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La Mercè, festival of festivals

La Mercè, festival of festivals

Piromusical La Mercè Photo: Ajuntament de Barcelona

It is time once again for the “Mercè,” the annual festival that is eagerly awaited both by locals and “Barcelonians by choice.”

September 24 is one of the most important dates of the year both for those who live here and for people from all around Catalonia who come into Barcelona to enjoy the “Festa Major.”

If you have no plans for September 23rd to 25th yet, there are several good reasons for spending a brilliant weekend in Barcelona.

Mercè, patron saint and defender of Barcelona

The Mercè festival is held in honor of the Virgin de la Mercè (or Mercy, in English), to whom several miracles related to the city are attributed. On the night of September 24, 1218, the Virgin appeared simultaneously to King James I, Saint Peter Nolasco and Saint Ramon of Penyafort and asked them to create an order of monks dedicated to delivering Christians from the Saracens.

Many centuries later, in 1687, Barcelona suffered a plague of locusts and the Virgen de la Mercè was asked for help. When the plague had abated, the City Council named the Virgin Patron saint of the capital. Finally, Pope Pius IX ratified the decision in 1868, and the event is still celebrated today. However, it was not until after the Spanish civil war and the Franco dictatorship that the festival became really popular due to the participation of numerous city bodies.

This year, there are many reasons why the Barcelona festa major is being celebrated with special enthusiasm: La Mercè will be resuming its original format after two years’ break due to the pandemic. And furthermore, this year will be the 150th anniversary of the 1871 decision to make the Mercè a popular festival for the whole city.

La Mercè and music

Between September 23 and 26, the city will be packed with activities for every age and taste. As every year, the fiesta will get underway with the official opening speeches. This year, the festival will be declared open by Carla Simón, a Barcelona filmmaker who has revolutionized Catalan cinema with two films that have been seen at the most important film festivals in the world.

La Mercè concert 2016. Foto:

Music has been an essential component of the Mercè ever since it began. This year, the Mercè will feature numerous different styles of music: Music from Italy, as Rome is this year’s guest city at La Mercè, Latin American sounds, urban styles, and new rhythms from both veteran and emerging artists.

Countless artists will be responsible for bringing life and rhythm to the city. With more than 100 guest artists on 12 stages, the city will pulsate to the sound of top bands and artists, including La Oreja de Van Gogh, Rita Payés, Alizzz, La Pegatina, and Lola Índigo.

Concert at Av. Maria Cristina. Foto: Ajuntament de Barcelona

During the 5 days of festivities, there will be concerts throughout the city, in iconic places such as the Teatre Grec, Fabra i Coats, Carrer Martí Franqués (metro Zona Universitaria), and the traditional main stage in Avinguda Maria Cristina, all orchestrated by Barcelona Acción Musical (BAM). The Acción Cultura Viva (ACV)featuring some feminist icons from the world of music is also due to be held for the 6th time.

The festival will conclude on Sunday 25 with musical firework displays (known as Piromusicals) in 4 different locations.

 Mercè Poster 2022

The poster advertising the festival is almost as eagerly awaited as the program itself. Loved or hated, La Mercè posters are always prompt debate.

The bar is set very high this year following the success of last year’s poster. The artist chosen to illustrate the festivities and exceed the success of last year is the Basque David de las Heras, who has chosen to feature the unity of the generations.

The poster displays three women of different ages, but there are two possible ways of interpreting the image. The first and most obvious, is that it shows portrays three generations of women from the same family. But the second way of seeing the image is that it shows three different stages in one person’s life. There are also images of the sea, the Sagrada Familia and “Castellers”–the human towers that are traditional in Catalonia.

Mercè poster 2022. Foto: Ajuntament de Barcelona

This year, the artist has created 5 posters: one for the exciting musical program of the BAM; another for the guest city, which this year is Rome; a third for the Cursa de la Mercè, a 10 km race around the city; one for the cultural events, and the last for the Mercè Arts de Carrer (MAC) street art festival.

Year after year, from Montjuïc to the Ciutadella Park, and from the Gothic Quarter to Forum, there is a very special mood in the city. There are events, meetings, talks, and concerts in every neighborhood: It’s a truly unmissable event!

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