Pilgrimages Of Europe: Les Saintes Marie De La Mer, France (1995)
Pilgrimages are as old as mankind. The mystical and spiritual nature of a pilgrimage holds an eternal, mythic appeal to the imagination of many people. Every year millions of pilgrims of all nationalities, young and old, set out on these voyages of the soul. Every year millions of pilgrims of all nationalities, young and old, set out on these voyages of the soul. The twelve documentaries in the Pilgrimages of Europe collection are experiential journeys to some of the most sacred routes and holy places throughout Christian Europe. Each half-hour documentary, richly filmed, looks at the spiritual, cultural and historical background of an important pilgrimage sites throughout Europe. However, the people, the pilgrims themselves, are at the heart of these stories – their purposes and desires, their motivations, and the great sense of the holy and the sacred which they find on their journeys of faith.
LES SAINTES MARIES DE LA MER
This is the story of the two Marys, the mothers of the disciples John and Jacob, whose boat was shipwrecked off the coast of southern France. They had fled by sea after being banished from Palestine. Their boat began to sink near this small town in the Camargue, where the river Rhone flows into the Mediterranean. According to the legend, Sara, a gypsy, watched from the beach as the boat foundered. She spread her cloak and both Marys safely reached shore. They told Sara of Christ’s resurrection, and Sara asked the women to baptize her. Every year tens of thousands of gypsies from all over the world come here to worship their patron saint. In the morning they visit the crypt where the statue of Sara is displayed. Later in the day the statue is carried out to sea accompanied by a grand procession of gypsies.
The three saints Mary Magdalene, Mary Salome and Mary Jacobe, whose relics are the focus of the devotions of pilgrims, are believed to be the women who were the first witnesses to the empty tomb at the resurrection of Jesus. After the Crucifixion of Jesus, Mary Salome, Mary Jacobe, and Mary Magdalene set sail from Alexandria, Egypt with their uncle Joseph of Arimathea. According to a longstanding French legend, they either sailed to or were cast adrift - either way they arrived off the coast of what is now France, at "a sort of fortress named Oppidum-Râ". The location was known as Notre-Dame-de-Ratis (Râ becoming Ratis, or boat) (Droit, 1963, 19); the name was later changed to Notre-Dame-de-la-Mer, and then in 1838 to Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer.
The town is a pilgrimage destination for Roma (Gypsies), who gather yearly in the town for a religious festival in honor of Saint Sarah. Dark-skinned Saint Sara is said to have possibly been the Egyptian servant of the three Marys.