Saintes Marie de la Mer – Gypsy pilgrimage

Saintes Marie de la Mer

Gypsy pilgrimage
This documentary video was filmed in May 2021 while photographer Jorge Perez Ortiz was documenting Europe’s largest Gypsy pilgrimage in Saintes-Maries de la Mer, France.
Every year, thousands of gypsies congregate at Saintes Maries de la Mer, paying homage to Saint Sara or Sara Kali. Although the tradition of the pilgrimage has roots in the Middle Ages, the participation of gypsies was authorized in the 20th century. In the days before the pilgrimage, devotees carry candles to illuminate the crypt that houses the statue of Saint Sara, located to the right of the altar. The central altar holds a reliquary, and on the wall is the cross of the Procession, where the faithful leave offerings such as jewelry and messages of devotion. The statue of Saint Sara is covered by numerous coats, and it is customary to show respect by kissing a foot or the hem of her dress.  
During the procession, the statue of Santa Sara is carried by gypsies in the company of white horses. Later, they immerse her three times in the sea as a symbol of hope and purification. This event also promotes meetings and baptism ceremonies for children.

Sara’s enigmatic story includes stories suggesting that she helped the Marys disembark as they fled persecution in the Holy Land (Palestine), and other medieval legends indicate that they were cast adrift until they reached the coast of what is now France. After their death, the saints were buried, which led to the creation of a place of worship from the 6th century onwards and, finally, the construction of a chapel.

This work is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0