Festival of St Tropez
I think almost everyone in the world has heard about St Tropez. It is a lovely place, though it can be a nightmare to drive into on the only narrow road entering it. We decided to spend the night in nearby St Maxime and, early in the morning, took the Bateau Vert which makes its way to St Tropez every twenty minutes.
We were going to St Tropez to observe their May 17th festival, la Bravade. It is a festival that celebrates St Tropez along with the military. A Bravade can be a sort of military celebration and also has to do with the meaning of bragging or of being blustery. It turned out to be a very interesting festival and I like the part having to do with St Tropez the best.
St Tropez is, as is usual, based on one of those stories where the saint arrives on a boat on the shores of France with no one guiding the boat but the hand of God. He was from Pisa, Italy, the right hand man of Nero, well known Roman head, and became converted to Christianity by St Paul. He refused to renounce his Christianity and after two attempts to put him to death-the wild animals refused to attack him but lay quietly at his feet and a column to which he was to be chained fell and killed his executioner, he was finally beheaded, put in a boat, without his head, along with a dog and a rooster-which seems very strange but seem to be symbols of malevolence, and the boat arrived on the shores of St Tropez. The head, in fact, can now be found in a church in Pisa. This led to the village taking St Tropez as their patron saint and thus the celebrations every May 17th, the day when his boat landed. There are statues of him in every shop window along with the color themes of red and white, the colors of St Tropez.
Here is a small bust of St Tropez in front of a cafe. Note the mustache. How they knew he had a mustache without the head is a mystery. He rather looks like Errol Flynn.
Our boat arrived just as villagers and participants in costume streamed up the narrow streets to the lovely church for mass. There were men in military costumes marching in step to beating drums and flutes, everyone carrying small bouquets of flowers to be blessed. These bouquets are then taken home to lie beside the family statue of St Tropez. I don’t know where they get these little busts of the saint. I looked in vain for a small one as a momento but couldn’t find one. After the mass, the small village square filled with women and children in traditional dress, then the military men marched in along with the sculptured bust of St Tropez and three other saints-St Peter, St Eunice and St Roch. I’m not sure why they are also in the ceremony but it was wonderful to see them held aloft and carried through the streets of St Tropez. I found it interesting that, except for St Tropez, the other busts were carried by women. They also held sticks in their hands used to hold up the heavy statues when the came to a stop.
Here are four women carrying a statue of St Roch.
Here is St Tropez himself.
Love the hat.
After lunch, St Tropez was brought out again and this time the focus was on the military. There is much history here of defending the city, especially against pirates and this exhibition shows that they are ready still to defend it. They marched all about the streets and came into the square. This time they started firing their guns and muskets. At first it was just here and there but then they did it all at the same time making an incredible noise and filling the air with smoke. Each time they did the firing of weapons everyone would hold their ears and cough with the resulting smoke. You could feel the percussion of the air against your face and the muskets were fired at the ground. When one of the people watching this event along with us told us that they had 350 kilograms of gun powder for this ceremony, and we had seen the guns go off four times, we decided to leave. The booming of the guns followed us down to the harbor where we left for St Maxime.
This little boy had just gotten scratched by the cat you can see behind him.
I think this was one of the best festivals I have seen in Provence with all of the costumes, the delightful children dressed up and taking part in the festivities, the saints being paraded down the streets and the military putting on their displays. Another great way to partake of all that Provence has to offer.
Some different headwear than the rest and I loved this little girl.
Future sailors of St Tropez
Part of the military in parade.
The square filling with smoke as the muskets are fired.