As you probably know already, Riudavets is from Menorca. A little island in the western end of the Mediterranean. And every year, Menorcans remember their patron saints in a series of ‘fiestas’ or celebrations; they have done for centuries.
One of the most famous fiestas on Menorca is in Ciutadella, in the name of St John. The celebrations last several days, from the Sunday before the saint’s day (which was June 19th this year) until June 25th. We don’t think we’re the only ones to say that no-one shows much more devotion to their patron saint than the people of Ciutadella. Every year, the celebrations are filled with energy and passion.
It’s the horse riders that are the real stars of the fiesta. The riders represent all aspects of society: the noble classes, the church, the arts and agriculture. Many of the riders live and work in the countryside, in farms on the outskirts of the city. And many of their horses are Menorcan ones: a pure breed of dark, elegant creatures. (Menorca’s horses were never bred to work.) Decorated with sashes, ribbons and embroidered velvet, the colours tell passers by which estate they come from.
While the celebrations last for many days, there are three highlights in the fiestas: the day of the lamb; the eve of St John and St John’s day.
The day of the lamb is the Sunday before June 23rd. It’s when a group of people visit Ciutadella’s nobility. One man, the lamb’s man, carries a pure lamb on his shoulders – symbolising St John the Baptist.
The eve of St John is June 23rd – they call it ‘St John’s Saturday’ in Menorcan, regardless of whether or not June 23rd is a Saturday. The riders and their horses gather together and parade around the central square, Es Born, three times. Ciutadella’s wind band plays while they go past and the horses rear up on to their hind legs. After the parade, they ride to the rural chapel, Sant Joan de Misa. They return again, after mass, at night. And the riders parade again, this time around Santa Clara.
On St John’s day, the riders first head to the cathedral for mass. In the afternoon, they move down to the open space by Ciutadella’s port to play games with a medieval flavour to them. They including galloping – holding a spear in one hand – and riders try to hook their spear through a metal ring. It’s not easy, so when a rider wins, the crowd goes wild. In the evening, the riders finish the fiestas with a final parade in Santa Clara.