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LA CAMARGUE : Folco de Baroncelli
The Marquis Folco de Baroncelli de Javon
Few men have laboured so hard, successfully, and constructively for a region as the renegade aristocrat, Folco de Baroncelli, who was born in Aix-en-Provence in 1869 and died in Avignon in 1943. He is remembered in "les Saintes" for the causes that he served selflessly …the "regeneration" of local livestock, the bulls and and ponies, the status of their "gardians", whom he elevated to dignity in their function, wildlife conservation and protection of l’Etang de Vaccarès, and other nature reserves, the defence of minorities and underdogs everywhere… :
including Spanish Republicans, American Indians - Buffalo Bill, on a circus tour in Europe, named him "Oiseau fidèle" (faithful bird) ! - the Boers in South Africa and the gypsies - in whose behalf he persuaded the archbishop of Aix to include "black" sainte Sarah among the company of Saints Mary.
The "Félibrige" (Provençal speakers and writers) whose journal the "Aïoli" he directed with Frédéric Mistral, leader of the movement. A militant anti-militarist, he supported the communist mayor of les Saintes, and as a "green" before the term was invented he orchestrated the development of courses camarguaises (bull runs) and jeux (games), including a form of "tag" less dangerous to the bull’s health than to that of the "raseteurs" (young local lads) themselves who endeavour to snatch rosettes from its head without being tossed over the surrounding boards. Frédéric Mistral himself, confided "le pays" to his care : "Je te laisse la Camargue !" ("I leave the Camargue to you!").
In 1943 Folco de Baroncelli, expelled by the Germans from his home, le Mas de Simbou (the house of Symbol !), died on December 15th. In 1953 his ashes were transferred to les Saintes. The bulls grazing in the field of his famous manade, followed the funeral procession as it passed by on the road. Like the "holy Marys", the bulls and white horses acquired mythical status.

The Camarguais ponies treading the salt water with ease as their natural element, are discovered to be descendants of the watery steeds who powered Neptune’s chariot… and the bulls, a cross-breed of the Minotaur and Mithras, Persian god
of light and wisdom whose "taurobolium" (blood sacrifice of the bull) depicted in Roman times is "a handsome youth, wearing the Phrygian cap, and kneeling on a bull whose throat he is cutting."
("ouch !" editor’s note)
The past, reality and legend, permeates the Camargue as the salt permeates the earth on which it rests. Its heart and soul, however, steeped in religion, pagan and Christian myth, story and history, bear permanent traces of the spiritual values that still cling to it today. The (hi)story of the Marquis, certainly nearer in time and easily verifiable, bears a magically poetic resemblance to the miraculous accounts that survive from the early Christian era : his devotion to the poor, oppressed and disinherited, unstinting sacrifices to help the needy, his noble heritage and the devotion manifested by his humble friends, and his "crusade" in favour of Sarah and of the gypsies, - the intervention of the Archbishop of the cathedral Saint-Sauveur (Holy Saviour!) in Aix-en-Provence redoubled the fervour of their pilgrimage -.
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