If Barcelona has a good number of festivals, some are much more original than others… Like the Dog Festival, celebrated every year in August and very important for the inhabitants of the historic centre.
Photo: The Express of Sant Andreu
The Festes de Sant Roc are literally the oldest festivals in Barcelona. Since 1589, the historic Gòtic district has been celebrating in mid-August to celebrate Saint Roch, and in particular following the tradition of the Festa del Gos, or the Festival of the Dog.
But why do we celebrate dogs, on the occasion of a neighborhood party of Catholic origin? The answer comes from the legend that surrounds Sant Roc, or Saint Roch in French. It is said that when the saint arrived in Barcelona and fell ill with the plague, no one helped him and he was confined under the city walls. Nobody, except… the baker’s dog, who brought him bread every day, allowing Saint Roch to survive and then becoming his faithful companion. Thus, the dog entered the legend and it is always represented alongside the saint.
During the Festivities of Sant Roc, the dogs of the Gòtic district therefore play a major role. A canine exhibition is held every year, followed by the traditional greeting of the dog, during which the dogs of the district pass in front of the statue of Sant Roc to ask him for protection.
This Party so original does not date from 1589, like the celebration of Sant Roc itself, but from the 20th century. It was held for the first time in 1973, organized by the Royal Canine Society of Catalonia. This is when the greeting of the dog in Sant Roc is born, but also the demonstration of dog training. Since then, it takes place every year and has become a real tradition.
This event will be held this Sunday, August 14 at 7:30 p.m., with the traditional 49th greeting of the dog in front of the small niche where the statue of Sant Roc is located, in Plaça Nova de Barcelona, followed by the dog show.
The blue dog of Barcelona, an icon
In addition, the statue of Sant Roc is often attributed a blue dog, because the dog figurine that accompanied it was painted in sky blue during the 19th century. Indeed, at the time, the inhabitants of the district took turns every year to clean and restore the niche where the statue of Sant Roc is located. But one of the inhabitants dropped the dog figurine, which broke. As he replaced the broken figurine with a new one, he asked the organizers of the Feast of Sant Roc what color it should be, and was reportedly told: ” Paint it blue, if you want!“.
Photo: Vicente Zambrano González/Ajuntament
Taking this sarcastic response literally, the inhabitant painted the new statue blue, and it remained so until the beginning of the 20th century. And even if this figurine was lost in 1936, the Sant Roc dog has become for the inhabitants of the district a “celestial blue dog”, a true local legend.
This year, the Festes de Sant Roc will be held from Saturday August 13 to Tuesday August 16, around Plaça Nova, right next to the cathedral. All the details and the program of the festivities here.