20 things you didn’t know about the 35-year-old tradition of the Dragon of Gràcia

This year the Dragon of Gràcia, the city’s eldest fire beast, turns 35 years old. To celebrate, the Casa de la Festa de la Violeta is holding an exhibition until October 18. There will be many anecdotes about the history of this dragon, who, for the past 35 years has danced in over hundreds of squares across the region and participated in dozens of correfocs (fire runs).

How are some examples:

  • The Dragon of Gràcia is the oldest active figure in Barcelona’s bestiary.
  • You must go back to the start of the 1980s to find the origins of this dragon in a design competition organised by the Gràcia Council’s Culture Department.
  • The winner was artist Néstor Pellicer and the craftsmen Josep Cardona and Agustí Sevillano (from the El Ingenio store in the Gothic neighbourhood) turned his model into the real thing.
  • The Dragon of Gràcia was exhibited for the first time on St George’s Day in 1982 at the l’Artesà Civic Centre, where the Tradicionàrius Crafts Centre is now located.
  • However, it didn’t make its first appearance as a fire beast until some months later:  On August 15 of the same year as part of Gràcia’s big annual festival.
  • Since it is one of the city’s oldest figures, it has had to be restored several times. First, for the 1992 Olympic Games, when it was repainted and part of its head was remade.
  • Second, in 1999, when the damaged parts of the papier-mâché were repaired and the wooden structure supporting it was strengthened.
  • In 2004, the artist Dolors Sans made a lighter replica from aluminium and fibreglass, making its movements more agile and elegant.
  • To distinguish it from the original, this version was called the Young Dragon of Gràcia.
  • The new version is much lighter: It “only” weighs 120 kg.
  • The dimensions are: 3 metres long, 2.5 metres wide and 1.2 metre high.
  • With its weight and size like that, it must be carried by two people.
  • The figure has been classified as a “crawling dragon” by the artist and folklorist Jordi Pablo and together with “Gaudiamus” from the Coll neighbourhood’s devils, it is the city’s best specimen of this type of fire beast.
  • It has four fire spurts, all on its mouth, and its tale and wings are detachable.
  • One of its distinguishing features is a small bell at the end of its tail. During the correfocs, this bell is rung to warn the audience that the beast is about to be lit.
  • The bell has a very local significance: it represents Gràcia’s bell tower, which, during the Quintes revolt in 1870, didn’t stop ringing, inciting the people to come out and join the struggle.
  • Among the changes made to the dragon’s design, the most important are the iron wings and its clothing. The latter were originally made from wood and cardboard and are now painted with different tones of blue.
  • The festival group in charge of making the dragon dance is the Colla del Drac de Gràcia Cultural Association, which was founded solely for this purpose.
  • It has more than 30 members with a large variety of roles: the carriers who stand inside the dragon, the guides who drive it, the lighters of the fireworks, the bell-ringer, the suppliers, the cart carrier and a dozen drummers.
  • Every year it has been the godfather of several of the city’s beasts such as Sagresaure from the Sagrera neighbourhood, the dragons of Sarrià and Poblenou, and the now obsolete dragon from the Turó de la Peira neighbourhood. Its godchildren also include dragons from Sabadell, Terrassa and Martorell.

The exhibition is open from Monday to Friday 9.00 am to 1.00 pm and 4.00 pm to 11.00 pm. And weekends from 10.00 am to 11.00 pm.