Saintes Maries de la Mer : at the source of christianity in Provence
SAINTES-MARIES-DE-LA-MER : at the source of Christianity in Provence.
This small fishing village of Camargue, along the Mediterranean, near the mouth of the Small Rhône, is now world famous for its very old pilgrimages commemorating the arrival, in these place, of Christ's disciples, persecuted and driven out Palestine.
Pilgrimages of 24th and 25th of May and 22th of October honor especially Mary Salome, Mary Jacobe and their servant Sara, patron saint of the Gypsies, who stayed and died here and whose relics are preserved in the Romanesque church.
Their companions, who where younger, left to evangelize Provence : Maximin went up to Aix, where he became the first bishop, Mary Magdalene retired in a cave in the Massif de la Sainte Baume, Lazarus became the first bishop of Marseilles and Martha evangelized Tarascon where she overcame a terrible monster called Tarasque.
The village became a resort frequented by many tourists who attend the many local festivals : Camargue races, horse festival, and more particurlaly the wonderful “Festo Vierginenco”, created by Frederic Mistral, where young girls wear for the first time the costume of Arles. During a ceremony, they undertake to pass on their passion for traditional dress, so that it never falls into oblivion.
The small museum Folco de Baroncelli is worth a visit : dedicated to the memory of the founder of the “Nacioun Gardiano”, (its aims is to defend and to maintain the local traditions), it presents the history and local wildlife and portraits of characters who have stayed here : the most famous are Buffalo Bill and Vincent Van Gogh.