The festival of San Fermín or Sanfermines (Sanferminnak in Basque) is an annual celebration in honor of Saint Fermín, held in the City of Pamplona, the capital of Navarre. The festivities begin with the launch of the chupinazo (a rocket) from the balcony of Pamplona City Hall at 12 noon on July 6, and ends at midnight on July 14 with Pobre de mí (poor me) the farewell song.
The Bull Run
One of the most popular activities in San Fermín is the Bull Run, which is an 849m long route of people running in front of the bulls to lead them into the bullring. The events start at 8.00am every day between 7 and 14 July and lasts butween 2 and 3 minutes, on average.
The festival dates back several centuries, but its fame in a recent phenomenon, being popularized by Ernest Hemingway. It is a unique festival, and the reason why Pamplona is known throughout the world. Pamplona’s current position, as a cosmopolitan and bustling city, is the result of a slow historical evolution dating back to the Middle Ages.
The origins of the festival can be traced back to 3 separate events: the religious ceremonies in honor of Saint Fermín, dating from before the 12th century, and the trade fairs and bullfights, both documented since the 14th century. The church celebrated the festival of Saint Fermín, the patron Saint of Navarre, on October 10. However, tired of the inclement weather in the autumn, in 1591 the city of Pamplona asked the bishop to move the celebration to July 7, to which the prelate agreed. At that time, fairs were held in Pamplona with bullfights. Thus, there was an overlap between the religious celebration and the bustling fairs, in which the bulls played and essential role. For a long time it was believed that the festival of Saint Fermín was celebrated on September 24.The celebration of the patron Saint of the City, Saint Saturnin, is a much more modest affair, on November 29. Many visitors in fact wrongly think that San Fermín is the patron saint of the city.
Another mistaken belief is to think that Saint Fermín is only Pamplona´s patron saint, when it is in fact for all Navarre – and honour it shares with Saint Francis of Xavier. The Patron Saint of Pamplona is San Saturnine or Cernin, a bishop and martyr of Toulouse.
The American writer, Ernest Hemingway, was one of those who contributed to popularising the festival in his book Fiesta. The population of Pamplona during the festival week goes from 190,000 to over 1,000,000 people.
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