Gypsies from all over the world made their annual pilgrimage May 24-25 to the church of Saintes-Maries de la Mer, near Arles, France - to commemorate the safe landing from persecution of St.
Gypsies from all over the world made their annual pilgrimage May 24-25 to the church of Saintes-Maries de la Mer, near Arles, France - to commemorate the safe landing from persecution of St. Marie-Salome, St. Marie Jacobe and their servant, St. Sarah, many thousands of years ago.
Visnews filmed the gypsy encampment, the church veneration of saints - all-night celebrations of dancing and a procession the following day May 25 for the benediction of the sea.
Dressed in gay clothing and seated by traditional caravans and modern cars, the pilgrims camped near the church for the religious festival.
In the centuries-old church of St. Maries de la Mer, hundreds of worshippers stood in the crypt - clamouring to touch the saintly relics. Millions of candles flickered - each one lit with a prayer. The statues of St. Marie-Salome, St. Marie-Jacobe and Saint Sarah were taken down in readiness for the procession to the sea the following day. Meanwhile to the wild music of guitars, the gypsies outside sang and danced the night away.
Climax to the rituals came in the morning, when the saints effigies, borne aloft, were carried down to the shore and taken by boat out to sea for the benediction by Monsignor De Provencheres, Archbishop of Aix.
Later the statues were carried back to the church - and preserved for next year's pilgrimage.
The gypsies believe that St. Sarah, "Sarah The Black", was herself a gypsy because of her dark skin and black hair. They claim that gypsies are allowed to steal - within reason - because the loot serves St. Sarah - their patron saint.