The picturesque Camargue town of Saintes Maries de la Mer is transformed and cloaked in timeless charm thanks to the Pilgrimage of the Gypsies.
Gypsies from all corners of the world gather here on 24 and 25 May to venerate their patron saint, Saint Sara the Black, whose statue and relics are kept in the church crypt.
For the entire period leading up to the festival (about ten days), the streets of the city fill with colourful and picturesque gypsies who return here not only for religious services but also to meet, celebrate and baptise their children in the Saintes Maries church.
A riot of typical customs, colours, music and many events follow one another for days on end, a unique opportunity to experience an authentic popular festival.
The statue of Sara, which for days is dressed in multicoloured clothes and jewellery by the pilgrims, is carried in procession by the gypsies to the sea on 24 May, where it is blessed to symbolise the expectation and welcome of the Saintes Maries (Marie Jacobé and Marie Salomé) by the saint, patron saint of the gypsies.
All around was a throng of faithful: gypsies, arlesienne and guardians in traditional costume along with many pilgrims from all over the world.
An unmissable spectacle that is enriched by parallel events such as equestrian trials, rodeos and non-bloody bullfights.
We advise you to book well in advance: during the festivities, facilities fill up and it becomes difficult to find good accommodation.