The Horrible History Of Barcelona’s Saint Eulalia

patron saint of barcelona st eulalia 13 tortures

Her of the cathedral, and the streets, and this weekend’s PARTY!


If you’ve paid any attention to the signs around Barcelona this week, you’ll know that this weekend if the
festival of Saint Eulalia, one of the two patron saints of the city, along with Merce. Eulalia is the saint who acts as the cathedral’s namesake, and while the OG patron saint of Barcelona, gets a pretty lacklustre fiesta compared to Saint Merce’s in September, which is resplendent with devils and fire runs and giants and human tours and concerts everywhere; the highlights of Merce’s festival are the light installations littered around the city, and I walked past some this morning and they looked pretty… alright, I guess.

This isn’t fair. See, the Catalans asked Eulalia for help during a locust plague and she didn’t lend a holy hand, so they turned to Merce and she did. Not only was this the moment that Merce replaced Eulalia in popularity among Barcelonians, but also the sole act that justified her canonising — when you read about Eulalia’s martyrdom (coming up!) you’ll see why this is patently unfair. We’d say that there’s a good chance Eulalia laid down the foundations for Merce’s miracle, or that Merce just came in at the right time and claimed the healing for herself, but in any case she’s a saint and she gets the biggest party, and given Eulalia’s history that’s pretty unfair.

Eulalia was a Christian girl who had the cosmic misfortune of being born in Barcelona in the third century after Jesus, during the reign of Roman emperor Diocleciano. Diocleciano was the kind of emperor who didn’t like Christians and wanted them all to recant their faith, and Eulalia was of the mindset that she’s an independent girl who don’t need no emperor telling her who to worship. Diocleciano didn’t like that and ordered that Eulalia suffer 13 tortures, one for each of her years on earth. Yep, she was 13 when she was tortured to death and subsequently martyred. 

St Eulalia 13 tortures

Her tortures were (because we’re a morbid bunch when fucked-up shit happened to ancient people):

  1. Imprisonment in a tiny prison,
  2. Being whipped,
  3. Tearing her skin in strips,
  4. Making her walk barefoot on burning embers,
  5. The cutting off of her breasts,
  6. Rubbing her wounds with rough stones,
  7. Branding her with cast iron,
  8. Throwing boiling oil and,
  9. Molten lead over her,
  10. Submerged in burning lime,
  11. Locked in a flea box,
  12. Rolled down a hill, naked, in a barrel full of knives, swords and glass, and finally,
  13. Crucified in the form of a cross.

After all that she was decapitated and apparently a white dove flew from her neck. This is why there are 13 geese in the cathedral (doves, geese, whatevs).

Holy smokes! And now, after all of that, she gets a relatively crappy festival compared to Merce’s amazing one? How flaky are the Catalans? Poor Eulalia goes through all that and then they try and replace her because she maybe didn’t chase off some insects? Give us a break!

Here’s what we think. Let’s make Eulalia great again and celebrate this weekend in a manner befitting her memory. Let’s lose all of our memories and roll down hills, outside of barrels, but maybe naked. Let’s check out the Arc of Saint Eulalia, which is where her prison was, a spot that reportedly only gets sun one day of the year — the 12th of February, as it were, and have a look at the festival’s program, here, and do some cultural things as well. Have a nice weekend! Hopefully your hangovers aren’t too torturous!

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