A combination of tradition, spectacle and fun at Menorca’s most iconic summer fiesta
At the summer solstice, Ciutadella celebrates the Fiestas of Sant Joan. The stately city of palaces is transformed when skilful riders and beautiful horses, festooned for the occasion, take to the streets to become the stars of a celebration that deserves to be experienced at least once in a lifetime.
The Fiestas of Sant Joan de Ciutadella make up one of the most iconic, spectacular and participatory festivals in the Balearic Islands. The main festivities centre on the days of 23 and 24 June, although the celebrations get underway on the previous Sunday, the Dia des Be.
The festivities are spread over three days and governed by a strict protocol, where the main social classes of Ciutadella’s bygone era are represented: the Church (caixer capellà), the aristocracy (caixer senyor), the craftsmen (caixer casat i caixer fadrí) and the farmers (caixers pagesos).
The most eagerly awaited spectacle of Ciutadella’s annual fiestas is the Caragol del Born, when more than one hundred elegantly bedecked riders make their entry into the majestic Plaça des Born. Passing among the expectant crowd, the horses rear up on their hind legs as a symbol of power and nobility.
The first caragol takes place on 23 June, when the riders parade on horseback around the Plaça del Born, followed by the procession of caixers to the Hermitage of Sant Joan de Missa, and the traditional ‘war of hazelnuts’. The Day of Sant Joan (St. John) marks the culmination of the festivities. One of the highlights of this day are the Jocs des Pla, medieval equestrian events that take place at dusk, where riders display their prowess in tests of their skills such as spearing rings with a lance or galloping along in parallel, trying to destroy a shield decorated with a mask (ses carotes). And when this is finished, the crowd rushes in to grab pieces of the trophy, so be prepared if you want to join in.
The fiestas offer a perfect excuse and spectacular backdrop for discovering Ciutadella, the ancient capital of Menorca, with its charming old town, grand palaces, Church of Santa Maria, avenue of Sa Contramurada and, of course, the Plaça des Born, where you can join in most of the festivities.
On 24 June, the fiestas come to a close with a firework display.