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Sunday, June 25, 2017

Nativity of St. John the Baptist, June 24

Who knew....
A horse rears in the crowd during the traditional San Juan (Saint John) festival in the town of Ciutadella, on the Balearic Island of Menorca, on the eve of Saint John's day.

 The reorganisation of the churches and parishes of Menorca by King Jaime II of Mallorca in the late XIII century included that of St John the Baptist, situated five kilometres south of Ciutadella. This parish had its name changed following the Christian conquest of Menorca from the parish of Artruix (a name designating the whole of the south of Ciutadella) to being known as the parish of St John the Baptist. Today, it is known as Sant Joan de Missa, the little parish church which lost its parochial rites on being linked to the parish of Ciutadella, the home of Menorca’s cathedral.

The fiesta’s Medieval origins are also apparent in the group of horsemen and their attire that lead the proceedings. The municipal council of Ciutadella would elect a committee from different social sectors to administer the religious buildings and charitable works. This was led by a nobleman and included a priest, two farmers and an artisan, and the committee members were known as ‘Caixers’. The committee also organised important festivities, the most important being the birth of St John the Baptist on 24 June, the eve of which a pilgrimage was arranged to the hermitage. After mass everyone returned to the town at sunset when bonfires were lit and people celebrated by dancing in the streets. The following morning mass was held in honour of the saint.