola mountain range, where devotees converge to pay homage to the saint. Upon their return, the colles lead a vibrant musical procession, known as a cercavila, through the bustling streets, distributing sweets to eager onlookers armed with bags, buckets, and umbrellas, eager to collect their share.

Yet, the tribute to Sant Medir doesn’t conclude there. The Sant Gervasi and La Bordeta neighborhoods also orchestrate their own cercaviles, featuring their respective colles, and undertake pilgrimages to the shrine. At the sanctuary, they unite in reverence, attending mass and adorning each colla’s banner with commemorative bows. La Bordeta observes this celebration on the Sunday following the feast day.

The festival’s origins trace back to Gràcia and a vow made in 1828 by baker Josep Vidal i Granés, whose bakery stood on Carrer Gran. In gratitude for his recovery from illness, Vidal pledged to embark on an annual pilgrimage to the Ermita de Sant Medir. Fulfilling his promise, Vidal was soon joined by kin, acquaintances, and an expanding community, eventually forming into organized groups.

Initially, upon his return from the pilgrimage, the Gràcia baker tossed broad beans to the public in honor of the saint, who, as legend has it, sowed them. Over time, these beans were supplanted by sweets, transforming the celebration into the renowned dolça festa, or sweet festival.

At its core, this festivity venerates Sant Medir, a farmer purported to have resided in the Collserola mountain range, near Sant Cugat. Legend recounts a chance encounter between Medir and the fleeing Bishop of Barcelona, Sever, who, escaping persecution, implored Medir to relay his whereabouts. Medir’s truthfulness led to their eventual capture, imprisonment, and martyrdom at the hands of their pursuers.

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