Menorca is famous for its beaches and the warm, turquoise waters of the Mediterranean. It’s also the perfect place to experience that Andalusian tradition of solemn, yet vibrant, colourful and exciting religious festivals – the fiestas! |
The island, and all of its towns and villages, has a rich tradition of fiestas. Throughout the year, each town has one special festival in which it celebrates its own patron saint.
On the last weekend of August, it’s the turn of the beautiful village of Sant Lluis in south-east Menorca. This picturesque village, with it whitewashed houses and spectacular beaches and cliffs, is the site for this traditional Menorcan festival held in honour of the village’s patron saint, Saint Lluis.
Who Was St. Lluis?
Saint Lluis (or Louis) was King of France from 1226 – 1270 and the only French king to have been canonised. He is considered to have embodied the principals of Christianity at the time and took part in the 7th and 8th Crusades in the Holy Land. His name can be found immortalised in many towns and cities around the globe including St. Louis in the State of Missouri in the US.
It is thought that the fiesta is celebrated in honour of St Lluis as the village was founded by the French in 1761, who erected the large neoclassical church bearing his name –one that still stands in the centre of the village.
As befitting any religious occasion, the church and religious ceremonies are central to this Menorcan festival. But there are plenty of other celebrations going on that will keep your attention glued to the streets throughout the weekend.
At 21:30 on the Friday evening, drums and pipes are played outside of the church and St. Lluis’s flag is raised over the town hall. The following day, a service is held in the church, beginning at 12 noon, to honor the patron saint.
The fun begins at around 16:30 when the church bells are rung and the village brass band parades through the streets, leading a procession of huge paper mashie figures known in Menorquí as els gegants i capgrossos (the giants & the big heads). Usually depicting traditional Spanish characters or historical figures, they are a common sight at Menorcan festivals.
Spain and horses go together, and Menorca is no different. At 17:00, the village’s Fabioler (Head Horseman) collects the Parade Master and begins to round up horses and riders from around the town. Once assembled, you’ll see a magnificent collection of statuesque black horses ridden by riders wearing traditional clothing that parade through the town to the tune of a drum and pipe band.
Throughout Saturday and Sunday, horse parades are held across the village with horses and riders performing the traditional Jaleo. This is a “dance” in which the skilled rider causes the horse to walk forward on its hind legs to the cheers of the crowd. Amongst the locals it is considered a sign of good luck to try and touch the horse’s heart as it’s walking forward. But this can be risky so we don’t recommend it!
This colorful Menorcan festival draws to a close at around 12 noon on Sunday. Horses and riders gather in front of the church for a final prayer and blessing. This is followed by one last Jaleo in which every rider tries to outdo the others. Then a gala reception is held in the town hall and St. Lluis’s flag is lowered and stored away until next August.
Enjoy the Festival to the Full
The area around St Lluis has some of the best beaches in Menorca and some stunning cliffs with unbelievable views over the Mediterranean. The area is a great place to stay when you’re on holiday and offers a wide variety of apartments for families and groups, giving you the freedom to enjoy not only the fiesta, but everything else as well.
Brenda Jaaback, Managing Director of Bartle Holidays, is a renowned Menorca expert. From its history to its people and from its wildlife to its cuisine - no secret of the island remains hidden to her. If you're coming to experience a Menorcan festival or simply to enjoy the island's stunning natural surrounds, Brenda personally selects the finest properties for her clients and is the go-to person for anyone planning a relaxing holiday in Menorca. Bartle Holidays makes no warranty as to the accuracy of information contained in this article and excludes any liability of any kind for the information.
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