Fiesta of San Vicente Ferrer

As part of the Easter celebrations in Spain, on the second Monday of Easter, altars are erected in the streets and squares in towns across the Valencia region, to celebrate the festival of San Vicente Ferrer, patron saint of the community and canonised in the 15th century by Pope Calixto III.


On the day, it is customary to visit the Pouet de Sant Vicent in his birthplace, in Valencia, which has been converted into a chapel. Among the fourteen altars, the oldest altar dates from 1561 and is installed every year next to the Pouet de Sant Vicent.


The party begins on Sunday (Eighth of Easter), as San Vicente Ferrer is celebrated on Monday. In each neighbourhood the image of San Vicente is taken out and after a procession through the streets it is raised to the altar between rockets, applause and hymns. 


There it remains until Monday night when the saint is brought down and place back into a safe place until the following year, although in some locations the celebration, and the imagery, continues beyond the Monday.


At noon on the Monday of San Vicente an offering of flowers is made. That afternoon the general procession takes place.


Vicente Ferrer was born on 23 January, 1350, into a wealthy family in the city of Valencia. His parents were Guillermo Ferrer, born in Palamós, and Constanza Miquel, from Valencia or Gerona, who had three daughters and three sons. Guillermo Ferrer was a notary public and was well connected to the upper classes, which allowed him to obtain a baptism for his son with illustrious godparents and the “beneficio de Santa Ana” in the Parish of Santo Tomás. When he was born, Valencia had just suffered the Black Death .


The young Vicente began his studies in one of the many Latin schools in Valencia. After having entered the Convent of the Preachers in Valencia, in February 1367 he took the Dominican habit. Between 1368 and 1375 he was sent by his superiors to deepen his knowledge in Lérida , Barcelona and Toulouse. In Lérida, where the General Study of the Crown of Aragon was located, he gave classes as a professor of Logic.


His preaching tours earned him the appreciation of people in different regions of Europe. After his canonisation, in 1455, he became the principal patron saint of the city and kingdom of Valencia.


According to popular legend, Vicente Ferrer achieved several miracles by raising his index finger, which is why he is affectionately known as “Sant Vicent el del ditet”. In iconography, he is usually represented with his index finger raised towards the sky and with a pair of wings behind him. This last attribute is due to his self-designation as legatus a latere Christi (a kind of personal representative of Christ) and the title of “angel of the Apocalypse” that his sermons earned him, during which he used to touch on the subject of the Last Judgment and even announce the imminent arrival of the Antichrist (as he did during his preaching in the city of Toledo in 1411).


As a result of a famous vision he had in the city of Avignon in 1398, Vicente Ferrer began to make constant preaching trips to various cities in Europe, especially Italian ones. During these trips he was accompanied by a large crowd, among which was a retinue of flagellants who lashed their backs as a purge for their sins. The saint used to travel on the back of a donkey and stay in the convents of Dominican friars in the cities and towns where he preached. A multitude of hermitages and altars recall, in many corners of Western Europe, historical or apocryphal anecdotes about the multitude of miracles performed by the saint himself, on his long path of preaching, or by his relics.


The Dominican Vicente Ferrer is credited in the year 1410 (in Valencia, Spain), with the foundation of the first orphanage in the world recorded in European history and which is still standing and operating. 

In the last years of his life, he toured the French South, the Auvergne, then Brittany, where he spent the last months of his life. Finding himself seriously ill, he decided to leave for Valencia. He suffered a terrible storm when leaving the port of Vannes, which he interpreted as a sign from God for him to return to Vannes to spend the rest of his days. He died in Vannes on April 5, 1419. His tomb is in the cathedral of that city.

Saint Vicente Ferrer gave a message to be taken to all Valencians, which can be considered his testament. 

“My poor homeland! I cannot have the pleasure of having my bones rest in your lap; but tell those citizens that I die, dedicating my memories to them, promising them constant assistance, and that my continuous prayers there in heaven will be for them, to the ones I’ll never forget.”

“In all their tribulations, in all their misfortunes, in all their sorrows, I will console them, I will intercede for them. That they preserve and practice the teachings that I gave them, that they always keep the faith that I preached to them intact, and that they never deny the religiosity of which they have always shown”.

“Although I do not live in this world, I will always be the son of Valencia. May they live in peace, that my protection will never lack them. Tell my dear brothers that I die blessing them and dedicating my last breath” .

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