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Almost all inhabitants of Formentera are Roman Catholics, although secularisation is rapidly gaining ground in this once Catholic stronghold. Traditions and old customs come alive during fiestas, festivals and pilgrimages. Many fiestas have religious origins and Mary is often the centre of attention.
Famous are the "romerías", processions where the island's Roman Catholic faithful, watched by thousands of tourists, carry the image of a saint through the streets of a town or village or to a shrine on top of a mountain. On 16 July, in the harbours of Es Pujols and La Savin, the 'Fiestas de la Virgen del Carmen' (Our Lady of the Sea) is celebrated, a feast in honour of the patron saint of sailors. On that day, people go out to sea in all kinds of boats and crafts and take a statue of the saint with them.
The most important festival is that of the patron saint Saint Jaume, which is celebrated on 25 July. Increasingly popular is also the feast in honour of 'Santa Maria of the 5th of August'.
The costume of Formentera includes a necklace made of silver, gold and coral from which hangs a medallion with an image of Maria. The 'emprenada' is given to girls during their first communion.
The island's main church is the Església de Sant Francesc Xavier. Like many churches built in the 18th century, it served as a defensive structure and is therefore also called a fortress church. The church is therefore typically shaped; rectangular, massive walls, few windows, one nave, a semicircular barrel vault and iron doors.
Saint Francis Xavier was a Portuguese missionary who went to India (Goa) and China in the 16th century to preach the word of God.
The oldest place of worship on the island is the Capella de Sa Tanca Vella from the 14th century.
Mallorca & Ibiza, Menorca & Formentera
Mischke, R. / Ibiza, Formentera
Rokebrand, R. / Reishandboek Ibiza en Formentera
Sale, R. / Ibiza & Formentera
Schmid, N. / Ibiza, Formentera
CIA - World Factbook
BBC - Country Profiles
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