Saintes-Maries-De-La-Mer. Who Knew?

What I love about living in France is not only the opportunity to travel in this fabulous country, but also the chance to re-learn history. What I never expected, though, was to find biblical folklore.

Who knew, for example, that Lazarus and Mary Magdalene ended up in France? According to Provencal tales, which I learned upon my recent day trip to Saintes-Maries-De-La-Mer, Lazarus; his sister, Martha; Mary Magdalene; and Mary of James, sister of the Virgin; and a servant girl, Sarah the Egyptian all arrived in the south of France around 40 A.D., under less than desirable circumstances. Saintes Marie de la Mer Legend has it that after the Crucifixion, while Jews continued to be persecuted in Jerusalem, the extended “family” of Christ was cast into the sea in a small boat equipped with neither oars nor food. Saintes Marie de la MerMiraculously they landed safely here, now Saintes-Maries-De-La-Mer, where they erected a small chapel and dedicated it to the Virgin.

The two Marys and Sarah remained at the church while Mary Magdalene and Martha went on throughout Provence preaching. Catholic tradition says that Lazarus was the first Bishop of Marseilles    In the 11th century the chapel became a church and was fortified as a fortress. Church at Saintes-Maries-De-La-Mer   Church at Saintes-Maries-De-La-Mer Church at Saintes-Maries-De-La-Mer Church at Saintes-Maries-De-La-Mer Miracles attributed to the Saints are shown in paintings displayed inside the Church at Saintes-Maries-De-La-Mer.

Saintes Marie de la Mer

Miracles attributed to the Saints

Saintes Marie de la Mer

Sarah the Egyptian

St. Sarah is highly venerated by gypsies. Around the 15th century the nomadic groups from Spain and other regions began annual pilgrimages to the church. In a colorful procession, the gypsies would carry the statue of St. Sarah and immerse it in sea.


St. Sarah at the Church at Saintes-Maries-De-La-Mer

Modern day pilgrimages honoring St. Sarah take place in May and October. The events are celebrated with horse races, parades of costumed ladies from Arles, and “the running of bulls”, staged by herders from the nearby Camargue. Gypsies march the statue of St. Sarah to the sea.

Saintes Marie de la Mer

The statue of St. Sarah is in the lower level of the Church where visitors surround her with gifts and light candles.

Blessings While visiting the Church, I was sighted and stopped by a gypsy woman who pinned a religious symbol on my shirt. Looking straight into my eyes, she placed a finger on my forehead and gave me a blessing. As I thanked her and started to walk away, she stuck out her hand… for an “offering”. When I kept walking, she quickly removed the pin from my shirt. Oh well… guess “blessings” come at a price. Next: A short stop at the Camargue 1454985_10152087869334456_1041902047_n

6 replies »

  1. Deborah the reruns are just wonderful and keep them coming as it just reinforces my love of the France that I know and especially the south!!!


  2. Terrific, Debby! Mary Magdeline is one of my favorites! Would love to go there when I visit. Had no idea they ended up in France! What a great story


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s