A veritable journey into the past ...

The Festival of the Valentine Saint in Roquemaure (in France) is first of all a true historical reconstitution  of 19th century.
 

A 1868 style...

The town changes character: the streets are decked out, the shops take their olden day appearance, all professions and social classes are represented, the hairdresser becomes a wig-maker and the pharmacist an apothecary. The inhabitants of the town dress in 1868 style, accentuating the journey into the past.

The sun hasn?t come up in the Pousterle Square when the traders start their day: the blacksmith is noisily hammering on his anvil, the knife grinder is bent over his worktable, constantly shouting his presence and calling out for knives and scissors to repair. The pedlar proposes all sorts of bric-a-brac and strange objects, stopping here and there to warm up with a cup of coffee.

 

The Town of old-time trades

Hairpins, used eyeglasses, candy, ribbons or rosaries, housewives can find any small object that is needed in a home. Our pedlar even has small books, almanacs and sheet music in his pockets.

Standing at the corner of his shop, the cobbler, a notorious gossip, discusses with his neighbours the latest scandal. He repairs used shoes, patching the holes with pieces of leather recuperated here and there. At the public wash house, the washer women beat and wash the laundry while gossiping, before hanging it up to dry in the fields. To forget the monotony of washing the laundry, they laugh a lot and sometimes quarrel. On the sidewalk the chair-bottomer offers his services. He repairs chairs with straw that is braided in the traditional manner; with the money earned he can buy a bit of bread and cheese. The cooper adjusts the iron circles on the wood of his barrels.

Of course, the winegrowers buy his products to store and transport their wine, but the barrels are also used for oil, wheat or rye. In a corner stand two wash barrels that will be used to wash laundry.

The basket maker works on orders. This morning a farmer ordered a basket for his cheese. The agile fingers of the basket maker transform the strands of wicker in a flick of the wrist.

The young chimney sweeps, ladder and flue brush on their backs, offer their services. Even the narrowest chimney will be cleaned of its soot by the smallest of them.

 

The lover's wine

The flower seller elegantly displays a spray of mimosa and bouquets of violets for lovers to offer their loved ones. The winegrowers celebrate the god Bacchus and offer the lover?s wine to passers-by on the town hall square.

The merchants open their booths and offer a treat for the eyes. The children, more attracted by the marvellous lollipops, are dying to stick their fingers in the tempting jams. The crowds are packed in the square. A group of onlookers watch a tooth puller: he serves a glass of strong liquor to the patient, grasps the pliers and two seconds later proudly shows off the tooth. The public applauds. He also sells miraculous potions that heal, he claims, corns, heartburn, cholera and the plague.

 

The 1868 parade

Every member of the 1868 society is there: peasants and bourgeois, beggars and aristocrats, village notables, acrobats, and gipsies. More than 800 traditionally dressed people meet at crossroads and village squares to animate the 1868 parade: horses and carriages, a fire eater, musicians and folkloric groups, street singers, circus performers, organ barrels and wooden merry-go-rounds.

Wealthy women and their daughters in rich dresses and crinolines contrast with wine farm workers and their children wearing simple shawls and bonnets. Foot soldiers and hawkers share the roads with gentry in smart black suits with top hats and canes. Dapper officers sit astride their horses, children play in carts pulled by donkeys, peasants take their produce to market and an old man rides a penny-farthing.

So, on October 25th 1868, the bishop of Nîmes lord Plantier and a vast crowd welcomed St Valentine?s relics into Roquemaure. The relics were carried, amidst huge jubilation, towards the collegiate church.

When evening comes, fire works light up the town of Love and Lovers.

Saint Valentine?s relics are still there today. A representation of the Saint in an embroidered ruby and gold robe lies in an ornate, gilded, wooden case with glass panels.

Loving couples come here to make vows and light candles.

 

A military camp

A schoolmistress restores order in a reconstructed classroom and the military set up a whole camp with soldiers? tents, supplies and weapons.

 

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