Catastrophized by the winter drought, Catalan farmers brought out the relics of their patron saint on Saturday in Perpignan and revived a tradition abandoned for more than a century, in the hope of bringing rain to the Pyrénées-Orientales.
At some point the situation is so critical that we bring out all the possible saints, we call on everyone
", summarizes in a joking tone Julien Bousquet, 29, market gardener and arborist, participating in the procession.
Under the stormy sky, hundreds of people (clergy, religious brotherhoods, farmers and the curious) marched through the streets of old Perpignan, carrying relics of the patron saint of Catalan farmers, Saint Gaudérique.
The Catholic procession ended on the banks of the Têt, one of the main rivers of the Pyrénées-Orientales.
Four farmers walked in the shallow water, carrying on their shoulders a reliquary bust of Saint-Gaudérique, to ask for his intercession.
This ritual had not been practiced for nearly 150 years
,” explains to AFP the archpriest of the cathedral of Perpignan, Benoît de Roeck, who led the ceremony organized at the request of a local winegrower.
Saint Gaudérique (Galdéric in Catalan), an Aude peasant who lived in the 9th century, is one of the most famous and celebrated Catalan saints and was "
traditionally invoked for water problems
", he specifies.
RAYMOND ROIG / AFP
Between the 11th and 19th centuries, 800 processions in his honor took place in the region, abounds Jean-Luc Antonizazzi, a historian specializing in Catalan Baroque art, who specifies: "he was invoked for the lack of water or
the too much water, but also for the plague
If the ritual "
stopped in the years 1850-1880 with the advent of the industrial era
", the saint "
has not fallen into oblivion
", he continues, pointing out that his feast is still celebrated on October 16 and that children still bear the name of Galdéric today.
However, this return of devotion in 2023 coincides with a crisis situation described as unprecedented by farmers.
We are clinging to everything now
”, breathes André Trives, 40, market gardener in agroecology, who describes a “
We know that if there are no refills by April-May (...) on August 15, there will be no more water
", he fears, saying that they did not, however, "
wait for Saint Gauderique to pray (for) the water
Météo-France announces rain this weekend (...) but there it would take whole weeks of water for the water to penetrate the ground and recharge the groundwater
", adds Julien Bousquet, observing from above the religious procession.
RAYMOND ROIG / AFP
Since October, the department of Pyrénées-Orientales, one of the most affected in France by drought, has recorded only 159.4 mm of precipitation, a deficit of 60.8% of precipitation compared to normal seasonal precipitation, according to Meteo-France data.
Everything is practically dry (...) it is very worrying, but we are in hope and hope.
We have to pray, we will have water
”, wants to convince himself Damien De Besombes, 50, winegrower who had volunteered to carry the relics.