Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Ile Rousse & the Fête de Saint Erasme

Ile Rousse is one of my favourite towns, so I couldn’t come up to the north and not visit. As today (2 June) is the Fête of Saint Erasme – patron Saint of Fishermen – I decided to wait until the evening so that I could watch the procession too.

I’m not really a religious person, so I didn’t think it was right to gatecrash the mass itself. Instead, I amused myself by indulging is a spot of people watching at the beach. I was amazed at how fine the sand is here compared to the south west, and even the colour is different; a pale silver colour against the vibrant turquoise of the sea.

I wasn’t sure how long the mass would last, so at 6:30pm I wandered back towards the town square and settled myself on the stone steps underneath the bust of Pascal Paoli, protected by four huge palm trees. It’s lucky it wasn’t long before the procession emerged as the steps are west facing so it was like sitting on a hot plate!

The procession was led by an enormous priest dressed in red and white. This one wasn’t wearing his mafia shades like the one who gave the mass for Rameaux, but I didn’t notice jeans and Jesus creeper sandals under his robes!

The procession wound its way through the narrow streets of the town, and it was great to see all the shopkeepers come out to pay their respects as it passed. The older members of the congregation where chanting what sounded like old Corsican hymns/songs, and it was really moving.

A prayer was said in front of the building where the statue is kept, just opposite the quai, and then we all walked down to the boat to see it off. The priest managed to get in OK, but one of the youngsters got stuck and the mood lifted when the bloke in the boat started shouting ‘take the saucepan, take the saucepan!’ – I think he meant the chalice the kid was holding!

In his rush to help the falling boy, the enormous priest then nearly tipped the boat over!

The statue of the saint, the priest and the alter boys then took a short trip round the quay in the boat to perform the blessing of the sea which ends with the flowers being thrown in. Another boat came alongside which has also been decorated and threw their flowers in too

The choir on the dock started to sing and everyone joined in (except me because I didn’t know the words), and the statue made its way slowly back to its normal resting place looking out to sea.

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