At Solsona, a pretty medieval walled town in Catalunya, we attended another Corpus Christi festival on a smaller scale than the Patum at Berga. Solsona too boasts giant puppets, big-heads, dragons and fireworks, but the celebration is notably gentler in tone. At Berga the crowds for the Patum were boisterous, fearsomely packed like sardines in a tin. Not safe for the little, the elderly or the infirm. By contrast at Solsona the tone was more that of a pageant, and the elderly ladies of the town were ensconced at the outside tables of a local bar, affording them front row views safely out of the way of the firecrackers.
The fine fellow above was the most characterful of the giants, with his lantern-jawed grimace and fearsome mace making him a warrior you’d want on your own side! Come to think of it, he has a definite resemblance to images I’ve seen of Vlad the Impaler!
Not the massed and swaying celebrants of the Patum, and minus the leafy, fire-cracking devils that are the climax of that larger festival. In Solsona the event was altogether more staid, kicking off at lunch time with a church procession through streets strewn with herbs, so that the air was sweet with wild thyme and marjoram overlaid with incense. Children in beribboned costumes trimmed with bells danced and beat sticks, not unlike the tradition of Morris dancing in the UK.
Some serious business with swinging censers and churchmen and local notables in their finery, and then the fun began.
The heads of the female giants at Solsona had a bland, Disney-esque quality to them. (Not nearly as interesting as ‘Vlad the Impaler’!) Although the tradition is old, the figures themselves must occasionally need replacing, giving room for more modern influences to creep in. (M told us that the figures for the Patum were ‘old’, but no-one seemed to know quite how old. I’d have pegged the date for the Berga giants as being somewhere between the late nineteenth and the first quarter of the twentieth century. They were perfect with no damage to them, but with a rolling programme of restoration they may well be older than they presently look.) Both at Berga and Solsona the events are demonstrably local traditions with no nods made to the tourist potential in them. We didn’t hear a single English-speaking voice in either town the whole of the time we were on holiday.
At the end of the day we headed back to Montclar, pausing to view the ‘Modernist’ cemetery at Olius…
…where I posed suitably hooded in the rain!