Patron saint of Barcelona swapped because of climate change?

When the original cathedral was consecrated in 1058, it was dedicated to the Holy Cross and to St Eulalia, who on February 12 303 was put in a barrel lined with knives or glass, rolled down the hill out of Roman Barcelona, and unbreasted, crucified and decapitated near one of my favourite bars, whereupon a dove flew out of her throat.

She faced a challenge in the 13th century when an order ostensibly devoted to ransoming those held by the Moors obtained patron status for its brand, Our Lady of Mercy/Nuestra Señora de la Merced, whose feast is celebrated on September 24. In 1687 she superseded Eulalia as Barcelona’s official patron.

Now, I can’t remember the ostensible reason for the change, but I wonder whether the underlying motive was the difficulty of holding popular feasts–falling around drunk, lots of bedless strangers in town–in the period of deteriorating winters as the Little Ice Age kicked in. Vicente Aupí writes, for example, that snow fell in Barcelona in the ten days preceding St Eulalia’s feast in 1603, causing great popular alarm and house collapses in Barcelona. Perhaps folks said at some stage in the 17th century, Hey, if we swap patron saints from February to September, we’ll cut alcoholic martyrdom by a half. Or whatever. Since the weather is now generally better in mid-February than in late September, maybe it’s time to swap back to Eulalia.

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