Dogs, cats, rabbits and even turtles, many dressed in their finest, trooped into churches across Spain on January 17 in search of blessing on Saint Anthony’s Day, for the patron saint of animals.
Pet owners lined up around the block of the Church of San Anton in central Madrid behind blue metal barriers to wait for a priest to sprinkle holy water on their animals.
“In the name of San Anton, receive this blessing,” the priest, decked out in white robes, said as he blessed the animals presented to him in the doorway of the church.
Many believe the blessing will ensure a long and healthy life for their pets.
Carlos Romero, 56, said he came to the church for the first time this year to have his five-year-old turtle Paula blessed after another turtle he owned named Frodo died eight months ago.
Romero had dressed Paula in a sweater in the yellow and red colours of the Spanish flag. Others dressed their dogs in coats in bright colours or put bows in their fur.
Animals are said to have been instinctively drawn to Saint Anthony throughout his life. Anthony, who was born in Lisbon, Portugal in 1195, is often depicted addressing a menagerie of animals attentively listening to his words.
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