This Saturday, in the barrio Gracia of Barcelona, is the festival of St Medir. Groups of locals ride around on horses and lorries, accompanied bands of wondering minstrels, throwing literally tonnes of sweets to people in the streets. All jolly good fun, especially if you are a five year old or have a toffee fetish, but it does beg the question, why?
Well the story comes in two parts, the first definitely falls firmly in the legend category, whilst the second is recorded as fact.
Jump back to about 303A.D. and we find the then Bishop of Barcelona, Severus being chased out of the city by a bunch of Roman soldiers. It was the start of the Diocletian Persecution, a rather dangerous 10 year period in Roman history that involved the capturing of Christians and either murdering them on the spot or if you had a coliseum nearby, feeding them to the lions and making a few quid on ticket sales.
Escaping towards Sant Cugat up in the Collserola Hills north of Barcelona, Severus came upon a farmer called Emeterius (Medi in Catalan) planting fava beans in his field. Presumably surprised to see a bishop running past in the middle of the day, Emeterius stopped working to watch. A panting Severus explained his situation and surprisingly requested that if the Romans came by Emeterius should tell the truth and point them in the right direction. As the Bishop dashed off miraculously all the beans Emeterius had just been planting suddenly began to grow.
Sure enough the soldiers arrived and Emeterius did as he was told and explained that he had been planting his beans when the Bishop had run past and helpfully pointed out where he had gone. The soldiers seeing all the green shoots in the field thought that the farmer was taking the micky out of them and promptly arrested the poor fellow and carried on with their chase. In true Roman efficiency both Severus and Emeterius were later killed in Sant Cugat, the bishop firstly being flogged and then having nails hit into his head.
Fast forward a few centuries and the story had passed into legend and both Severus and Emeterius had become saints.
In 1828, a Baker from Gracia, who was gravely ill and coincidently a devotee to Saint Medir, (yes him of the fava beans) made a last ditch pact with his saint. If he was cured he would make a pilgrimage to the hermitage dedicated to the saint in the hills behind the city every 3rd of March, the saint’s official day.
Well two years later and the baker was totally cured. And so on March 3rd 1830 he mounted his horse and rode around Gracia handing out sweets telling everyone he was going to keep his promise. At one o’clock he set off into the hills.
Now the baker has long since departed this earth but his yearly ritual struck a chord with the locals and that is why this Saturday the streets of Gracia will be awash with children, sweets and horse poo!
So if you happen to be in the neighbourhood this weekend, trust me when I say, you will never get a better chance to wear wellies in public, trample over small children and scramble for Chupa Chups, without the remotest chance of getting arrested.