Saint Dominic’s Fair is 760 years old!
A myriad of street performances, concerts, and stands with curiosities and souvenirs – despite the pandemic, the Saint Dominic’s Fair is still going strong in Gdańsk and for the 760th time!
The fair’s tradition dates back to 1260 and Pope Alexander IV’s decree of August 4th.
The 23-day-long event is one of the largest open-air cultural and trade events in Poland. Even with safety measures caused by the coronavirus, visitors can expect 650 stalls with all kinds of goods in the Old and Main Town of Gdańsk.
The tradition started after the canonization of Saint Dominic. Dominic de Guzman (1170-1221), the founder of the Dominican Order, was a Castilian priest. A believer in humble life, the saint abstained from eating meat, observed many fasts, limited his possession of material goods, and dedicated himself to prayer.
These strict rules would become the foundation of his Order of Preachers, which was established to fulfil the spiritual needs of the city residents growing numbers and provide education. Dominic was declared saint 13 years after his death by Pope Gregory IX.
A celebration in Saint Dominic’s name was entered into the Roman Catholic Church’s calendar and held in August. A feast focused on prayer and entertainment evolved into a medieval fair with fun and trade such as a market square, shows by masters of artistic metalwork or bread day.
The city of Gdańsk quickly adopted the tradition – the event became a special time for the town and attracted merchants for neighbouring countries (even 400 ships would enter the port for the fair), nobility, and even the king.
To this day, the attractions include mini-parades, circus performers, acrobats, jugglers, musicians, street theatres, and clowns. On over 600 stalls, sellers offer antiques, works of art, regional products such as the famous Toruń gingerbread, Kashubian ceramics, Czech glass, special vodka – Goldwasser, handmade jewellery, silvers, coins, shells, and, of course, amber.
In its long history, the fair’s organization was halted only by the outbreak of World War II. Even the Teutonic knights plundering the city and killing the fair’s participant in 1310 didn’t stop it. However, the war broke the tradition for 33 years – until 1972 when it was reinstated.
This year’s fair lasts until August 16th. Apart from the stalls spread out on 21 streets of Gdańsk’s Old Town, the programme includes concerts, theatre performances, local food tastings and special events for children.
For the first time in history, the fair was opened during an online ceremony, with the President of Gdańsk Aleksandra Dulkiewicz passing the keys to the city to the fair’s representative accompanied by a bugle call composed of 760 notes – each for every year since the event’s beginning.