Dem bones

Last Sunday the small town of Charroux in the south Vienne departement of the Poitou-Charentes region (not to be confused with the town of the same name in the Allier departement of the Auvergne region) hosted an ‘ostension’, a parade of holy relics through the streets.

It should have been a good opportunity to capture some interesting images, but the weather wasn’t helpful. It wasn’t as awful as it has been elsewhere, and could have been worse, but it was a dull, grey day. The town was decorated with thousands of yellow and white crepe paper flowers, strung across the streets, wrapped around lamp posts, adorning garden gates and window sills. These flowers are all hand-made, a labour of love that takes two months.




The roses are real.

The procession started at the church, from which a stream of people emerged bearing banners, and boxes, cushions and glass cases containing parts and pieces of saints.

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The bishop brought up the rear, walking within a canopy carried by four men. As the procession covered a fair distance both down and uphill, it must have taken some concentration for bishop and bearers to keep in step.


Some of the participants wore costumes, others were in mufti.




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I don’t know who these bones belonged to. They are clearly visible.


This lady found a novel way of ensuring her husband didn’t get lost in the crowd. 🙂

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This altar at the foot of the 11th century Tour Charlemagne (our local version of the leaning tower of Pisa) was beautifully decorated, but the procession by-passed it, which seems a shame.


Behind the procession came a flower-decked van with speakers on the roof, where people took turns to pray and sing hymns for the benefit of all to hear.




Flower children scattered rose petals.



For some it was a solemn occasion.




But not for everyone, it seemed. 😀


The saints must have been watching over Charroux on Sunday and kept the rain at bay for the procession. Because for as far back as I can remember, it’s been raining almost non-stop.

This post is linked to the #AllAboutFrance linky, where you’ll find some other great blogs about France.


17 thoughts on “Dem bones

  1. Great photos and a fascinating event. They don’t seem to have these processions in our area or perhaps I have just missed them. I love the lady keeping her husband close with the sash! Now, that gives me an idea…

    • It’s the first I’ve seen in the 21 years we’ve lived in France, although being non-churchgoers it’s possible that we have simply missed them. There was one in Le Dorat about six weeks ago, with horses and men in splendid medieval costumes. Unfortunately the weather was so awful we didn’t go. I believe they only happen once every seven years.

    • I think they mostly taken place in the Limousin region, Vanessa. That was a freak photo of the sash, of course they weren’t really bound together, it’s just the way the photo came out! I couldn’t have done it if I’d tried.. 🙂

  2. What lovely photos, annotated so very well! Thank you for taking the photos and for the posting. I feel as though I’ve made a quick trip to southwestern France this morning.

  3. I remember being absolutely horrified as a child in the Austrian Tyrol when they marched bones through our village at Easter but this is SO much more! By the way, the gentleman in the dapper green and white sash bearing a litter with a green majolica casket upon it looks for all the world like Bernie Sanders … perhaps he might join the electoral circus here – I reckon he’d have a chance!

  4. Thanks Susie – glad the rain held off! These religious rituals remind me of my most recent visit to France. There we were in a church in Aix en Provence thinking we were at a concert – Gregorian Chants. Two and a half hours later – and we in fact had been at the ordination of a priest!

    • I remember that one, Alison. Two and a half hours of Gregorian Chants is more than enough. We sometimes go to Liguge to listen to Vespers. Although we are not religious, it is a rather nice spiritual experience and the chanting is relaxing. But it doesn’t last more than about 15 minutes, which is sufficient.

  5. Interesting event. One thing that has often stumped me is the publicity with which people show their faith etc. I have always considered it to be a private thing yet there are many more who will march happily and some will carry boxes of old bones to boot!! 😉

    • I agree with you. People don’t need to demonstrate how holy they are. In fact I know quite a few church-goers who are far from being Christian in their behaviour! It was interesting to see the enormous amount of work that had gone into decorating the vilage for the event. I suspect that many were there just for the social aspect rather than the religious one. It was a cheerful occasion.

  6. I have jokingly referred to it as ostentations, Pip, especially the one at Le Dorat (which sadly we missed due to awful weather), where there were horses and people in flamboyant costumes. However, the correct French name is ostension in this case. Larousse defines it as an exhibition of relics.

  7. Strange how the brain works. I had every intention of putting ostension but my long ago school training got ostentatious into my personal spell checker and ended in a joint collaboration hence ostentations.
    I’m not in the least bit a believer but there is a certain fascination in these ceremonies – and I love the architecture of cathedrals and churches.
    Love too to hear a good Gregorian chant ring round a cathedral.

  8. Despite the grey you got some lovely photos, those flowers are incredible. We don’t have religious fêtes around here, they’re nearly all related to local produce, mainly flowers and citrus which in general means they aren’t as solemn. Thanks for sharing with #AllAboutFrance

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