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It is not all that clear how the connection between the city of Córdoba and San Rafael begun, but I will do my best to explain it. First of all, many believe that San Rafael is the patron Saint of Córdoba: it means a festive day, the city is filled with sculptures and other representations of this Saint and of course Rafael is the most popular name for boys in the city; that would easily lead anyone to believe so. San Rafael, at many levels, acts as a true patron Saint but is not.

The true patron Saints of the city are Asciclo and Victoria, both ancient martyrs, some say the first martyrs of the city, of whom no one talks about, and who have their festive day every 17th of November, a day that is commonly forgotten by most citizens of Córdoba and that will only be considered a festive day on Sundays. Furthermore, they have to share the patronage with the Virgin Mary of the Fuensanta (Holy Fountain), a Virgin that appeared in the XVth century and created great devotion. To add further confusion to the mix, this Virgin has her day the 8th of September. All in all, Córdoba has three patron Saints and none of them is San Rafael.

In that case, who is this San Rafael and why did he become so important to the city? We all know the official story of the Archangel: how he fed fish to a starving city, Tobías, his blind father and the gills that miraculously healed his eyes. However, San Rafael in Córdoba is better known for an other miracle happened the 7th of May of the year 1578. Father Roelas, was certain that during a black plague epidemic the Archangel revealed himself to him and said: “I swear on Jesus Christ Crucified that I am Rafael, the Angel that God has chosen to guard this city.” A church was then built in the same place the Archangel revealed himself and the church was named “San Rafael’s Oath”. Back then, revelations where as common as pop singers these days. Needless to say, after the revelation of San Rafael the plague ended in a few days. To honor him the city built statues and named him the non official Saint and guardian of the city. His true tittle is “Custodian Angel of the city”.

But this was not the only time San Rafael appeared before father Roelas, because a while later he again revealed himself to him to point out that certain bones found in the Church of San Pedro were in fact relics. From that day onward those remains were safe-kept in a silver urn in that same temple. How lucky can one man get!

To add even further confusion, we, the citizens of Córdoba, celebrate San Rafael using an outdated Book of Saints and not the current Novus Ordo Missae. Therefore, San Rafael is celebrated the 24th of October in Córdoba and the 29th of September anywhere else. So, this official festive day of the city does not match the current Book of Saints nor is the patron Saint of the city. Pure Córdoba idiosyncrasy!

What can I say, in a city where a quarter of the population is named Rafael or go by the name of Falete, Rafalete, Falillo, Rafaela…, well, there is a lot to celebrate. Also, that day we all gather in our brother-in-law’s country state and we cook a nice Perol: the Perol. A dish that should not be confused with the Paella. It is cooked in a perola, which is a wide pot but deeper that the one used to cook Paella, and comes with a lot of ingredients besides rice: rabbit and pork meat, field beans, artichokes… The Perol is a Córdoba Sunday tradition and needs not to be related to any Saint. Any given weekend in Spring, Autumn even Winter offers a great opportunity to gather friends and family and sit around a nice Perol.

Happy Saint Day to all the Rafaeles and Rafaelas of the World!

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