Saint Sarah

Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer ("Saint Marys of the Sea") is a small town in the south of France. It is the capital of the Camargue region (Provençal Occitan Camarga). On the 24th of May thousands of Roma people from all over the world arrive to this town. They arrive as pilgrims to Saint Sarah (in Romani Sara e Kali). She is their patron saint.

According to one legend, Saint Sarah arrived here together with Mary Salome, Lazarus and his two sisters Mary Magdalene and Martha. The relics and her statue with seven robes are kept in the crypt of the 12th century church. Each pilgrim who enters the crypt lights a candle. Notes with wishes are placed close to the statue.

Procession of Saint Sarah
Procession of Saint Sarah

In the morning there is a procession through streets of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. People in the procession are accompanied by riders on white horses. The statue of Saint Sarah is carried by the group of men especially chosen for the occasion. The hymns are sang. Shouts "Vive Sainte Sara" can be heard very often. The procession ends on the sea coast. That way the people try to re-enact her arrival to the area.

Those gathered at the pilgrimage use the opportunity for social and business contacts, music performances, good food etc.