The Night of Sant Joan


The night of San Joan begins with the arrival of the flame carried by runners from the highest peak in Catalonia to  the Serrallo in Tarragona. The flame lights a giant bonfire around which the Diables Voramar, these dark figures which originate from  the Medieval street theater, dance with the Vibria unleashing a cacophony of flares.

The Revetlla de Sant Joan is one of the most anticipated night of the year here in Catalonia and is also known, among other,  as the Nit del Foc or Night of Fire. Here in Tarragona, after the bonfire of the Serrallo is reduced to ember the attention shifts to the Casc Antic, the old city where several group of Diables get ready for the midnight procession under the biggest full moon of the year.

The diables are satirical figures, part of the cast of medieval characters that populate the traditional festivities in Tarragona. Their origin is lost in time but are believed to come from allegoric plays which were enacted to entertain the nobility during the Middle Ages and is believed to represent the fight between good and evil. The first records of the Correfoc, or Run of Fire, date back to 1150 at the marriage of Ramon Berenguer IV Count of Barcelona do Peronella of Aragon, but its re-introduction in to Catalan festivities is far more recent and dates back to the 1980’s with Tarragona’s own Ball Diables  de Tarragona celebrating its 30’s anniversary this year.

The Diables are one of the most spectacular sights of the local festival Pantheon and  bring a deafening anarchy to three main events which are the final night of the Carneval, the Night of Sant Joan and Santa Tecla. At the night of  Summer Solstice, Sant Joan,  they all gather in Plaça de la Font and  set off at midnight with a cacophony of flares and petards through the old medieval streets.

This year, joining the Ball Diables de Tarragona and the Colla de Diables Voramar del Serrallo i Víbria,  were the Diables de Sant Quintí de Mediona and, for the first time,  thee Diables dels Pallaresos. Also part of this underworld procession were  the Besties de Foc, the beasts of the fire, namely the Drac de Sant Roc , the breasted Vibria, and the Bou de Tarragona which rapresenting three districts of the city.

Watching the procession is not for the faint hearted: the air fills with acrid smoke and the sound of drums, with onlookers taking cover in the doorways of shops and restaurant to escape the flying sparks.  Revelers throw them selves  in to the maihem dancing away under the rain of sparks  as the procession proceeds from square to square.

It ends back at Plaça de la Font where a bonfire is lit to signal the end of the Correfoc and the beginning of Summer.

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