HERE COME THE HORSES!
Its the first day of the fiesta where the magnificent Menorcan pure bred stallions and their incredibly talented riders take to the streets of Ciutadella as the protagonists of Sant Joan. It’s the day that everyone has been waiting for all year, the Eve of Sant Joan known as the ‘Saturday of Sant Joan’, regardless of which day of the week it falls. There is so much preparation that goes into the fiesta, everyone plays their part especially the wives and families of the horse riders and their horses. If you are lucky enough to be a part of it just remember the number one rule, which is to always have the upmost respect for the horses and their riders who are quite simply AMAZING.
Here is a brief overview of the day’s proceedings…
The days official proceedings start at 2pm with the Primer Toc, which is the ‘First Tap’ of the drum and wooden flute for the fiesta. It symbolises the start of the fiesta. The Fabioler, the first rider on a donkey with the wooden flute and drum, makes a solitary ride to the palace of the Caixer Senyor, the nobleman horse rider in charge of the fiesta, to ask permission to commence the journey around town to collect all the horse riders one by one. He then plays the tune of Sant Joan with the drum and flute for the first time, to the sound of overwhelming applause and cheer from the spectators. It is a very emotional moment for the people of Ciutadella.
ES REPLEC & SA QUALCADA
The Replec is the name for the journey of the Fabioler on his donkey around town collecting horse riders one by one in order to form the Qualcada, which is the name for the procession of horse riders.
He is followed by people on foot and then each of the horse riders fall in line behind him making the procession of horses grow and grow. His first stop is the home of the Caixer Fadrí, the horse rider who bares the flag of Sant Joan for the entire fiesta. Next stop is the home of the Caixer Casat, where the Flag of Sant Joan is kept. Then in small groups the horses join the procession in order of age from the youngest riders being boys, through to the oldest riders who are elderly, normally well over 150 horses in total.
The final stops are the Caixer Senyor, then the Caixer Capellà, who is the priest and last horse in the procession. They then return to collect the Flag of Sant Joan. This procession can take over three hours around the town.
CARAGOL DES BORN
One of the highlights of the fiesta and also one of the most intense moments is the Caragol des Born. Caragol means snail in Menorcan referring to the shape the horses
make circling round the Plaça des Born. The horses enter the Square which is packed with people one after another awaiting the entrace of the Caixer Senyor who normally enters the square galloping at full speed. On his arrival the band plays the song of Sant Joan to which all the people sing and dance and the horses move around the square occasionally rising on their hind legs to which the people shout ‘Ole’. The horses lap the square three times. It’s a spectacular sight but not for the delicate or for children considering the mix of so many people and horses.
LA ERMITA DE SANT JOAN DE MISSA
After the Caragol des Born, the horses leave the town via the Cami de Sant Joan de Missa, a road heading south of Ciutadella for the church of the same name Sant Joan de Missa. A gorgeous countryside white wash church and the namesake of the fiesta, where the horses are given a rest whilst a mass with the horse riders take place inside. It’s a small little church but the atmosphere outside with the horses and locals who have come to be a part of it makes it a special part of the day with this religious ceremony in honour of the Parton Saint of the fiesta.
During this time back in Ciutadella, the locals take time to visit the homes of friends and family and flock to the street of Contramurada to share in the fun of playing with hazelnut shells. An old tradition of the fiestas in which empty hazelnut shells in huge sacks are tossed in the air with participation by the crowds.
EL REGRESO AL PUEBLO
The horses and their riders wait until nightfall to return to the town passing through the streets on the south side of Ciutadella.
CORREGUDES DE SA PLAÇA
Translated to be the ‘Runs of the Squares’ the horses pass up and down through the main street through the heart of the town known as Ses Voltes, ‘The Arches’ in English.
This strip passes through three squares starting at Plaça España, then by Plaça des Be then ending in the Plaça des Catedral. It is a highly packed area at this time withthe crowds who watch the horses pass up and down three times through this street, often rising up and walking on their back legs.
CARAGOL DE SANTA CLARA
The last act of the horses on this day in the late hours of the night is the three laps around the backstreets of the town in the surrounding area of the Santa Clara church, passing through the outside courtyard of the church itself. It’s a part of the days proceedings with much warmth and interaction as most of the locals open their front doors to family and friends, encouraging the horse riders on their horses to enter into the front room of each house. Hard to believe but true!
BEGUDA DE CAS CAIXER SENYOR
The final act of the day the horse riders accompany the priest back to his home, then retire to the palace of the Caixer Senyor to eat together. The supper is of traditional food and drink of Menorca and is a time for the horse riders to rest, reflect on the day and celebrate the fiesta before heading home.