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An unpublished documentary from 1962 is released to celebrate ‘La Patum’

‘La Patum’ is a popular festival celebrated every year during Corpus Christi in the Catalan city of Berga. In this town, the earliest reference to this festival dates from 1454 although the celebration has its origins in pre-Christian festivities. Over the years, a new symbolism has been given to the festival – it also incorporates elements from theatre in the Middle Ages - which led to an original mix of giants, devils, angels and other peculiar-looking characters. In 2012, ‘La Patum’ celebrates its 7th anniversary since UNESCO declared it a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2005. This celebration coincides with the launch of a documentary which shows how ‘La Patum’ was celebrated 50 years ago.


03 December 2012 10:13 PM


Laura Quintana

Berga (ACN).- Although \u2018La Patum\u2019 has its origins in Christian traditions \u2013 the earliest representation dates from 1454 -, nowadays it is a popular traditional festival. Every year, during Corpus Christi, the streets of the Catalan city of Berga are transformed into a massive stage. \u2018La Patum\u2019 consists of a series of dances which are accompanied by the rhythm of a drum (called a tabal). Its sound and the use of fire are the most relevant characteristics of this Catalan festivity. Seven years after being declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a documentary from 1962, by the filmmaker Joan Capdevila, about this traditional festival has been recovered. It shows how this festival was celebrated in 1959 and 1960.

The transformation of Christian festivities into popular festivals was spread around Catalonia, however they were suppressed by bans enacted by the civil, ecclesiastical and royal authorities. As a result, only a few examples survived these restrictions, the most important being the \u2018Concili de Trento\u2019 in 1563. Only the city of Berga has been able to maintain this tradition and keep it through the centuries. It is called \u2018La Patum\u2019.

The symbolism of \u2018La Patum\u2019 is difficult to pinpoint as it has changed over the years and it entails not only the dances but also the dates it has been performed (Corpus Christi), where it is performed (Sant Pere\u2019s square), the values that it represents and the feelings that it entails. That is why it is said that \u2018La Patum\u2019 is an experience to live and not a show to see.

\u2018La Patum\u2019 50 years ago

Between 1959 and 1960, the Catalan amateur filmmaker Joan Capdevila i Nogués recorded two days of \u2018La Patum\u2019. It was a period when there was still no tradition of recording daily life, so there are few visual witnesses of how this popular tradition was performed.

Coinciding with the seventh anniversary of the UNESCO declaration, the city council of the Catalan city of Berga will launch the documentary \u2018La Patum de Berga\u2019. The manager of the board of \u2018La Patum\u2019, Albert Rumbo, has highlighted that this documentary is \u201Cunique\u201D as it has remained unpublished until now. He has also explained that this is an important visual document because it shows how the city of Berga was and how \u2018La Patum\u2019 was celebrated 50 years ago. \u201CThe number of participants has increased, and the landscape and the style of jumping have changed, but there are still things that are the same: children hold giant\u2019s hands while they are scared of \u2018La Guita\u2019\u201D, Rumbo has concluded.

7 years after UNESCO\u2019s declaration

In 2005 \u2018La Patum\u2019 was declared a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. With this declaration UNESCO recognizes the value of cultural activities (non-material) and it requires the commitment of states to promote and protect the Masterpieces. Seven years after this declaration, Rumbo has highlighted that this declaration allowed the organisation of \u2018La Patum\u2019 to promote the festival and to spread it worldwide, while improving the security during the celebration and maintaining it. However, he pointed out that the figure of participants was already increasing before UNESCO\u2019s recognition.


  • 'La Patum' is an old tradition from the town of Berga (by ACN)

  • 'La Patum' is an old tradition from the town of Berga (by ACN)