Tarragona's Santa Tecla festival returns for special anniversary edition

Fireworks, human towers, parades, and concerts to celebrate 700 years of annual festivities from September 12-25

Organizers of the Santa Tecla 2022 festival (By Editorial)
Organizers of the Santa Tecla 2022 festival (By Editorial) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

September 12, 2022 07:18 PM

Santa Tecla festivities are back in full swing on Monday with no pandemic restrictions and a calendar packed with events commemorating the 700th anniversary of the patron saint's arrival in Tarragona, the largest city in southern Catalonia. 

More than 200 participants from organizations, sponsors, and companies are involved in this year’s edition, held from September 12-25, with the biggest celebrations happening in the final five days. 

Some highlights include the opening ceremony which will take place at Tarraco arena square and the closing ceremony, where a musical piece by Catalan composer Josep Vila i Casañas will be premiered. Tickets for both shows can be purchased through the city council's website.

Tarragona’s Mayor, Pau Ricomà, said that the festivities will present the town to the world. "We are a living city, with a very important cultural, artistic, and social fabric. We are leaders in popular culture and Catalonia must know that,” he explained. 

Dance recitals, documentaries, and a photography exhibition led by David Oliete have also been scheduled. On September 22 and 23 a performance of the Ball de Dames i Vells will take place at various points of the city. 

"Our parade is the most beautiful in Catalonia, we have some beautiful dances", said Ester Roca, the city council's culture coordinator. 

Announcement night

The party on the 21st starts at 7.30pm in Plaça de la Font with the presentation of giant paper mâché dancing puppets. At midnight, a vast procession will go down the cathedral steps, marching to the rhythm of traditional Catalan music. 

The 'baixada', as the march is locally known, is expected to attract a significant influx of people since it will be celebrated for the first time in three years. The second 'baixada' begins at 1.45am at Plaça del Rei, and during this route, there are usually fewer people.

Santa Tecla’s Eve

On September 22, the eve of the feast day of Santa Tecla, the most important events take place in the afternoon and evening. 

At 7pm, the Santa Tecla parade departs from Plaça de la Font and the best place to watch it pass is usually the cathedral’s steps. 

At night, there will be concerts and fairs in almost every square of the city and some parks around, such as Parc Saavedra or Camp de Mart.

Santa Tecla’s feast 

September 23 is the feast of Santa Tecla and activities begin early in Tarragona. At 9.15am, the popular procession leaves from Plaça de la Font and makes its way to the cathedral where the Mass of the Great Feast begins at 10am.

Once the mass is over, at 11am the parade will make its way to Plaça de la Font where the 'castellers' human towers event will begin at 1pm with four local groups taking part. This castellers show is considered to be one of the most important in the whole of Catalonia every year. 

At 7pm, the patron’s relic will go out in procession through the streets of Part Alta. It’s expected that at Pla de la Seu, one of the city's areas that best retains its medieval atmosphere, an explosion of pyrotechnics, music, dance, and confetti bid farewell until next year.

At 11.30pm, the Festa Major fireworks display will be launched from Punta del Miracle. This can be seen from the Passeig de Sant Antoni, the Passeig de las Palm trees, or Platja del Miracle.

Final day 

Coinciding with the celebration of the festivity of La Mercè in Barcelona on September 24, a performance similar to the one from the day before takes place at 1 pm. Once again, the steps of the Cathedral will take center stage with a human tower show. 

Festival History

In 1091, Pope Urban II juridically restored the metropolitan seat of Tarragona and declared the festivities of Santa Tecla the main celebration of the year. 

On May 17, 701 years ago, the solemn arrival of the arm of Santa Tecla took place in the city of Tarragona. The arm, coming from Armenia, was transported to the port of Salou, and from there taken to Constantí, where it stayed for a while until, on May 17, 1321, it was transported to the Cathedral of Tarragona in a solemn procession. This year is considered to be the 700 anniversary since the full celebration was postponed in 2021 due to Covid.

The city carried out an overwhelming welcome reception, in such a way that it would become the reference point for subsequent festivals. For the first time, people from different social strata filled the streets with dances and other activities.