The Legend of Saint Sarah Articles about Provence

The Legend of Saint Sarah

The Legend of Saint Sarah
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Since ancient times there is a legend of Saint Sarah in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. This woman was a servant of Jesus Christ’s aunt, Mary of Cleophas and Mary Salome, mother of two apostles. According to legend, they were expelled from Palestine by the Jews, together with Mary Magdalene (and the others described in the New Testament) put on the ship without sails.

This ship was washed by the wind and waves to a small island at the mouth of the Rhone river where then the Egyptians worshipping the pagan god Ra lived.

Two Marias, Cleophas and Salome, along with Sarah (Egyptian in origin) stayed allegedly in these places preaching the doctrine of Christ.

Later, the relics of these women, according to legend, were found in 1448 in the church of Sainte-Marie-de-la-Mer, in the place where previously an island was. (This time coincides with the beginning of the migration of the Roma from the Balkans and Spain in Western Europe).

In our time, there is an interesting festival in honour of Saint Sarah in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, the locals (including Roma) celebrate it from the 16th century making a pilgrimage to this city.

At the end of May (the 24th) the Mass runs in the Church of Sainte-Marie-de-la-Mer (where the shrines with the relics of saints are kept in the chapel).

After the Mass these shrines are descended from the chapel to the altar where pilgrims and local faithful try to touch them. In fact, according to the legend, this brings happiness and health for the whole year!

In these days the town gathers a lot of people. Not only religious rituals are executed here, the weddings are celebrated and the children are baptized. The merry music is heard on the streets, almost all visitors and locals dance.

The statue of Black Sarah and two Saint Maries is takes out to the sea, this is accompanied by a colourful procession of residents in traditional costumes.

The boats take the sea and from one of them a local priest at the sound of bells blesses the sea, the Roma with the pilgrims and the entire Camargue.

Then the whole noisy colourful procession returns to the church. During the procession the songs with a guitar and tambourine sound. And the shrine with the relics of the saints is again risen to the top, to the chapel.



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