Need to know - San Valero
Updated: Jan 28
San Valero: Patron Saint of Zaragoza. Feast Day January 29
Christmas! The eating indulgence festival that refuses to die! Here in Zaragoza the enthusiasm for event based eating continues right to the end of January with the feast of San Valero, when we all meet with the family, eat gambas and so on but then indulge in another round of roscón.
What is this Roscón you speak of?
This is a ring of sweet bread, much like a large donut sliced in half, filled with cream or custard and decorated with desiccated fruit. The tradition of Roscón consumption on San Valero is not as old as people may want to believe and dates back a mere quarter of a century when the local council started serving a giant Roscon in Plaza Pilar.
So, San Valero, or Saint Valerius. Who was he? A baker?
Not that we know of. Valerius was the Bishop of Zaragoza from 290AD until his martyrdom in 315AD. We know very little about him, there not being many records that have survived from that period but it is widely believed that he had a speech impediment that meant the Deacon, Vincent of Zaragoza acted as his spokesman.
What do we know about him?
Both men were imprisoned by Roman Emperor Diocletian who persecuted Christians in a variety of unpleasant and foul ways.
You heard me right, Diocletian, Roman Emperor of the East. He was from Split in modern day Croatia and….
Sorry, In the East?
Hush now, look him up on Wikipedia and learn about the rise of the Byzantium Empire.
Is that not an episode of Doctor Who?
Shall we return to the topic of San Valero?
So, Vincent, remember him? He was martyred in Valencia but Valerius was exiled to Enet, near Barbastro, but is recorded as being present at the Council of Elvira around 306.
Ok, hang on…How did he communicate if his spokesman had been killed and while we are at it…the Council of Elvira? How did early 90’s computer game characters sneak into early Catholic history?
Sigh….The Synod or Council of Elvira was a meeting in modern day Granada at a place called Eliberri, hence the name. They agreed 81 canons regarding order, discipline and conduct. Canon 36 forbade the use of images in churches that was to be one of the major issues of contention after the Protestant Reformation many centuries later. We do not know how Valerius communicated without Vincent, perhaps he was the unintentional inventor of dinner party charades.
Anything more to tell?
Not really, it is all a bit unclear, to be honest. His relics were discovered around 1050 and are kept in a chapel dedicated to him in La Seo Cathedral in Zaragoza. It is an impressive baroque monument to him, Vincent and Lawrence.
Wait…Lawrence, who was he?
Can’t help you there, either Vincent’s replacement or the man who invented Roscón?
Well, thanks for nothing! So what events take place?
As with most festival days in Zaragoza it is known as an “open door” day where Council museums and galleries are all open for free and there is the giant Roscón in Plaza Pilar. 2017 was fraught with controversy as our bank holiday had been moved to October to create a longer Bank Holiday over the Pilar festival. This annoyed the traditionalists, but what with the weather in January, it was not really a great loss. “San Valero rosconero y ventolero” as they say here in Zaragoza
“San Valero rosconero y ventolero”, Saint Valerius, for Roscón makers and those who enjoy a lot of wind or something like that….
No, not that nonsense, they STOLE our bank holiday?
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but we had to get out of bed on Monday back in 2017
Valerius must be turning in his grave…
He is not in a grave.
Well, glad that is all so much clearer.
EDITORS NOTE: Bulldogz are pleased to confirm the bank holiday was reinstated after the outcry in 2017
Find the Bulldogz classroom resources for San Valero here
Enjoy our Roscon video :