Sunday, May 5, is a good day to discover the small town of Sant Martí Sarroca (Alt Penedès) because then its inhabitants will celebrate la Festa de la Santa Creu. The main point of the program is a sung High Mass (missa cantata in Latin, missa cantada in Catalan) which emphasizes that this is a festival with Christian roots, but there are also less serious elements like dancing Catalan giants and a parade with vintage motorcycles.
Why visit Sant Martí Sarroca?
The origin of the present town of Sant Marti Sarroca was a fortification from the 10th century, situated on a rock which provided a natural protection in three directions and from which you still today have a good view over a big part of Alt Penedès. The fort was rebuilt several times through the centuries and in the early Middle Ages, this castle, Castell de Sant Martí Sarroca, belonged to the most important ones in Penedes. Nowadays it has been tastefully renovated and serves as a museum. Rigth next to it we find the church església de Santa Maria which is the most important example of Romanesque architecture in Penedès and whose apse is considered among the most interesting of this style in the whole of Catalonia.
What is the True Cross (la Santa Creu) and why it is celebrated now?
The most famous relic of the True Cross (la Vera Creu or la Santa Creu in Catalan) – i.e. the cross on which Jesus is said to have been crucified - was historically stored in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. In 614, its was taken as booty by the Persians, but 628 it was successfully recaptured and that is the background to the celebrations of the True Cross (Festes de la Santa Creu) which we see around on May 3 in different parts of Catalonia. It may be added that the same relic of the True Cross has been missing since the year 1187, when Saladin of Egypt and Syria seized it and refused to let the Christians, among them Richard the Lionheart, buy it back.
And what happens in the rest of the Penedès, Friday-Sunday, May 3 to 5?
If you are not interested in more or less true crosses Penedès has several other events to offer, among them sardana dance in Cubelles (Garraf), a guided tour out among spring green vineyards in Vilafranca del Penedès (Alt Penedès), a swimming competition in open water in Vilanova i la Geltrú (Garraf), a classical concert by Kölner Kammerorchester in Sitges (Garraf) or, also in Sitges (where else?), the International Bears Meeting (gay men with beards, hair on their chests and masculine manners). Here you can find an extensive agenda in English.
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Mona and Göran: This week, Swedish Göran (living in Garraf, Barcelona) wants to talk about Catalan dancing giants and other traditional cultural elements, but his equally Swedish wife Mona reminds him that Sitges happens to host the International Bears Meeting. After that Mona calls on all Spaniards to show their confidence in Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy's economic policies.
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Wikipedia ENG: True Cross
Wikipedia CAT: Sant Martí Sarroca