The Camargue comes to life during May, as the Roma community from all over Europe make a special pilgrimage to Les Stes-Maries de la Mer in honour of their patron saint; St Sara or Sara-la-Kali.
Lazarus and his sisters
There are a couple of legends surrounding the saint, but the most quoted one is that she welcomed Lazarus and his sisters to France when they arrived by boat following persecution. In a tradition reaching back to the 19th century, on 24th May the statue of St Sara is removed from its usual resting place in the crypt of the local church and taken to the shore in commemoration of her meeting Lazarus and his siblings. The following day the statues of Lazarus’ sisters make the journey accompanied by the Roma and locals where they are blessed by a bishop. This is also an occasion when many Roma children are baptised. Having travelled so far, the Roma are not in too much of a hurry to depart and they make the most of this opportunity to meet old friends and make new ones by holding a stunning street fiesta comprising of music and dancing.
It was also the location where the famous band the Gipsy Kings formed; they all met sitting around a camp fire apparently.