• 70'
  • Author : Patrick Dedole
  • 20-05-2020
  • Master : 2915


Ever since 1953, the annual May “pilgrimage of the Saints” brings together all the communities making up the traveller folk. 1,200 caravans of Manouche, Gitan, Roma, Sinti, Yenish or Tzigane gipsies set up camp on parking lots on the outskirts of the town of Saintes-Maries-de-la-mer. During this pilgrimage, they pray for the family, baptise the last-born, take communion, plead for the cure of a child, an old person, a family member, they celebrate life and their bonds with the community. Because, among the different gypsy communities the only things that count are tradition, blood ties, family solidarity and love of children. Over several weeks, we share the daily lives of two gypsy communities: one of Tzigane origin, settled in Alsace, the other of Catalan Gitan origin based around Arles. In order to delve into the very closed world of these communities we set out on the road with them in our recreational vehicle and experience the preparations for the procession of the “Saintes Marie de la Mer”. For several generations, the Helmstetter clan, a family of Tzigane now settled in the Strasbourg area, have answered the annual “Call of the Saints”. The whole family gets busy to make their way to the land of which the matriarch, Marie, has spoken so much. We also obtained permission to follow and live amongst the “Baptiste clan” – a family living in the Arles region. The Baptistes are proud of being members of the brotherhood of the Saints from father to son since 1935 and of having received the heavy responsibility of “bearers of Sainte Sara” during the May 24 procession. With “Petit Payou”, patriarch of the Gitan community originating from Catalonia, we go backstage and discover preparations for the Sara procession at Notre Dame de la Mer, where the remains of Marie Jacobé and Marie Salomé, two Saints dating back to the spread of Christianity, also lie. Finally, we share a slice of life with Father Dumas, national chaplain to traveller folk, who agrees to be our historical and spiritual guide during the masses organized on the lands occupied by the gypsy communities, the baptisms and communions celebrated in Notre Dame de la Mer. The Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer is a religious event that is unique in France. The strength of the “miracle of the Saints” is to demonstrate to what point transfer is the cement that allows whole families, united in “clans” all over Europe, to come together in solidarity and to enjoy, if only for a while, a Promised Land.

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