Friday 22 May is the saint’s day for Santa Rita (St Rita) and the Convent de Sant Agustí in the El Raval neighbourhood will be playing host to a truly special party: hundreds of parishioners will be venerating the saint’s relics throughout the day and offering them red roses, as St Rita is the patron saint of travelling flower sellers and impossible cases. The event is made the most of by believers, mainly women, who leave a blessed flower at the foot of the relics and request a wish from the saint. This year, the party has been suspended due to the coronavirus crisis.
Each year, a large number of stalls selling roses, pictures and lamps can be found outside the convent. So many people turn up there that the parish’s chaplain has to bless roses every half an hour. Armed with their blessed flowers, the faithful queue up to lay them next to the relics, which are in an urn at the side of the altar. Tradition has it, what is more, that whoever keeps a petal from a blessed flower will have luck and money for the rest of the year.
The St Rita of Cascia cult was introduced to Barcelona by Augustine friars, who brought the saint’s relics over with them. According to the legend, Rita was a 14th century woman who was abused by her husband. When she tried to enter a convent she was refused because she was married but, to demonstrate her goodness, she made a rose bush flower in the middle of winter. Roses have been the saint’s main attribute ever since, being a flower that Christianity also associates with the Virgin Mary.