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Fair of Our Lady of Health

The origin of the Fair of Our Lady of Health goes back to 1284, when King Sancho IV granted the Council of Córdoba the privilege to hold two cattle fairs a year, one on Pentecost and the other one in Lent, lasting for fifteen days each. In 1422, the Pentecost fair started to be celebrated in the first days of May. Later on, the Catholic Monarchs reaffirmed the celebration of both fairs and, in 1556, Felipe II ratified the royal privilege granted by Sancho IV two centuries earlier.

The fair actually started to be called of Our Lady of Health in 1665, when two farmers found the image of a small Virgin in a well located opposite Puerta de Sevilla (Seville Gate), whose waters are said to give back health to all those sick who drink it. In order to commemorate the discovery, a small chapel was erected there and it became a fair, which took place the first days of Pentecost.

In 1790, the timetable of the fair was reduced to 10 in the evening under a Royal Order, due to some commotion during it. in 1803, the fair was moved to Puerta Gallegos, as they wanted to have it closer to the bull ring in Campo de la Merced. However, its final location was Victoria Gardens since 1820. In 1895, the Brotherhood of Farmers requested the fair to be changed to the 25th May and, although their request was approved, this does not prevail until 1905, and it continues up to our days. At the beginning of the 20th century some important events took place during the fair, such as the Regional Exhibition of Industry and Art, held in 1904, or the First Aviation Show by René Barrier and René Simón in 1910.

When José Cruz Conde became mayor in 1924, electricity was first used at the May Fair, and the first private stands appeared. The chronicle of that year tells: “…thousands of lamps with coloured-paper shades, hanging laces, crossed in all directions, like bright flowery garlands, giving it a truly beautiful appearance“.

In 1934, Jiménez Lora wrote in the newspaper “El Comercio de Córdoba“: “…in the place where the gardens of Duque de Rivas are today, show stalls were set, the buñolerías, whose framework was closed by the long row of stalls with toys, sweets and jewelery, which also extended along the other pavement of Paseo de la Victoria Street. (…) Puerta de Gallegos was artistically and richly decorated, and at night, the light, which was less magnificent than today, surrounded the area in a crepuscular and poetic colour of calm and Andalusian night under the full moon of bloomed May…

The following year, the director of “El Comercio de Córdoba” wrote: “…Market mornings with their typical scenes of Gypsy deals, tricks and wit; a parade of brave horses, harnessed carriages, magnificent vehicles, Flamenco riders, horsewomen wearing the typical hat from Córdoba, posh mares from Cañero, dealers’ shops and all the confusing jubilation of the fair, with its curses and laughter, its announcements or songs, under a blinding sun (…) The eathernware pitchers makers -foreigners who arrived in the city on trains specially called “pitcher trains”, invade the paths; there is talk about bulls and bullfighters. Jazz band can be heard in the aristocratic Stall of Friendship, where couples dance tirelessly; (…) on the fine glasses we can see the brightness of our wines, which inject heat, cheerfulness and eloquence in our veins; before the astonished eyes female sculptures pass, showing off their first summer clothes (,,,) and, lastly, the warm and spring nights when the fair shines as an alive golden ember (…) It is not the placid and calm Córdoba described by Séneca or the discreet one Baroja talked about, it is a boiling city, passionate and Andalusian which magically transforms in these days, injecting in its veins the virus of vertigo and the vitality of youth and cheerfulness…“.

The stalls at the May Fair are meeting places, most of them traditionally set up by brotherhoods of Holy Week, groups, associations, Students’ Unions, public institutions…

On the other hand, the making of fair posters is more than a hundred years old, as, at the end of the 19th century, the City Council encouraged artists of the time to enter a poster contest, and some renowned artists took place, such as Julio Romero de Torres.

In 1994, after several complaints, they decided to finally move it to the Fairground of Arenal, a place which offers the visitor something older locations in the city lacked: space. We citizens from Córdoba can proudly say we have a space appropriate to the needs of the event.

If you wish to know the Fair of Our Lady of Health do not hesitate to hire one of our guided tours. We are experts in the interpretation of the historical heritage from Córdoba. If you have chosen to do sightseeing in Córdoba, choose a high quality option, choose ArtenCórdoba.

Text: J.A.S.C.

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