Location: the crypt of Notre-Dame-de-la-Mer in the Camargue region of Provence, France
Who Considers it Sacred? Gypsies
Significance: Saint Sara or Sara-Kali is a figure known as the matron saint of the Gypsies. A pilgrimage dedicated to the honor of Sara and that of the holy Marys, Mary Jacobe and Mary Salome, annually attracts thousands of Gypsies from all over Europe, transforming this otherwise sleepy town into a frenzy of activity. This celebration occurs every May 24 and 25; a lesser-attended festival also takes place each October. It is a joyous festival where religion, celebration, and merriment all go hand and hand. Sara-Kali seems to be simultaneously a carrier of the wisdom from ancient pagan goddesses of the pre-Christian era, and a figure belonging to the Christian tradition. There are varying legends surrounding her identity, each one representing a single thread in an elaborately woven tapestry of myths. Sara inhabits the subterranean realm, dwelling in a candlelit crypt with low ceilings resembling a grotto. When all the candles are burning, the crypt becomes stifling hot, intensifying the experience of paying homage to Sara. She is literally a submerged figure whose home is deep within the Earth and who has embodied with her the vernacular beliefs of her followers. Sara-Kali represents a means of salvation, not just in the religious sense, but also political and social salvation or liberation. The Gypsies, having been a socially and politically marginalized group, most likely view Sara as an emblem of political liberation.
For More Information: Sacred Sites Newsletter, Volume XVI, Number 1, Fall 2005