Fete des Stes. Maries

Stes. Maries, Fête des

May 24-25
According to a French legend, St. Sarah, patron saint of gypsies, was the Egyptian handmaid of Sts. Mary Jacoby and Mary Salome, and all three were shipwrecked off the Provençal coast of France. The three holy women supposedly died in the small Provençal village of Les Saintes Maries-de-la-Mer, where their remains are said to be preserved in the 15th-century church of Les Saintes-Maries. The relics of St. Sarah are deeply venerated by the Romanies, or gypsies, of southern France, who try to worship at her shrine at least once during their lives.
The highlight of the service held at the church during the Festival of the Holy Maries occurs when the flower-decked reliquary of the Maries is lowered slowly through a trap door in the ceiling. On the second day of the festival, there is a procession down to the sea for the blessing of the painted wooden vessel known as the "Bark of the Saints." The bark holds a silver urn which is believed to contain some of the bones of the saints. Thousands of devout pilgrims make the journey to Les Saintes Maries-de-la-Mer each year.
CONTACTS:
Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer Office of Tourism
5 Av. Van Gogh
P.O. Box 16
Saintes-Maries de la Mer, 13460 France
33-4-9097-8255; fax: 33-4-9097-7115
www.saintesmaries.com/us/index.php
SOURCES:
AnnivHol-2000, p. 87
BkFest-1937, p. 123
DictFolkMyth-1984, p. 954
FestWestEur-1958, p. 38
FolkWrldHol-1999, p. 361