Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer (lit. "Saint Marys of the Sea", Provençal Occitan Lei Santei Marias de la Mar) is the capital of the Camargue (Provençal Occitan Camarga) in the south of France. It is a commune in the Bouches-du-Rhône department by the Mediterranean Sea. Population: 2,478 (50,000+ during the summer holidays). It has the second-largest area of all communes in Metropolitan France, smaller only than that of neighboring Arles.
The three saints Mary Magdalene
, Mary Salome
and Mary Jacobe
, whose relics
are the focus of the devotions of pilgrims
are believed to be the women who were the first witnesses to the empty tomb
at the resurrection of Jesus
. After the Crucifixion of Jesus, Mary Salome, Mary Jacobe, and Mary Magdalene set sail from Alexandria, Egypt with their uncle Joseph of Aramithia, by French legend OR were cast adrift in a boat that arrived off the coast of what is now France "a sort of fortress named Oppidum-Râ", and the location was known as Notre-Dame-de-Ratis (Râ
, or boat) (Droit, 1961, 19); the name being changed to Notre-Dame-de-la-Mer, and then Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer in 1838.
It is a pilgrimage destination for Roma (Gypsies) who gather yearly in the town for a religious festival in honor of Saint Sarah known by the French to be Mary Magdala's daughter OR may also be known as Sara-la-Kali (Sara the black). Dark-skinned Saint Sara is said to have possibly been the Egyptian servant of the three Marys. The famous flamenco guitarist Manitas de Plata first played there.
- Droit, Michel. (1963). Carmague. Ernest and Adair Heimann (trans.). London: George Allen and Unwin