A Street Altar in Valencia

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.)


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19 thoughts on “A Street Altar in Valencia

  1. interesting post! I love plays.Sana nakakaintindi aq ng spanish. Looks like the video is nice.. Children, plays and costumes. Amazing. 😉

  2. Altar .. .it looks like a side of a structure. Looks cool though.

    So all in all, how long were you in Spain? Did you go there multiple times, different times or just once in a long time?

    • Well it IS the side of the basilica. And it did look like an altar, with statues of saints and stained glass.

      As to your question, all of the above. 🙂

    • Thanks! 🙂
      I tried to research on the significance of the # 13 but realized after several articles that I’ll probably only get the answer from someone in Valencia. 🙂

  3. Valencia is just gorgeous Tita, I can’t wait to see it. Your photos have me wanting to visit now!! 13 must have some significance and I am extremely curious to find out why that number is so important.

    • I was sifting through the pictures I have of the old city and i don’t know how I can make it fit in one post! There’s so many wonderful buildings and corners to feature. Valencia really is beautiful and a pedestrian’s dream. 🙂

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