On our way to Les Baux, we stopped briefly in the town of Saintes Maries de la Mer. It’s the capital of the Camargue in the south of France and quite lovely. I had just enough time to take a few photos.
The village was called “Ra” in the 4th century AD by the Romans. In the sixth century, the archbishopric of Arles established a church by the name of St. Mary. The village was then known as Notre-Dame-de-Ratis (Our Lady of the Boat) in reference to the three Marys who arrived by boat. The name was later changed to Notre-Dame-de-la-Mer (Our Lady of the Sea, a synonym for the Virgin Mary). In 1838, the town was renamed Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer.
The current Church of the Saintes Maries de la Mer was built from the 9th to the 12th century.
It is said that after the Crucifixion of Jesus, Mary Salome, Mary Jacobe, and Mary Magdalene set sail from Alexandria, Egypt with their uncle Joseph of Arimathea. They were somehow able to reach the shores of France. While other exiled disciples went elsewhere, the Saints Mary Jacobe and Mary Salome remained in the place that was later named after them.
Saintes Maries de la Mer is also a pilgrimage destination for Roma (Gypsies) who come to honor Saint Sarah. She was supposedly the Egyptian servant of the three Marys. A statue of Saint Sara is in the crypt of the church.
Great weekend, everyone!