The current Feast Committee of Sant Roc is also a section of the Feast Association of Plaça Nova, being its main responsibility the design, preparation and execution of the Feast of Sant Roc of Barcelona at Plaça Nova. The Feast Committee is composed, besides by its board, by the heads of the various tasks of the feast and any other member of the Association who works in it and by many external collaborators, especially neighbors and former neighbors of the Cathedral Quarter. The Feast Committee is the historical reference of our Association which, in fact, for four hundred years (1589-1988) has been the entity responsible for all activities until 1988 when it was refounded as the Feast Association of Plaça Nova.
In 1589, the residents of the neighborhood of the Cathedral of Barcelona, in gratitude for having been preserved from the terrible bubonic plague of that year, constituted the Brotherhood of Sant Roc of Plassa Nova, and from that year on, celebrated the feast in his honor. Thus a celebration was born that would last to this day and has become a the oldest popular street feast of the city.
During the first years of the nineteenth century, the emergence of a new phenomenon represented a genuine transformation of the Plaça Nova and its feast: the realization and recognition of the neighborhood, consisting mainly by artisans and commoners, as a cohesive territory with its own and unique identity, a neighborhood: the neighborhood of the Cathedral. Plaça Nova, since its birth in 1355, was the vital, commercial and social center of the district of the Cathedral, which hosted all kinds of markets in the shelter of which appeared all kinds of family businesses, shops, inns and hostels that lasted until well into the twentieth century. These families of old time —els Xacó, els Morató, els Castells, els Noguera, and people like Tòfol el Cansalader, Guimet dels Billars, Pontí Daurador, la Pepeta Caball…— would be during the first two thirds of the nineteenth century the spontaneous responsibles for the maintenance and lighting of the niche and of taking care of the image of Sant Roc throughout the year, and the celebration of the feast, which increased in popularity each year.
In 1884 the City Council of Barcelona renews the city vow to Sant Roc, which it had left unattended thirty-three years before, and the bishop Jaume Català i Albons conceded forty days of indulgence to the devotees who prayed one Our Father and one Hail Mary to the imatge de Sant Roc of plaça Nova on the day of its feast. Meanwhile, the neighbors and merchants chose the members of what would become the first officially constituted Feast Committee and, therefore, the first of which records and accounts are kept.
The first chairman of the Feast Committee was Gervasi Amat, trader who had a mats and blinds shop at the square. The rest of the Committee consisted of other traders of the square and adjacent streets and with a long lineage in the neighborhood: Josep Morató (shoemaker), Joan Miquel (coal), Josep Rigau (baker) and Joseph Campañà (grains). The new Committee, since then, would invite neighbors and visitors to the feast with their street cries and appeals written in verse and full of irony; a true example of popular Catalan literature of the time. The new Committee would give a big boost to the celebrations in its more festive and popular aspects.
The first third of the twentieth century represented the golden age of the Feast of Sant Roc of Plaça Nova. In 1903 the Feast Committee is renewed. The first step of the renovation had already begun in 1902 with the incorporation of young artisans belonging to common lineages of the neighborhood and new neighbors, the political and intellectual leaders of the time and youngsters with artistic pretensions that would give a twist to the feast and, without altering the spirit of its popular essence, enriched it with a new air of catalanism and modernism.
The members of the new Committee were well known people of the neighborhood, and just for the fact of belonging to it, were considered the elite of the neighborhood: first Francesc Taxonera Joan Fadurdo, Josep Dueñas, Antoni Gené, Antoni Campañà, Francesc Puig i Alfonso, Camilo Carballo or Francesc Llorenç, and later Isidre Baqué, Benet Morató, Antoni P. Rigau, Roc Russinyol, Antoni Thomas, Josep Urgés, Matías Gavín, Josep Barbany or Joan Estruch. But all of them would be known in the neighborhood as Pepet del Carril, Antonet del Forn, Juanito de la Taverna, Benito de les Sabates, Antoniu el Cansalader, el Senyor Paco de la Farmàcia, Pep el Matalasser, el Senyor Franciscu de la Llibreria, Matías Vetes i Fils or Isidret el Torner.
