Pilgrimage Of Gypsies
Les Saintes Maries is famous by the traditions it has preserved, the land itself welcomes gypsies and is a high-place of pilgrimage, folklore rich in colour, music and spirituality. It attracts many visitors throughout the year.
Many herds (herds of bulls and horses) are the witnesses of the Camargue life. You can approach more closely the famous cowboys (Camargue riders) and their livestock.
Do not miss the panorama of the pond Launes on the fauna and flora of the Camargue and stroll along the Port Gardian a fishing port and marina Saintes Maries where you will taste the clams of the Camargue.
These celebrations date back to the Middle Ages
On May 24th
The procession is lead to the sea, Sara, the Patron of the Gypsies. Prior to the event, within the Church, the reliquaries containing the relics were slowly removed down from the « High Chapel » using a winch amid songs and cheers. The statue of Sarah is carried by gypsies to the sea. This symbolizes the waiting and reception of Saintes Maries Jacobi and Salomé on May 25th.
After the solemn morning Mass, the « boat », carrying on board the statues of the two Maries, is carried to the sea, accompanied by the crowd of pilgrims, by the Gypsies, non-Gypsies and by the herdsmen on horseback from Arles dressed in costume. The carriers travel in the sea, which symbolizes the arrival of Saintes Maries Jacobe, Salome and Faith. The bishop, aboard the traditional fishing boat, blesses the sea, the country, pilgrims and Gypsies. The procession then returns to the Church in joy and cheers, accompanied by musical instruments and the chime of bells.
The second pilgrimage takes place on the Sunday closest to the 22nd of October. Pilgrimage of the locals has become increasingly popular. On Saturday night, Evocation of the Arrival of Saintes, a light and sound show on the beach. It is a free event which attracts large crowds of religious people and spectators from the region.