The Legend Behind Pamplona’s Famous ‘Running Of The Bulls’ Festival And How It Originated

Image of the 'running of the bulls' in Pamplona, Navarra.

Image of the 'running of the bulls' in Pamplona, Navarra. Credit: Btodag/Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0

The San Fermín festival is celebrated annually in the city of Pamplona, in Navarra, and is one of the biggest in Spain.

It started this Thursday, July 6, and will continue until July 14. The festival is of course recognised globally for its traditional ‘running of the bulls‘, in memory of San Fermin, the co-patron saint of Navarra.

This is an event that attracts tourists and locals who believe they can outrun an enormous bull, and it can often be very dangerous. Serious gorings have occurred in the past when the bull has managed to make contact with these ‘adrenalin junkies’.

The festival and its tradition of bull running supposedly date back to the third century and a martyr named Ferminius. He was a Roman Christian, born in the city of Pamplona, and the son of a Roman Senator, Firmo.

Saturninus is believed to have baptised the whole family

History leads us to believe that Saint Honestus, a disciple of the great Saint Saturninus, converted the whole of Firmo’s family to Christianity.

This event is said to have occurred in Pamplona, at what is today known as the ‘Small Well of Saint Saturninus’. They were even allegedly baptised by the bishop Saturninus himself.

According to legend, Ferminius subsequently travelled to Toulouse in France where he was ordained as a priest. During a missionary trip to the city of Amiens in northern France, Ferminius was persecuted and ultimately beheaded on September 25, 303 AD. A feast in his memory was celebrated on July 7.

Saturninus later became the first bishop of Toulouse in 250 AD. Legend again has him being martyred around 257 AD. His feet were allegedly tied to a bull and the animal dragged him to his death.

Fermin’s body was found in a tomb under the Abbey of Saint-Acheul

In 1085, the Abbey of Saint-Acheul was founded in Amiens, on the supposed tomb of Fermin. Legend says that the body of Fermin was discovered in this tomb and that Bishop Salvius of Amiens arranged for his remains to be transferred to Amiens Cathedral.

During the Middle Ages, great religious and economic importance was placed on the legend of Fermin. In 1196, it was decided to mark the return of certain relics from Amiens to Pamplona that were associated with their native son, with an annual festival.

Bull running and bullfights were subsequently included and over the centuries the festival gradually developed into what is experienced nowadays.

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Written by

Chris King

Originally from Wales, Chris spent years on the Costa del Sol before moving to the Algarve where he is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at editorial@euroweeklynews.com

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