Santons Marcel Carbonel 


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Marseilles, historical capital of the santon

The small earthen characters belong to the history of natives of this country and of their families. And, in turn, each generation rewrites its history that, from the 13th Century to today, has associated Provence with the myth. For some, the santon is evidence of the existence of Christianity. For others, it tells of popular resistance to the prohibition of midnight masses following the revolution of 1789.

There are also those for whom Santons have made it possible to offer to the general public replicas of luxurious cribs reserved at the time to the nobility. There are still historians of Provençal culture who describe Santons as faithful reproductions of pastoral characters of the 19th century. But to all of them, the Santon originates from Marseilles. It owes everything to its creators and to popular enthusiasm. Its history will carry on as long as men nourish this passion of creating timeless and mythical characters (symbols of dreams and mystery), but also of characters anchored in reality (symbols of everyday life).

* Nous vous renvoyons à l'ouvrage de référence de Régis Bertrand : "Crèches et Santons de Provence" édition A.Barthélemy 1992, Avignon. Il s'agit d'un travail d'historien sur les faits avérés de l'histoire du santon (et sur ses zones d'ombre) depuis ses origines, d'une chronologie extrèmement documentée sur ses différents acteurs et d'une considération esthétique sur l'art santonnier, ses inspirations et ses influences. Régis Bertrand est professeur d'histoire moderne à l'Université de Provence (Aix-Marseille I).

Some historical points

13th century
First creation of a live crib by Saint Francis of Assisi during a mass in the forest of Abruzzi (Italy - 1224).

17th century
A Capuchin friar of Marseilles, with a gift for sculpture, reproduces the characters of his convent's crib on a reduced scale for use by his congregation.

19th century
Appearance of the first Master-craftsmen of Santons in Provence. They select characters from everyday life (Lagnel).
1803 : In Marseilles, the capital of Santons, the 1st Foire aux Santons & aux Crèches takes place on the Cours Saint-Louis
1808 : The cours Saint-Louis became the cours Belzunce
1853 : Foire aux Santons, boulevard du Muy
1882 : The fair is set up in the Boulevard des Capucines
1883 : The fair is set up in the Allées de Meilhan
1897 : Since, the fair becomes an annual one. Nowadays, it is always held in December.

21th century
2003 : 200th session of the Fair
2005 : The Fair is displaced in Cours Estienne d'Orves
2007 : It comes back to the Allées Meilhan