By the end of the Civil War (1936-1939) and once established the new regime of dictator General Franco, in the same year 1939 the Feast is celebrated again with the more traditional events, and obviously, with the religious ones. The first meeting of the Feast Committee was on May 28 in the halls of the Episcopal Palace, under the supervision of Bishop Miguel de los Santos, just four months after the war ended. The members of the Feast Committee that still remained were yet not conscious, as most part of the rest of the population, of the scope of the fascist victory and its consequences.
However, the members of the Committee that were still alive and in the neighborhood did their best to keep the Feast’s Catalan spirit, with events as the entourage, the Sardanas and the performances of cataln folk dancers and choirs. We should mention the brave and enthusiastic members of the Committee of those difficult years Joan Estruch i Sastre Francesc Taxonera, Antoni P. Rigau, Antoni Thomas, Ramon Masgrau, Benet Morató, Nemesi Ponsati, Ricard Maria Baqué, Narcís Moner, Manel Solà, Amadeu Estruch, Àlvar Xanxo and all those who collaborated with them.
In 1958 with the physical disappearance, at least partially, of the Plaça Nova and of a big portion of the Cathedral Quarter, and with the forced march of many of its neighbors, two of the three essential components for the celebration of the feast were disrupted: the square as a place of communication and social and cultural exchange, and the critical mass of the local community as concelebrants; there remained, however, the original reason for the celebration: Sant Roc of Barcelona. The laudable and titanic and never quite recognized credit of the Feast Committee was, on one side, seeking to intertwine the old and new neighbors and ex-neighbors -it created the expression ex-neighbors– and, secondly, to maintain the spirit of PLaça Nova as a forum and epicenter of the neighborhood and even extended their area of influence to the neighboring districts of Call, Pi and Santa Anna: the new neighborhood of Plaça Nova.
The Feast Committee, aware of the terrible circumstances that not only the physical continuity of the neighborhood but also the same neighborhood relationships and family were passing through, served as an authentic neighbors and traders association. In 1950 the Committee increased very significantly its number of members, mostly young people who were not resigned to the disappearance of the neighborhood, its traditions and the contact between neighbors. San Roc, and the Committee, reacted energetically…
Alongside the most veteran members of the Feast Committee, that maintained the traditional spirit of the neighborhood and of the feast, the dynamism of the new components –Joan Estruch i Pipó, Antoni Parellada, Joan Guillem, Joaquim Bosch, Joan Camps, Josep Mestres, Manel Ribé, Santiago Garcia, Jaume Guchans, Joan Pla, Emili Marqui, Jaume Pineda, Jaume Planas, Josep Maria Pujol, Jordi Vallejo and Francesc Verdú, and other young people who collaborated and that, during the sixties, joined the Committee- made the Feast grow both in the number activities as in popularity. The Feast of Sant Roc acted as an effective tool to relate old neighbors, ex-neighbors and new neighbors.
The Feast Committee, which now met at the new Bar Estruch, on the Avenue of the Cathedral, number 3, while recognizing the substantial change that had occurred in the neighborhood, made their best to speak out to the new neighbors, publishing articles and newspaper clippings of reaffirmation, acknowledgement and glorification in the programs of the Feast, and commissioning texts to journalists, historians and writers for the eulogy of the Feast and the renovated neighborhood. Remarkable are the ones by Josep Maria Espinàs or Avel·lí Artís, Sempronio, among others. Despite the transfromation, with the vitality of the new members of the Feast Committee, they were preparing for a second golden age that would last from 1959 to 1971. The new members were young, and not so young, that worked for the Feast before being officially members of the Committee, taking care of the traditional games, the Cucanya (greasy-pole), and the giants, while seeking financial resources and new partners beyond the traditional limits of the neighborhood. We should mention Joan Bach, Pasqual Borràs, Joaquim Borràs, Manel Carcarra, the brothers Lluís and Miquel Cortés, Josep Cercós, Àngel Suriol and Joaquim Gómez Jornet, first, and, later on, Andreu Pérez, Ernest Fonollosa, Josep Aragonés, Eduard Díez, Francesc Díez, Emili Serra, Jaume Gilabert, Josep Riu and Josep Cordomí and Fernández.
