Barcelona Saint Anthony the Abbot
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Barcelona Saint Anthony the Abbot

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Local Festivity in Barcelona Saint Anthony the Abbot

For nearly 10 days in January, the streets of Barcelona’s popular neighbourhood Sant Antoni are filled with festivities to celebrate Saint Anthony the Abbot, the patron saint not only of the neighbourhood, but of animals.

Many centuries later his legacy is still celebrated with a mass on the Sunday closest to the anniversary of his death. This special congregation is filled with animals and their caregivers who bring them along to receive a priest’s blessing. In Barcelona, this takes place in the neighbourhood of Sant Antoni near where the Church of Saint Anthony once stood, which is how the neighbourhood got its name and patron saint.

This religious celebration aims to connect humans and other animals and can be a joyful event for all. However, while the event aims to benefit animals with blessings, from an animal wellbeing perspective it is important to consider and evaluate the perspective of the animal.

What does the dog, the cat, the parrot, or other animals we may have as companion animals in our homes, think and feel about the large crowds, all the sounds, smells and sights? These can be overwhelming and stressful for some individuals. Before attending this, or any event (including daily outings onto the street) with the animal you care for, consider whether this will be a positive welfare experience.

We encourage all to pay close attention to what the animal in your care is telling you though body language, sounds, and other ways he or she communicates. Every species, and every individual has her/his own ways of expressing joy, anxiety, fear, or curiosity. We want this to be nice and fun, and so do the animals!

Who was Saint Anthony? He was born in mid-3rd century Egypt where he spent the majority of his life in the desert in near-complete isolation with only animals for company. Considered the founder of Christian monastic asceticism, the practice of the denial of physical or psychological desires in order to attain a spiritual ideal or goal.

Around the age of 20 he sold all of his possessions to benefit charity before leaving for the desert to pursue solitude, which he believed to be the only successful method to purify a person from evil tendencies. Over the years, word spread about the devout holy life he led, inspiring many to follow in his footsteps and seek his guidance. Those followers are thought to be the first monastic Christians and they gave Anthony a platform to disseminate his ideas that included and emphasised a deep respect for all animals. Saint Anthony died on 17 January after more than 100 years of life, nearly 80 of which were spent in isolation.