22 June 2018

Folco de Baroncelli in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, Bouches-du-Rhône (13)

Folco de Baroncelli Javon (1869–1943), poet and gardian (herdsman) in the Camargue. From an aristocratic Florentine family, he shared his life between the Languedoc, a huge family house in Avignon, and Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, where his passion for the Camargue led him. He followed Frédéric Mistral, and was a Majoral of the Félibrige. He published many bilingual books – in Provençal and French, and eventually moved to Saintes-Maries to become a gardian. He was the friend of many poets, and deeply concerned with the lives of the oppressed, such as Indians and gypsies.

The Marquis de Baroncelli first lived in the mas L'Amarée, which his financial situation forced him to leave. However, the Santois (people of Saintes-Maries) had such respect for him that they helped him construct Le mas de Simbèu, an exact replica of L'Amarée. But during the Second World War the Germans requisitioned and occupied it. Weak with illness, Folco de Baroncelli was thrown out and sought refuge in Avignon, where he died on 15 December 1943. Before leaving, the Nazis blew up Le Mas de Simbèu. In the 1950s a tomb was erected on the exact site of the mas, and in July of the same year his ashes were transferred here.

In the centre of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, Musée Baroncelli is closed, although no reason to my knowledge has been given why. A pity.

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