References to the saint can be seen around the city, especially in the architecture of Antoni Gaudi which several Digital journalists have recently shown through the lenses of their cameras. Perhaps most famously is the Casa Battló
, designed in the shape of a dragon with a sword thrust through it.
However, the people of Barcelona have a special way of celebrating their patron saint's day. Diada de Sant Jordi
, as he is known in the native Catalan language of Barcelona, is celebrated almost as a kind of Valentine's day with the gentlemen giving their lady love a rose and the women giving their knight in shining armour a book.
The rose part may seem obvious as red roses have been associated with chivalrous acts for centuries but why books? It all began in 1923 when the 'Diada de Sant Jordi' merged with International Book Day. April 23 was chosen because so many famous authors such as William Shakespeare or Miguel Cervantes ( who wrote perhaps the most famous Spanish novel of all time 'Don Quixote) had been born or died on that day. Both these famous authors died on 23 April 1616. The tradition had been followed by many writers such as Vladimir Nabokov and Josep Pla
. A good day for authors to stay at home, perhaps.
The streets of Barcelona are covered in florists stalls and book stalls whilst the larger book shops have special offers, book signings, book and poetry readings and author appearances. The main thoroughfare of Barcelona, Las Ramblas
, wafts with the sweet smell of roses and the benches are covered with young men tucking into their new book.
Interestingly, while the rose still continues very much in its original form, more and more men are being given an e-book reader as the Age of Chivalry catches up with the twenty first century. Amazon and other major booksellers have found that e-books are outselling paperbacks by far. Popular choices this year are books by Catalan authors such as Gabriel Castelló
as you would expect but also high on the best sellers list is 'The Hunger Games' recently turned into a film.
The chivalry and romance of the legend of Saint George lives on in Barcelona, even if the format is electronic rather than hand written by quill pen.