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03 December 2023

Spanish pets head to church

A dog waits to be blessed by a priest during the festival of San Anton in Madrid. Hundreds of pet owners around Spain flock to church to have their pets blessed on the day of San Anton, the patron saint of domestic animals. (AFP)


Dogs, cats and hamsters trooped into churches across Spain on Monday in search of blessing on Saint Anthony's Day, for the patron saint of animals.

"Lord, bless this animal that Saint Antonio may protect it from all ailments," said Juan Villa, priest at the Church of San Anton in Madrid as he sprinkled holy water on pets presented by their owners.

After their blessing, the animals did the "walk of the Saint," a procession through several streets in the Madrid district of Chueca.

Nearby the queue of faithful waiting to present their pets, there was another queue at a church window for bread rolls, baked according to a secret recipe that keeps them soft.

Each parishioner received three buns, one of which is traditionally kept for a year alongside a coin to ensure work and health and to guarantee the blessing of the saint.

The festival has been celebrated in Madrid since the 19th century with only a few breaks. It is also held in other parts of Spain such as in the Balearic Islands and Burgos.