Saint Geroge (Sant Jordi in catalan) has been the official patron of Catalunya since 1456. The day of his death, April 23rd, became a traditional celebration between the catalan people, gaining more adepts and different meanings over time.
Historically, George was a Roman soldier born in Cappadocia (nowadays, Turkey) between years 275-280. He was in the service of the Roman emperor Diocletian, but died as a martyr for not wanting to renounce his Christian faith. Years after his death he was canonized and considered as the protector of knights and Templars, also becoming the patron of other countries such as England, Bulgaria, Portugal and Georgia.
After being canonized, many fantastic legends linked to Saint George’s figure started to appear. The most famous one tells the story of a medieval village (considered as Montblanc, in Catalunya) that was being terrorized by a dragon. Everyday a human life was sacrificed to feed the dragon, until the day the Princess was the one to be offered. Saint George was the one who saved her, slaying the dragon with his sword. When the blood of the dragon fell on the ground, red roses started to bloom, and Saint George offered the most beautiful rose to the princess.
International Book Day
Coinciding with Saint George’s day, in 1988 Unesco declared the 23rd of April as the International Day of the Book, the same day of the deaths of William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes. Saint George’s celebration in Catalunya was already a very popular and romantic festivity where red roses were given as a gift for the person you love, and after Unesco’s declaration, gifting books also took an important role in this tradition.
Barcelona celebrates Sant Jordi
If you’re ever visiting Barcelona on the 23rd of April, you’ll see the city all “dressed” in roses. Important buildings such as Casa Batlló (which architecture was inspired entirely by the legend of Saint George) covers its facade with red roses. Many points of the city have book stands, and the book authors come for autograph sessions. Monuments, museums and buildings open their doors to visitors for free. “Diada de Sant Jordi” is a joyful day and a remarkable experience of the catalan culture!