Our Vacation Rental Homes in Sablet, Provence

Sablet Village, Vaucluse, Provence, France
Maison des Pelerins and La Baume des Pelerins, or "les Pelerins" as we affectionately refer to our dream come true, of owning our own homes in Provence, are located in the heart of the Vaucluse. We thoroughly enjoy hearing from our guests to "les Pelerins" that they feel they are spending time in their own home in Provence. To be a part of village life, Sablet is the perfect place. "Les Pelerins" dates back to the time when the Popes administered the Catholic Church from Avignon, with a Papal Vice-Legat having a residence right here in Sablet. Our neighbor's home was the Vice-Legat's residence. Ours was one of the buildings that housed visitors and pilgrims and was connected to it, as we can see from the internal portals, and the front door of Maison des Pelerins. Hence the name - Pelerins is French for pilgrims. I hope this Blog will help you get to know Provence and live your Provencal Dream.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Santons - Provence's Little Saints

The Little Saints of Provence, or "Santons" as we know them, are a much loved and a very visible part of life in Provence at any time of year ...... at Christmas ... they really come into their own!

    Prior to Christmas,  the neighboring Village of Seguret hosts an "Exposition" of Santons.  Master Santonniers prepare an interpretation of their Village, and show how the Nativity scene and the Village would have looked at the time of Christ's birth
In this display, the Santonnier added a backdrop of a map to show where this scene is set
Every Christmas Market has several displays of Santons for market goers to take home 
to decorate their own Creches.  My previous Post about the Christmas Markets in Provence has many pictures of the Santonnier's Market Stands, so I have not included any of those pictures  in this Post.    In Provence, at Christmas you will find the little saints decorating shops, restaurants, markets, airports ... and of course, homes.

All the Village is there, with gifts to pay their respects to the Holy Family
The Manger is set in an open room, that is still characteristic of many Provencal homes - usually outfitted with a Kitchen and often referred to as a "summer room", where the family can cook and eat outdoors, yet out of the strong midday sun.

This Nativity is set in a Cabane - a Provencal sheep herder's shelter that is often seen out in the countryside

Santons were first seen at a Christmas Fair in Marseille in 1803, but their popularity spread quickly and Santonniers (makers of Santons), became one of the fixtures of each village.  

These artisan Santonniers lovingly and painstakingly produce the small statues 
either carved out of wood, or formed out of clay.  
After sculpting the Santons, the Santonnier 
carefully hand paints each figure, then dresses it.

Notice the small planter box of  wheat or lentil shoots at the bottom right  - another Provencal Christmas Tradition. On the 4th December, each family plants seeds of wheat or lentils and carefully tends them throughout Advent.  When the Nativity is laid out on Christmas Eve, the newly grown grass becomes a part of the Nativity scene.  The growth of the      grass tells how the next growing season will be.... if it is tall and straight - the season will be a good one                                  .... if is spotty or weak - the season will not be good.
Originally made to  represent the  figures seen customarily in the Nativity scene, the characters were soon expanded.  Since legend has it that Jesus was born in Provence, each Creche is decorated to show how the village as it would have been at the time of Jesus's birth.

All the village is on their way to pay their respects to the Holy Family - all the characters are included.

.......  we mustn't forget the Musicians!

The Nativity is shown in the village, so it is necessary to include the village residents. The butcher at work, the baker, the lavender lady carrying her bundles of lavender, the fisherman's wife taking her basket of fish to market, the Mayor, the Ladies who dance the Farandole etc., whatever was appropriate for the village.  In many villages, Santonniers actually carved the faces to resemble those in the village!

This Santonnier, placed the Santons against a  backdrop of painted canvas to show the setting of a small valley and the surrounding  craggy rocks

Right here in Seguret, Sablet's closest neighbor, Master Santonnier Phillipe Fournier practices his craft in a small workshop on Rue Poterne.  The workshop is also open throughout the year  for visits and sales. Each Christmas season, Seguret hosts an Exposition des Santons, which features Master Santonniers from throughout Provence. 

The elaborate scenes  are set up with interpretations of the Nativity Scenes from various parts of Provence. If you are planning to visit the area at Christmas and would like more information about the Exposition it is held at: Chapelle Sainte Th├Ęcle - Salle Delage, 84110 SEGURET   
Tel. : +33 (0)4 90 46 91 06        E-mail :  
The entrance fee is 2 Euros for adults - children are admitted free of charge.

Masion des Pelerins - our Santons spend their time in the bookshelves decorating the library area
Santons are made in a variety of sizes from the small for the average creche to a size that is commonly used as a part of the normal decorations in a home - such as the Tambourinaire (drummer) and the Lavender Seller  who decorate the bookshelves at Maison des Pelerins.

The Mantlepiece at Restaurant le Martinet near Sablet, decorated for Christmas with large Santons
These delightful "little Saints" are as synonymous with Provencal Christmas traditions,
  as are the "Treize Desserts".

Late Extra!
Last Saturday, I visited the 3rd Street Sale in San Francisco and met Veronique Evenhouse - the owner of Petite Provence, a Provencal store in Santa Cruz that sells wonderful table linens and all things Provencal.  Veronique told me, that even though she does not have Santons featured in her online Catalog, she does have some at the store.  If you would like to buy some for this year, give her a call at  (831) 462 2120; Email: veronique@petitprovence.com  or visit her website: www.PetiteProvence.com


  1. How fun! The Christmas market is open in our town and we have one Santon stand - thinking of starting my first creche this year.

  2. Hi Tuula, starting a collection of Santons is such a fun way to build a creche. It is such fun to pick up the little figures when visiting different towns, and even more fun remembering all your great trips - while putting your creche together each year!