Tue 9 May 2006
Churches in France are full of plaster and wooden images of saints long gone. I was once in a church in la Tour d’Aigues and the priest happened to be there at the same time. Behind an iron gate was the bust of a saint painted and with gold trim. I asked the priest who it was and he told me that he didn’t know. This might be because there are thousands of saints in Catholic tradition. In fact, every day of the year is named after one saint or another and on November 1st, All Saint’s Day, the ones who don’t have a day named after them all get put into this one day. I am not, nor have ever been Catholic and know very little about saints other that the most common such as St. Joseph. In many churches you see the same ones over and over such as Joan of Arc and this guy:
whose name I don’t know.
Anyway, there are festivals all over the place in France and, living in Provence, I see signs about various festivals and traditions taking place in our area. A near-by town called Manosque has a festival for St. Pancrace. I had never heard of him, as usual, and did a little web search. He was a Roman matyr who was killed for his Christian beliefs when he was fourteen. He has become a saint for young people but is also known as the Ice Saint along with two other saints, Mamert and Servais. They each have the dates May 11th, 12th and 13th, or they did in the past. The Catholic church took them off the roster as I guess they were considered a little too pagan. It doesn’t stop celebrations of them, of course. They are called the Ice Saints because these three dates are known to be Spring days when temperatures often plummet and anyone who does planting never plants a thing until these dates are past which makes me worried about my little vegetable garden. Apparantly, the earth passes through some cosmic dust at this time every year and affects the sun, and thus the weather changes sometimes. Stuff like this amazes me. I love learning new information from centuries past that still affect us today. So, I plan to make a trip to Manosque for that festival and also to Grambois, a very nearby perched village which, I found out, considers Saint Pancrace their patron saint, not only a guide to planting but they also feel that he protected them from the plague in the 1700’s. There is a little part of the church there devoted to him. I am hoping to find the church open and take a photo of his bust there.
Here are two photos having nothing to do St Pancrace but just of how lovely Provence can be–if it ever warms up.