Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Tuesday 13 April |
Saint of the Day: Pope St. Martin I
home iconTravel
line break icon

“Book towns” that pay constant homage to St. George



Fjærland is a Norwegian book town, with book shops situated in old cow sheds and pigpens; there are also book shops on the ferry quay and in the Hotel Mundal.

Daniel Esparza - published on 04/23/17

Attracting bibliophiles from Spain to Norway, “book towns” are part of a slow but steady revival of rural Europe.

No matter how minutely one goes through the hundreds of different stories woven around the legendary figure of St. George, from Aragon to England, and from Lebanon to Catalonia, there is not a single anecdote that might help us relate the beloved saint to the noble pastime of reading. In fact, the European tradition that invites us to give a book to a loved one on St. George’s Day is quite recent, and has absolutely nothing to do with the saint.

In 1995 UNESCO proclaimed April 23, the same day that the liturgical calendar commemorates the death of St. George, as World Book Day, giving rise to a new popular tradition that joins both commemorations into one. Now, those who celebrate St. George’s Day give each other a rose (the legend claims a rose sprouted from the blood of the dragon after the saint slayed the beast) and a book.

But there are certain towns in Europe which, unknowingly, seem to be celebrating St. George’s Day all year round. These are the so-called book towns, small rural villages that, after the closure of the large industrial centers that provided work to their inhabitants, have reimagined themselves, becoming tourism magnets attracting bibliophiles. Now, those towns are indeed the new meccas of reading festivals and antiquarian bookstores proffering the old and the rare.

Take, for instance, the small Welsh village of Hay-On-Wye, which houses about two dozen bookstores and barely 2,000 inhabitants. The numbers in the small town of Fjaerland, in Norway, are quite similar, as are those of Redu, in Belgium. But Urueña, in the Spanish region of Castilla-León, gets the prize: with 213 inhabitants and four museums, it has been labeled a “Bookville.”

Today, St. George’s Day, think about planning a visit next year to one of these book shrines. And make sure you bring your rose to town.

Check out the gallery!

Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
Cerith Gardiner
11 Interesting facts about the late Prince Philip
Fr Robert McTeigue, SJ
A simple test to see if you really believe Christ is risen
Archbishop Georg Gänswein
I.Media for Aleteia
Gänswein: Benedict XVI expected to live only a few months after r...
Fr. Patrick Briscoe, OP
St. Faustina’s coffee cup and lessons for Divine Mercy Sund...
Here’s how to celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday at home
Philip Kosloski
Why you can eat meat on Easter Friday
Sister Bhagya
Saji Thomas-ACN
Catholic nun faces conversion charges in central India
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.