Luceram, France and the Santons



The medieval village of Luceram is nestled in the Alps of Provence above the Cote d’ Azur. My friend decided one day before Christmas to take me on the tour of the “Circuit des Creches”. We drove high up the winding roads to the alpine region above the Cote d’ Azur.

While we were driving Mireille began to tell me about the “ Circuit des Creches”. The village of Luceram during the season of Noel the inhabitance of the village create 400 nativity scene that celebrate

the birth of Christ. The Creches in French means manger. The Manger is the feeder for the sheep, goats or cows. The Crèche has images of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, Shepards, animals and the three wise men. But in Provence which is famous for their Santons {little saints} you could see a different type of Nativity scenes. There would be the village baker, beekeeper, fisherman and more of the people of the region.

We drove by the Paillon River along our way. This area is mountainous region with elevations that range from 1300-5100 feet. There are also three major peaks in the area Pointe de Faulio, Cime de Peira Cava and Mont Escobet. The village has two mountain streams that went though the village. They flow down the mountain and join with the Paillon River that moves on into the Mediterranean Sea.

My friend began to tell me about a silver statue of Saint Maguerite that was riding a dragon. This statue was one of the sacred artifact in the Church of Saint Maguerite. The church was built at the peak of the village. I thought to myself, the high mountain ridges and two mountain streams that ran though the village all were sure signs we were driving along the ley-lines. The saint and dragon statue also gave me a clue we were following the dragon-lines of the land.

We arrived at the base of the village and parked the car and were handed a map of the village that gave the details of were each Creches placement. Next to the parking lot there was lavoir that was the place where village women once washed the families clothing and gossiped with their neighbors. But today there was a small Nativity placed in a fish bowl at the bottom of the lavoir.

The village of Luceram was once occupied by the Romans and Roman coins and artifacts have been found in the village cemetery. Most likely the Roman temples also were their with the honoring of the Roman Gods and Goddess.

The first recorded history of Luceram was in 1057. During the Middle Ages in was part of the Salt Road trading route. The Count of Provence use to be the land baron of Luceram, but the village gained its independence in 1272.

We made our way up the narrow winding streets of the village.

I became like a child for every nook and connor there seemed to be another Nativity scene created by a local family or store. I was in awe with the different creative expression that each crèche held. There was one crèche that was placed in the hollow of an ancient stonewall and another hung from a basket of flowers above the street’

Many of the streets were cobblestone with passages. We passed though medieval archways as we slowly climbed up into the heart of Luceram. There were so many crèches each was an individual expression of creativity. There was one made from a beehive and another from iron blacksmith tools. I saw a Creche made of wool, olive wood, clay, loaves of bread, wine jugs, even a nativity made from a beeswax. It was an amazing experience that was filled with the true spirit of Christmas.

We finally arrived at the peak of the village where the Church of St. Marguerite. The view was worth the climb for you could see the winding streets, the housetops and the surrounding mountain ridges. The air was cool and crisp and clean to breathe.

St. Marguerite is a Roman Gothic Church with Baroque interior. The Baroque style churches are were once popular in the Provence- Alpes- Cote d’Azur area. We entered the church that was filled with marble and gilded gold that is typical of the Baroque style. The two of the main saints of the church is St. Marguerite and St. Rosalie. If the truth would be told both of these saints may have not ever excited.

The story of Saint Rosalie comes from Palermo Italy. The city had been stricken with the Plague and St. Rosalie revealed herself to a sick woman in a vision. Some versions of the legend say it was a hunter or a soap maker. But never the less Rosalie revealed that she had been a noblewoman who left her life of riches to live like a hermit in a cave some time in the 1100s. She told though vision where to find her bones. They found her bones at a mouth of a cave on Mount Pellegrino. The people of Palermo had a holy procession of Rosalie’s bones and it stopped the Plague in 1625.

Saint Rosalie was not known until the appearance of the vision. She is invoked for curing the plague and she most likely came to Provence in the time the plague was a big problem. Some believe that the true roots of Saint Rosalie is the Roman Goddess “Venus Rosalia“ whose symbol was the Holy Rose is more the truth of this Catholic Saint. Never the less Goddess or Saint the invoking of her stopped the plague and that is what really matters.

At the side of the church there was a small glass museum where the St. Marguerite and the dragon were displayed. There are several legends of Saint Marguerite and her historical existence may also be dubious.

She was a daughter of a pagan priest of Antioch. She renounced her father’s faith and went to live in the hills with a woman Shepard who was Christian. The Roman Governor Olybrius wanted to marry her and when she refused he tortured her and threw her in prison. A dragon appeared to her in jail and she killed the dragon with making the sign of the cross.

There are several different legends and titles given to St. Marguerite. She is called Margaret-Pelagia Marina, which was the names of Aphrodite Marina, the Pearl of the Sea. The name Marga comes from the Sanskrit work The Way or The Gate, which represents the female vagina. The hidden symbol of St. Marguerite riding the dragon represents the rising of the Kundalini energy, which is sexual energy that has been raised into spiritual awakening.

The Catholic Church created a doctrine of that separted sex and spirituality. The dragon, serpent and sexuality were associated with evil rather then seeing this same creativity energy as a power source of awakening.

Saint Marguerite is invoked against sterility; if you may remember the dragon energies bring fertility to the land and also to women. She was prayed to for safe childbirth, nursing mother’s who lost the ir milk, and kidney disease. The kidneys work with the water element of the body, which is also ruled by the dragon energy. Even though the arc -types were changed because of Church doctrine the truth still is there if one can look deeper beyond the layers of history.

If you are wanting to visit Luceram for Circuit des Creches” it usually starts around December 6 and runs though mid January.

The Feast of Sainte Marguerite is July 20th which the village celebrates and also the Feast of Saint Rosalie September 6th. Luceram is about a half an hour ride north from Nice.


Categories: Sacred Flora, Sacred Places

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