When: Annually, in late April
Where: Alcoy, Valencia
Remember to bring: Either a Moor or a Christian costume – bear in mind that the Christians always win!
Where’s the Party?
Every year, the Moorish occupation and Spanish re-conquest of the Iberian peninsula is celebrated throughout Southern Spain. Nowhere is the re-enactment as spectacular as in Alcoy, 28 miles north of Alicante.
What Happens at the Fiesta de Moros y Christianos?
In late April each year, a papier-mache castle is erected in the town’s main plaza and the townsfolk re-enact the confrontation between the Moorish (Muslim) and Christian leaders.
On the first day of the festival, the townsfolk flock to take part in the colourful parades which weave their way through the streets of Alcoy. They spend a great deal of time making their costumes together, and curiously everyone is vying to be a Moor, as their tribal costumes are the most colourful and exotic.
The second day of the festival is St. Georges Day. On this day, the religious aspects of the festival are remembered, when the relics of the Saint are removed from the Church of Santa Maria and returned with high drama to the temple. That evening there’s a spectacular firework display and Valencian fallas or effigies are burned on huge bonfires in the town.
On the final day of the fiesta, a furious battle takes place on the streets of Alcoy. When the Christian leaders tear up the Moors’ demands, a horse messenger spreads the word of impending war, and the battle begins. For hours the two armies flood through the streets letting off blunderbusses that are so loud they can be heard for miles around. Before noon the Moors succeed in seizing the castle. However in the afternoon, after a child dressed as Alcoy’s Holy Patron, St. George makes an timely appearance on the battlements, the Christians re-gain control of the castle and the battle is won.
What’s the history of the Festival?
This festival commemorates a famous battle held in this city in 1276 between the Christian ruler and the Moorish captain Al Athrak. The story goes that on the point of losing the city to the Moors, St. George appeared on a white charger and turned the Christians’ fate around.
The proceedings have changed little for 700 years, closely following the sequence of events recorded immediately after the battle: the Moors seize the castle in the morning and the Christians win it back again in the afternoon.
One year, about 10 years ago, the Moorish team decided they were not prepared to give up the castle so easily and locked themselves in to celebrate their victory with plenty of food and drink. The outraged Christians were forced to call the police and the Guardia Civil so that the course of history wouldn’t be altered forever.
Valencia Municipal Tourist Office
Patronato Municpal de Turismo
Hermana Carmelita, 2
Tel: +34 962 95 92 85
Fax: +34 962 95 94 87
Comprehensive site containing information on the Valencia region of Spain – the climate, culture and customs.
Further information about the festival
By Jess Halliday