ONCE a year, on January 17th, a strange crowd gathers on a street in the elegant Chueca neighborhood of Madrid.
For several hours, unusual pilgrims gather at the door of the Church of San Antón, as it is the festivity of the patron saint of animals and the day when the priests offer a blessing to the city’s beloved pets.
Some trot on leashes, others are carried in the arms of their owners. Many are dressed in coats, sweaters or have ribbons or scarves around their necks.
They all have fur or feathers and are here for the priests to sprinkle with holy water.
Then Hortaleza Street was closed to traffic to make way for the larger four-legged animals that came, as they did with Noah’s Ark, two by two.
A mass was held inside the church where pets were also welcomed, while outside parishioners lined up to buy specially baked rolls for St. Anton in packs of three, one of which is traditionally saved throughout the day. year along with a coin to bring health and prosperity.
The festival dates back to the 19th century and is celebrated in different ways across Spain, including a controversial “purification” ceremony in which horses are passed through llamas.