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Saintes Maries

Nomads in pilgrimage  

I mingled with the crowd in 1991 and 1992, following the procession from the church going to the sea to dive in the waves, reflecting on faces, expressions, costumes trying to bring out the joyous sense that is the basis of this event charged of theatricality.
The exhibition was scheduled at the Milan PhotoFestival 2014, and has been edited by Roberto MUTTI, photography critic of the newspaper “ la Repubblica”.


The Legend
Around A.D. 18 the Pious Women and their companions were abandoned at sea along the coast of Palestine in a boat without either oars or sail: Giacoma Mary, sister of the Virgin Mary, Saloma, mother of the apostles James and John, Lazarus, Mary Magdalene, Martha, Max and Sidon . The crew also included Sara, who managed to reach the boat.
Powered by a miraculous wind the boat with the holy crew landed on the coast of the Camargue. Here their first work was to erect a chapel to give thanks. While some companions went to evangelize the region, and Sara Marie, the maid, remained in place due to theage. The Pious Women died almost simultaneously and there were buried. Over time, on the place of burial was erected a church. The present church was built in 1130. 

Saint Sarah
In the stuffy and hot twilight of the crypt of the church Santa Sara is lit by candles and the gypsies and the pilgrims that adorn her with jewellery and brocades on the eve of the ceremony.The statue is made out of the shrine only during the procession to accompany the Holy Women to the blessing of the sea.
Sarah, the maid, the daughter of the East, race and country of Jesus, is the symbol of faithfulness and exoticism of the wondering people. 

The pilgrimage
The great pilgrimage of Saintes Maries takes place on the 24th and 25th of May each year. The origin of the devotion to Sara goes back to 1496, the date of discovery of the relics of the saint. This event coincides, roughly, with the establishment of the first families of Gypsies in the Camargue.The great moment of the pilgrimage, the blessing at the sea, is the most waited event. The church and the streets are hardly able to contain the pilgrims that reach the beach to witness this solemn moment.
The riders bring their horse into the water, and oversee the smooth running of the ceremony. Arrived in front of the sea, the Saintes are brought into the waves and sprinkled with sea water.
After blessing ceremony, the statues are taken back to the dim light of the church.


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