Hiking – Leisure | Sunday in Arles, return of the High Mass of the Watchers

Finally, on May 1st, in its traditional form, after two years of absence, the Fête des gardians returns to Arles with great fanfare. If last year the event had to be held in June and in a reduced composition due to health problems, this time the celebrations will be able to take place in their classic configuration.

“We are glad that we found our usual May 1st, we missed it very much. We are returning to a more or less normal life.“, declares Frédéric Lescaut, president of the Confrérie des gardians. After the Easter fair, which he considers a success, he is relieved to see that the traditional gatherings are resuming, and the people of Arles and tourists are returning to attend these important gatherings. “We feel that in two years people want to have fun. I was afraid Covid would slow them down for the Feria but that didn’t happen.“, assures Frederic Lescaut.

The meeting is also long overdue for the caregivers, who have spent two difficult years in a health crisis and imprisonment. “The profession is economically unstablebecause we depend on the party, Frederic Lescaut admits. We have already faced anti, and now with Covid… Our traditions are in danger.

But it relativizes:This year the Brotherhood turns 510 years old! It was created in 1512. And we launched Fête des Gardians to help the professionals.“Initially, it denoted St. George, the patron saint of the guards, but was later transferred to May Day.

Sunday, therefore, is assigned to the guardians in front of the summer garden, on the Boulevard de Lys, at exactly 9 am. The parade will start in 30 minutes and head to the Forum Square to salute the statue of Frédéric Mistral. “Then we will climb Mayor, where there will be a blessing of the horses and a Mass in Provençal.explains the president of the fraternity. And at noon we all go down to the Town Hall Square to hand over the consecrated bread.”

For tourists, this is an opportunity to discover the outfits of the Arles women who ride the Amazons.Photo courtesy of Valerie Farin

After a meal among the shepherds, everyone will meet the curious and connoisseurs in the arenas, where the Provençal show will take place. “There will be a change in the captain of the Brotherhood. Immanuel Lescaut gives way to Raul Mailhan with his two abbots, Olivier Brondino and Clement Borelli.“, says Frederic Lesko.

The two priors, in particular, will demonstrate waiting with iron, and Raul Mailhan – ferrade. Two cockardier bulls from the Fabre-Meylan estate will be sheared by students of the Arles school. The Brotherhood riders will then redo the 12-rider carousel before making way for two abrivados, one for adults and one for pitchchauns.

This party is about mixing colors with horses, Arlesian outfits, shirts… It’s great, impatient impatient Frederic Lescaut. For those who don’t know, I invite them to come and share a moment of celebration and tradition.

Finally, according to Frederic Lescaut, for this Guardian Festival to be a real success, it only takes one thing: “We pray to St. George for good weather !”

Testimony of Leopold Granka, apprentice guardian: “We do not count our hours, we are in the service of animals”

From the height of his 18 years, Leopold Granki does not see himself in anything other than a guardian. With his father trading at the Nicollin estate and the rest of the family in the Camargue world, it was only natural that he became an apprentice.

And, he already knows, guardianship is, as they say, “work with passion”:We do not count our hours, we are in the service of animals. Don’t be afraid to work outside in any weather. And on Sunday you can’t say: “I’m going to eat with my family.” Animals need to eat, they are still living beings and problems can arise at any moment. During the Camargue racing season, from the beginning of March to the middle of November, we do not go on holiday. We may consider going away for a week or two, depending on the job and if someone helps us with the herd.

Upon graduation, the government will consider him a young farmer and receive assistance in his profession. “State aid is good… But aid from Europe is decreasing more and more”he slips, worried.

After two dark years for horse breeders and bulls, Leopold is glad to find all these fine people gathered in Arles. “Fête des gardians is a time when professionals and amateurs come together to show that the tradition is alive. The women are dressed like Arlesian women, they ride horses, sometimes side-saddle… It’s really a holiday, because it’s just joy”– concludes the future professional guardian.


9 am.: gathering of shepherds on Lis Boulevard, at the level of the summer garden. Hiking groups meet at Republic Square.

9:30: start of the parade.

10 a.m : Salute to the statue of Frédéric Mistral in Place de la Forum, then depart towards Notre Dame de la Mayor.

10:30 : blessing of horses, then mass in Provençal.

12 hours: return to Republic Square to hand over the consecrated bread to the authorities.

12:30 p.m.: Fraternal meal in the village council.

15:45: the great Provençal spectacle in the arenas of the shepherds of the Brotherhood: bulls with a cockade from the estate of Fabre-Mailan for the students of the school of racetors in Arles. Then the aiguillette tournament, the shepherd games, the abrivado on the track and the abrivado de picun.

Entrance to the arenas: 10 euros (free for children under 12).

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