So to the streets of Barcelona for the annual parade of giants, just one small (well small may not be the right word) element of Le Merce an annual festival in honour of Our Lady of Mercy.
Apparently Our Lady saved the city from a plague of locusts in 1687 and in celebration of this feat she was named patroness of the city. Not known for its speed at responding, the Pope took nearly 200 years to ratify that decision (an awful lot of forms can be filled in and shuffled around in 181 years).
Since that time, an annual festival has been celebrated in the city in honor of the Virgin, starting on the 21st of September and finishing on the 25th. The current festival (which quite literally takes over the streets) owes its origins to the festivities of 1902 when paper mache giants were first introduced.
The giants sleep for several weeks before Mercè Festival in the Palau de la Virreina before emerging onto Marques de l`Argentera in order to process (a combination of walking, dancing and swirling) through the crowd. As they gather with their variously dressed entourages you can sense the excitement.
The giants themselves are representations of kings, queens, nobles, biblical characters, fisherman, cooks, thieves and butchers all representing their local neighbourhoods.
They can measure up to 4 metres high, which looks particularly impressive as they make their way down the narrower streets. This fine fellow, for example, had no problem peering into second floor windows! At around 63 kilos it must be hot work under there….I’m not sure even Barcelona’s ever helpful hawkers with their one euro beers and waters could come to his rescue!
Not all are quite so tall… with some of the effigies replacing statelyness with humour
At one point it seems as if there are giants everywhere… with new additions to the parade emerging from the side streets. Or maybe they`d just stopped off for a refreshment break.
They are accompanied on their journey by bands of musicians playing mediaeval sounding flutes and drums, various helpers and processing children who shower the giants and crowds in confetti.
The parade ends up in Pl. Sant Jaume where the giants are welcomed by huge crowds and a mediaeval band playing (amongst other things) covers of Aqua’s Barbie Girl and Gangnam Style by PSY. Having processed around the crowded square the giants bid farewell and disappear into the Town Hall. Once inside whether they return to sleep or indulge in a night of giant revelry is a matter of conjecture!
But for the gathered crowds the night does not end there. The stage falls dark and all eyes turn to the town hall. With a whoosh the austere building becomes a giant projection screen.
And after that the music continues long into the night…..