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The feast day of Santa Gertrudis hits Ibiza this weekend

We give the low-down on this traditional, Ibiza celebration whilst taking a short stroll through history and local culture

For those interested in authentic local culture and history, this Sunday, November 16th, 2014 sees the Ibiza village of Santa Gertrudis celebrate its annual saint's day with a whole range of free activities for the whole family. In actual fact, the village stages a huge variety of special events that stretch across an entire month but the big day in town is the saint's day itself.

Often referred to as the ‘heart' of our beautiful island, the day is dedicated to the village's patron saint, Gertrude the Great. But who was she?

Educated and scholarly

Saint Gertrude, dear reader, was a nun who lived from 1256 - 3002. Although little is known of her early life, she was thought to have entered a convent at the extremely young age of 4, either as an orphan or as a child oblate - an offering to the Church by devoutly religious parents. Originally from Eisleben, Thuringia (part of the Holy Roman Empire) she was educated to an extraordinarily high level for a woman of her time and was both fluent and highly literate in Latin.

She was awarded the suffix of ‘great' by Pope Benedict XIV, both to avoid confusion with Abbess Gertrude of Hackeborn whilst at the same time honouring the intensity and depth of her spiritual and scholarly insight. Gertrude was an accomplished theological scholar and wrote several important books, the most famous of which is a religious collection known as ‘The Herald,' widely thought to have been a collaborative work with other nuns. She was devoted to religious meditation and considered herself to be a bride of Christ. Moreover, Gertrude wrote a set of spiritual exercises that are still used to this day by those seeking a deeper spirituality through prayer and meditation.

Sister or Saint?

Gertrude would have been alive and well known of in the years following the Catalan conquest of Ibiza by King James in 1235, when the business of changing the previously North African influenced names of the island's villages to those of its most recent conqueror's would have begun. This was and still is, normal practice by conquering armies determined to stamp out the language and culture of the losing side, in this case, that of the Moors. So in a sense, it's perfectly logical that Santa Gertrudis was chosen as the name of this central Ibiza village. What is slightly more curious is that Saint Gertrude, although a nun, was never actually, officially canonised. In fact, there was not even an official feast day allocated for her until centuries later in 1606.

Making up for lost time!

So since poor old Saint Gertrude missed out on over 300 hundred years of celebrations in her honour, we think it's only fair that her feast should be enjoyed with extra enthusiasm!

Her day of honour begins naturally, with Holy Mass in the beautiful, ancient village church, which dates back stoically to 1785. This will be followed by a performance of the traditional Ball Pagés in the village square, the traditional, folk dance of Ibiza with its roots buried within the mists of time.

Later on in the evening, from 9pm, there will be music and dancing with live performances from Nuria B's Jazz Soul Bossa quartet and Pota Lait with the celebrations continuing way past midnight. This fab, free event is sure to be a wonderful day out and a great way to enjoy a classically beautiful autumn day in Ibiza.

WORDS | Jane Charilaou

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