Today I’m going to introduce you Hairy Willy. He’s a very important person in the Catalan History, in fact, he is believed to be the founder of Catalonia.
Wilfred the Hairy was a franc (people living in France in that time) knight. He was living happily ever after in the area of France in that time. However when the moors came from Africa and started to advance closer and closer to them, Wilfred was called on to stop them. He did this with great success and quickly established his realm in the area that is today Catalonia. This all happened at the end of the 880’s sometime.
He was called Hairy because according to the legend he had hair all over his body, even on his face and on his hands. Here’s a picture of him that is depicted on the side of the Cathedral. No, he’s not wearing a T-shirt, he’s actually that hairy!
Because of him the Catalans believe that their history is much longer than that of Spain’s and they never fail to take pride in this. He’s even connected to the Catalan flag! According to the legend, he was sitting on his throne wounded after a battle when the Frankish king visited him. He claimed that he would give Wilfred a new coat of arms. He did this by sticking four of his fingers in Willy’s wound and pulled them across his golden shield making the Senyera, the Catalan flag.
I found this on the side of a building, I think this flag really shows the finger marks.
There is another legend about Hairy Willy (a man of many talents). As we all know, it was the fashion at that time for knights to slay dragons left, right and center and Willy was no exception.
The moors had enough of Willy’s successes and brought a dragon from Africa. As dragons tend to do, it soon started eating people. Fear not, our hero was there to save the day. He didn’t just use his sword, no, that would be too boring. He actually pulled a tree out and beat the dragon with it! What a man! If you look at the photo of him above again, can you see his arm? No, that’s not a sword, that’s a tree.
There was another big saint who became a dragon slayer celebrity. Who else could it be but St. George! The Catalans are obviously impressed by dragon slaying so they adopted St. George to be their patron saint.
Look at these flags. They are merrily waving on the top of the house of the President of Catalonia (yes, they even have a president). There is the Catalan flag with its golden-red stripes trying hard not to get too close to the Spanish flag. And finally, there’s the flag of Barcelona, the four quarters made up of the mixture of the Catalan and the St. George’s flag.
The reason we needed to look at Willy and his friends, especially St. George is that tomorrow is La Dia de Sant Jordi, St. George’s day.