Moors and Christians
The Moors and Christians is one of the most genuine celebrations that can be attended in many different towns along the beautiful Mediterranean coast of Spain, but the ones taking place in Alcoy and Villajoyosa are probably the most outstanding of all, because of the display and size of the celebration. We will now outline the general characteristics of the festivity, to later get into the specific details of each town’s events.
The origin of this festivity is of religious nature, having given way to a more recreational celebration in the present days. But it is its theatrical element that gives the celebration such a unique character. The feast recalls the period of Muslim sovereignty in the Iberian Peninsula, and the combats that took place during the so called Reconquista, the years-long war through which the Christian armies and kings regained possession of the “occupied territories”. The Moors and Christians festival represents the capture of the city by the Moors, to be later regained by Christian troops.
There are different “legions” taking part in the combat, both on the Moors’ side and on the Christians, too. Each of the legions (filaes or comparsas in Spanish) wears a different costume, introducing many distinguishing elements among the filaes, with gives the celebration a very lively and colorful mood. Music bands play medieval and popular music throughout the time of the festival, and the streets pack with people singing, dancing and celebrating.
Maybe the better known version of the Moors and Christians feast is the one that takes place in Alcoy, in the province of Alicante, around the feast day of Saint George in April. Legend has it that after the city was regained by the Christians, led by Jaime I, the Muslim troops commanded by Alazraq tried to regain control, and then Saint George appeared to them and scared them away. Even though this is a little bit fantasized, battle was a historic event in which the Christian troops managed to finish the Muslim rule over Alcoy.
The other better known festival takes place in Villajoyosa, also in the province of Alicante. The feast here stands out from the rest because of its drama, since an actual ship battle and a disembarkation on the town’s beach. This performance also evokes a historic event occurred in 1538, when Berber pirates guided by Zalé-Arraez tried to attack the city. According to the tradition, Saint Martha came in the help of the locals, causing a flood that vanquished the enemy’s boats and didn’t allow the invaders to arrive to the shore. As a sign of gratitude, Saint Martha is now the patron saint of Villajoyosa.
As we said earlier, this might be one of the most idiosyncratic and unique festivities happening in Spain, so you should consider a visit to it, and maybe take the opportunity to improve your Spanish skills learning Spanish in Spain.