Saintes Maries de La Mer
where the Rhone delta (the Camargue) meets the Sea
The Provenšal Legend
Around the year 40, a boat was launched from Jerusalem,
without sail, oars or supplies, and drifted across the Mediterranean until it
drifted ashore at this site. The refugees in the boat were: Mary Jacobe, the
mother of James and the sister of the Virgin; Mary Salome, the mother of the
apostles James Major and John; Lazarus and his two sisters, Mary Magdalene and
Martha; St Maximinus; Cedonius, who was born blind and cured and Sarah, the
servant of the two Marys.
After landing safely, the group built a small oratory to the Virgin. The disciples wandered off their separate ways, Mary Magdalene went to Ste-Baume, and Martha went to Tarascon. Marie Salome, Marie Jacobe and Sarah remained in the Camargue, and were later buried in the oratory. The tomb of these three saints became a cult object, and has been the attraction of pilgrimages for the past nineteen centuries. They were reburied beneath the chancel during the Barbarian invasions, and then removed and enshrined in 1448 by Good King RenÚ.
stature to the gardian working the bull
the cow person of the Camargue
More Photos of the Camargue
In the 9th century, the oratory was replaced by a fortified church, the Notre-Dame-de-la-Mer. In the 11th century, the monks of Montmajour established a priory here. In the 12th century, the monks rebuilt the church, incorporating it into the town's fortifications. In the 14th century, the projecting machicolations were added to the top, allowing boiling oil and dropped projectiles to be used against attackers.
Anecdote: In the year 869, when the original fortified church was being built under the direct supervision of the Archbishop of Arles, the Saracens raided the town and carried him away. The people of Arles quickly raised the demanded ransom, the Saracens returned with the Archbishop, set him up on the throne with great respect, and parted with the loot. The grateful people only then discovered that the prelate had died while in custody, and the Saracens had respectfully returned a corpse to the throne.
the patron saint of the gypsies (Romer)
on the Mediterranean
can ride the Camargue bull
or the pumpkin chariot
bathing on the beach
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