Marbella Feria History

Feria-de-San-BernabeLa Feria de San Bernabé is a festive week long fair that brings peoples (and work!) are cast to one side for the locals. Schools are on holiday,  from all around the world together each June in celebration of Marbella’s town saint, San Bernabé. It is a time of year that all worriebusinesses shut down and the working world is asleep while the town centre and fairgrounds are abuzz with activity from noon to dawn.

This colourful event is a riotous combination of flamenco, typical dances of Andalusia, bullfighting, parades of horse carriages and music for the young and old. Yet, it is on June 11th that the towns people of Marbella comes alive to pay homage to the life of San Bernabé.

According to the Biblical legend, Saint Bernabé gave money to the Apostles to distribute to the poor. Born with the birthname of Joseph, it was after this generous act that the apostles awarded him the name San Bernabé which means “he who makes an effort” or “he who encourages others”. The Bible in the book of the Facts of the Apostles, praises Bernabé as such: “Bernabé was a good, full man of faith and Spirito Santo”.

San Bernabé continued assisting the poor throughout his lifetime and thus became a legend in the villages that he visited. It is this great saint that Marbella has adopted as their patron saint centuries ago and he who Marbella pays homage to on the designated day of June 11th.

San Bernabe definitely takes center stage in the Marbella feria each June but, in fact, there is an additional event that is also being celebrated during these festivities. It is the Commemoration of the Christian Conquest, a significant turning point in the history of Marbella, and of Southern Spain.

On the 11th of June they remember the final defeat of the Arabs in this area in the year 1485. This was led by the Spanish monarchs Isabel and Ferdinand, known as Los Reyes Católicos, who expelled the Arabs and regained control of the kingdom. The resulting significance was the change of Muslims ruling to a Christian ruling. On June 11th locals place lights on balconies and in doorways in remembrance of this day.

What feria would be complete without a grandiose procession? On this day, the 11th of June, the masses of spectators take to the shaded streets to stand and await the patron saints image which slowly and majestically makes its way through the town, carried on the shoulders of important townspeople. There are two separate processions; one in the morning to commemorate the Reconquista, or Reconquest and in the afternoon, there is another procession in honour of San Bernabé.

To the town of Marbella, this is their time to shine, to present to all the visitors from near and far the importance and glory of their town’s history. The music, dance, food and events are all just one way to show their pride in Marbella. Their enthusiasm is contagious and everyone leaves the La Feria de San Bernabé a bit exhausted and a bit better.

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