Gypsy Festival in the Camargue – St Maries De La Mer 24th and 25th May

 

Festival of pilgrims at St Maries de la Mer

Saintes Maries de la Mer (Saint Marys of the Sea) is a little fishing village in the south of France in the Camargue. Gypsies, Gitaines, Roma, Tzigenes (from Romania), come from all around the area to worship black skinned Saint Sara (one of the Marys) their patron saint – also known as Black Sara or the Black Madonna.

Saint Sara - patron saint of the gypsies

Saint Sara – patron saint of the gypsies

The town comes alive for these two days and is full of musicians, dancers, gypsies and tourists. In the church there was real emotion from the gypsies who touched the three saints for luck. All the front pews were reserved for the Gitanes.  After mass, only one of the saints, Sara, is hoisted on high and taken for a dip in the sea followed by a procession of singing gypsies and musicians.

Pilgrims following Saint Sara down to the sea

Pilgrims following Saint Sara in the procession down to the sea

Then the real partying begins…..musicans pop up all over the town, Flamenco, Romanian, 8 piece bands, duos, sole singers and guitars, double bass, drums, flamenco clapping all out shout each other for an audience. Luckily the right wing mayor realises that the festival brings great prosperity to the town but there are still the usual tensions between locals and gypsies.

The best travelling gypsy band "Urs Karpatz"

The best travelling gypsy band “Urs Karpatz”

Amongst the cacophony of sounds this band stood out “Urs Karpatz” they used to travel with a live bear, fantastic music 

A gypsy woman is chosen to represent St Sara

A gypsy woman led the procession behind St Sara

And here she is: St Sara, or the Black Madonna, or Black Sara

And here she is: St Sara, or the Black Madonna, or Black Sara

 

The other two saints whose shrine is at St Maries De La Mer

The other two saints whose shrine is at St Maries De La Mer

Gypsy women in traditional long skirts

Gypsy women at St Marie De La Mer

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Gypsy men on the famous white horses of the Camargue

Gypsy men on the famous white horses of the Camargue

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