Street altars are a major part of the festivities during the fiesta de San Vicente Ferrer in Valencia, Spain.
As elaborate and grand as a real altar, a Valencian street altar is constructed complete with religious symbols and imagery but it is not one intended for prayer.
Its purpose is to serve as a stage backdrop (elaborate, grand props if you will) for a children’s play.
Part of a centuries-old tradition in the Valencian community, thirteen such street altars are built all around the city during the fiesta and a play is performed on each of them. (Pictured here is probably the most popular among them, the one at the Basilica de la Virgen de los Desamparados or Basilica of Our Lady of the Forsaken at the Plaza de la Virgen.)
The 13 plays re-enact various episodes in the life of San Vicente or stories about the numerous miracles attributed to him. Only children below 13 years of age may take part in the plays. (You are probably wondering what the significance of the number 13 is to San Vicente’s life. The truth is, so am I, heh.)
The plays, at least the one we witnessed, are far from the usual schoolplays where costumes are everything and some nervous parents stand to the side mouthing the lines and miming along with the kids. Valencia’s ‘street altars’ are performed with such relish and skill by the children that despite the fact that I understood next to nothing (the language used is Valencian), I found the production absolutely delightful.
Watch this short (wobbly) video and be charmed. (Note: The little figure in black, the boy with the feathered cap in one of the pictures above, is the lead actor and he has talent in spades.)
And now … comment away. I promise you won’t get unwanted email notifications from this blog.