With the restoration of democracy and of the street as a space of expression and celebration, the birth of groups that sought the roots of the country in popular and traditional culture became widespread. In the Plaça Nova the incorporation of new youngsters of the neighborhood -Xavier Cordomí or Manel Macià, first, and Maria Teresa Aguilà, Mariano Baraut or Ferran Gómez, among others, later on- oriented the Feast in this direction. Thus, the birth of the Group of Plaça Nova in 1982, composed of young people from around the city who collaborated with the Committee but without forming part, represent a major turning point for the Feast of Sant Roc and of traditions of the old neighborhood of Cathedral.
The first action of the Group of Plaça Nova was to take charge the old giants of Sant Roc to participate not only in the Feast of Sant Roc and the Parade of la Mercè -in which they concurred since the mid fifties-, but also in many gatherings of giants that began to be customary around the country. The responsible for the performances of the giants had hitherto been the same member of the Feast Committee that had been responsible of the Cucanya, Ernest Fonollosa, but the giant porters did not have a specific organization to respond to the new activities for which they were demanded. Thus the new Giants Group of Plaça Nova was structured as an autonomous group of giant porters of the Feast Committee. The first group was composed of twenty-two porters, boys and girls, and a head of the group. The head of the group directly became part of the Feast Committee. Josep Maria Roig, Carolina Rius and Enric Rodríguez were the heads of the giant porters group until 1988, when the Group and the Committee merged to form the Feast Association of Plaça Nova.
The Feast of Sant Roc of Plaça Nova enters the twenty-first century fully renewed and with respect for the responsibility that more than four centuries of tradition and the precedent of thousands of women and men that constructed a neighborhood and a city represents. With the foundation of the Feast Association of Plaça Nova the main objective of the partners was, and is, the maintenance, study and diffusion of Sant Roc as an intangible heritage and tradition of the entire city of Barcelona.
The Feast of Sant Roc have set a calendar in which the traditional events included in the celebration for over four hundred years are now the backbone of the festive liturgy. The current feast has this twofold tradition of Barcelona, heritage of the city, and popular neighborhood feast that for four centuries and a quarter has been called Vilanova dels Arcs, the Cathedral Quarter and the Gothic Quarter. Thus the reiterative celebration of the tradition is configured with a series of activities which single out San Roc of Barcelona.
Galery of Honor:
Feast Committee of Plaça Nova, years 1829 – 1870
Precedents, neighbors and merchants of the neighborhood responsible of the Feast (we only conserve a few names)
Francisco Morató “en Xacó”
Caterina de Morató “la Xacona”
Cristòfol Fluvià “Tòfol de la plassa Nova, cansalader”
Guimet “dels billars”
Josep Castells “l’herbolari”
Manel Pontí “daurador”
Pepet Morató “Arcís de les timbales”
Pepeta Caball “Pepeta Cavall”
Feast Committee of Sant Roc of Plaça Nova, years 1884 – 1988
Gervasi Amat, First President
Josep Maria Aguilà
Maria Teresa Aguilà
Josep Barbany “Pepet del carril”
Joan Estruch Pipó
Amadeu Estruch Sastre
Joan Estruch Sastre
Josep Maria Garrut
Joaquim Gómez Jornet
Francesc Martínez Fabregat
Francesc Puig i Alfonso
Josep Maria Pujol
Antoni de Paula Rigau
Josep Maria Roig
And so many men and women, residents and ex-neighbors of the Plaça Nova neighborhood, that without formally being members of the Committee, have always collaborated throughout their lives, working for the feast and fighting for the neighborhood.
Since 1982, when a group of young people founded the Group of Plaça Nova, as porters and musicians of the giants, first, and as group of devils later on, the amount of collaborators of the feast increased enormously. More than a hundred young people passed through the group until 1988, when the Committee and the Group merged and formed the Feast Association of Plaça Nova.
Since then and until today, more than four hundred twenty-five people have worked, from Plaça Nova, for the feast and the Barcelona tradition, the Feast of Sant Roc of Barcelona at Plaça Nova