In Alcoy, history, legend and spectacle come together in a celebration full of sparkle and fantasy. The festival of Moors and Christians is the most important event of the year in Alcoy. It is dedicated to San Jorge, a figure shrouded in ancestral traditions. The festival dates back to the 16th century and commemorates a battle which was fought in 1276.
At that time, Alcoy was on the border of the Muslim-held territories of Spain. There were frequent skirmishes between the two factions until, on 23 April 1276, the Arab troops of Al-Azraq attempted to storm the town. According to legend, San Jorge appeared during the battle and, thanks to his intervention, the Christian army won the day, forcing the Muslims to retreat and never to return. In recognition of his timely intercession, the townsfolk of Alcoy made him their patron saint and promised to hold a festival in his honour.
Every year, the city recaptures the style of the Middle Ages to celebrate its ‘fiesta mayor’. On the first day, there is a spectacular procession of Moors and Christians: the different groups that make up each army march majestically through the streets of Alcoy resplendently attired in their elaborate costumes. Around 5,000 people take part in this highly popular event. On the second day, numerous different events are held in honour of San Jorge.
Tomorrow, on the 24th, is the Day of the Alardo (mock battle) – a huge battle, reenactment of a battle won by Christians in 1276, is fought in Plaza de España square in a specially-built castle that represents the city. The Muslim troops approach the castle in an attempt to persuade the Christians to surrender, but the offer is rejected and the ensuing battle ends with the Moors taking over the stronghold. In the afternoon, the Christian army returns and succeeds in retaking the castle. Then, after unsuccessfully negotiating a surrender, the final battle begins in which the Moors are ultimately defeated. In the evening, San Jorge appears on horseback and marks the end of the three days of festivities.
The festivities in Alcoy have been declared to be of international touristic interest. Find more information on Alcoy’s official tourists’ website.
Cover photo: Alcoyturismo