Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Santa Eulalia - the Forgotten Saint of Barcelona

Most people know that Our Lady of Mercy is the parton Saint of Barcelona - celebrated in the week long festival of "La Merce" in and around the 24th September. However, Barcelona has a second Saint, often referred to as the Children's saint - Santa Eulalia.

Eulalia is buried in the crypt of the Barcelona Cathedral, and if anyone deserves to be a saint, then poor "Laia" as she's affectionately known, ticks all the boxes!
From a well-to-do family from Pedralbes, 13 year old Eulalia was an early crusader.
The story goes as far back as the year 303AD, so no-one really knows the full story, and everyone who tells you the story will add on their own details.
Barcelona Sights - Santa Eulalia
The govenor of Barcelona, Dacian, was enraged by the girl’s outspoken views on his treatment of the Christians, that he ordered a punishment for each of her years, which were all extremely barbaric. The 13 punishments are not all clear, but what is clear from all accounts is that she never spoke a word during each torture. The poor girl was maimed with hooks, put in a barrel with broken glass and nails and thrown down a hill, hot oil was put on her wounds, she was whipped, placed in a box with fleas, and finally nailed to a cross in the place that is now Plaça Padró in the Raval.
Barcelona Sights - Placa Padro
You would think that would be enough for the title of saint to be bestowed on the little girl, but the story doesn’t stop there.

Until the 9th century, her body lay in the basilica of Santa Maria del Mar, when it was decided that her body be moved to the cathedral. A great procession of the city’s wealthy population followed the pall bearers until the gates of the city. Legend has it that the whole procession stopped, that the coffin had become too heavy to carry through the gates. Prayer ensued, and an angel descended and pointed a finger at one of the Canons, who admitted to having taken a finger from Eulalia’s body, as a keepsake. Once the finger was returned, the procession continued and to this day Santa Eulalia’s body rests – intact – in the cathedral’s crypt. The city’s gates were re-named “Puerta de Santa Eulalia” (gate of Santa Eulalia) until the city walls were torn down, and the spot is still called “Plaça de l’Àngel” or Angel Square.

The church at Plaça Padró (which used to house local radio station) has been undergoing extensive renovation work – I think part of it is to become a nursery – and locals have petitioned for the body to be moved again, to what they say would be her rightful burial place, and for the Plaça to be re-named. However, in this case and considering the history, I think it’s perhaps better to leave Poor Eulalia where she is!

For more information on Barcelona, see this Barcelona Eixample Guide. And for your next trip to Barcelona, consider these Barcelona apartments for groups as a great alternative to your normal hotel booking.


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