La Patrona Festival – it’s Moors V’s Christians in an epic battle re-enactment in Pollenca
Another week another reason to celebrate in Pollenca. This old town knows how to party and this week it’s the turn of La Patrona Festival in which the citizens of Pollenca re-enact a famous battle from their history and give thanks to their Patron Saint, Our Lady of the Angels for the ensuing victory. They do this with a week-long fiesta of cultural events, displays and entertainments and a huge mock battle on August 2nd which takes over the whole town for the day.
The festival began this year on July 24th and events were scheduled everyday for the entertainment of the townspeople and tourists. There were games and competitions, sporting events and children’s foam parties, displays of martial arts, folk dancing, chess tournament, puppet show, markets and endless nightly concerts and parties. The town had been strung with white bunting from end to end and Pollenca’s main square was transformed into festival central with a gazebo of white bunting strung up in the centre and a stage set up surrounded by market vendors and festival food carts.
The festival atmosphere built up all week with more and more people filling the town each night and tourists and townspeople alike revelling in the streets. Events reached their peak on 2nd August with the town wide re-enactment of the Moors V’s Christians battle.
According to the history books on May 30th in 1550, Pollenca was attacked by a band of 1,500 Pirate Moors led by the fearsome Corsair Dragut. They invaded the town at night and would have prevailed were it not for the heroic actions of Pollenca’s hero Joan Mas who spotted their advances, called the townsfolk (the Christians) to arms and led them into battle. Dressed in their pyjamas and armed only with wooden poles and stakes the Christians ultimately prevailed and drove the Moors out of town.
Every August 2nd the townspeople pick their sides and dress accordingly, the Christians wear the loose white ‘pyjamas’ and carry rough wooden sticks, poles and pitchforks whilst the Pirates wear brightly coloured silks, fearsome face paint and carry swords. It seems that every member of the town gets involved and the children love it with little Moors and Christians roaming the streets banging drums, setting off fireworks and ‘fighting’ hours before the battle is due to commence.
This year the festivities started at 5am when the town band played the dawn anthem Alborada and the mock battle was announced. The day was then filled with dancing and parades through the streets and families gathering in their homes and local restaurants for a long, hearty lunch and many drinks before battle. The streets of Pollenca were cleared of any obstacles that might get in the way of the warring factions and a sense of anticipation slowly filled the air as battle time approached.
The battle took place in the narrow streets of Pollenca Old Town and was incredibly dramatic to watch and hear as hundreds of Moors and Christians came together in the enclosed space with loud roars and yells, wooden poles and swords clashing and drums and ‘gunshots’ banging overhead. Spectators lined the streets and crowded into alleyways and onto balconies to watch as Joan Mas played his part leaping from the window of his home and calling the town to action, later meeting Dragut face to face in the streets and battling fiercely. The action proceeded through the narrow streets of Pollenca until the Christians ultimately succeeded driving the Moors out of town.
Once the battle was done the Christians, looking a little less white after their exertions were lead by their heroic leader back to the Church to give thanks once again for the Patron Saint’s part in helping the Christians win the battle and the evening then descended into one last night of dancing and revelling, rounded off by a spectacular midnight fireworks display.
A truly incredible festival to watch and be a part of, La Patrona is amazing. The sense of community in the town pervades every element of the festival, it seems that the entire town gets involved, dresses up and parades through the streets, giving thanks for that long ago victory and for the town and the traditional community that remains here in Pollenca today.
If you plan to visit during this festival, which is highly recommended, just be aware that the streets get packed and pretty frantic during the battle and it is the spectator’s job to stay out of the way. Lots of drinking is done throughout the day and things can get rather messy and raucous. If you’re visiting with children they’ll have a great time playing at being Pirates and Christians and they’ll love the events and games on offer but perhaps keep them out of the fray when the battle commences!
[Keep an eye on our events calendar for upcoming fiestas and dates for this Festival next year].