Jour de grande Tripettes à Barjols (1978)

In the Var, as elsewhere in Provence, ancestral traditions and legends combine to celebrate the importance of draught animals. Welcome to the fascinating world of Provence's oxen. For almost 700 years, the Var village of Barjols has celebrated "tripettes" on Saint-Marcel's Day (January 16). Claude Boyer tells us all about it.

Where does the tradition of Les Tripettes de Barjols come from?

Legend has it that in the5th century, Saint Marcel, bishop of Die in the Drôme region, was returning home after being received by the pope in Rome. On the way, he was caught dead between Aups and Barjols at the Saint-Maurice monastery, where he was naturally buried. Time passed, the monastery was abandoned and, emptied of its occupants, it eventually fell into ruin. Only one faithful man remained to watch over the bishop's tomb, and one night Saint Marcel appeared to him and asked that his remains be transferred to a place worthy of his status, rather than rest in the midst of these wretched crumbling walls. Now, as we saw above, Saint Marcel had died halfway between Aups and Barjols, so the two villages fought over his remains.

Women dancing to keep warm at the Tripettes in Barjols - 1978 - photo André Abbe

The dispute was born: who would "recover" the Saint?

The Count of Provence, passing through Brignoles, heard of the dispute; he received both parties and ruled with a judgment worthy of Solomon:

"Measure the distance between your respective villages and the remains of Saint Marcel, the nearest will house the saint."

And so it was done. The legend doesn't say how much the difference was, but it was the Barjolais who won and took possession of the relics, much to the dismay of the Aupsois. The date was January 16, 1350, and it turns out that every January 16, the Barjolais celebrated by sacrificing an ox whose tripe, placed in large baskets, was paraded through the village streets in a farandole. This custom was a reminder that a few years earlier, the Barjolais had been saved from famine by the providential arrival of an ox!

The relic bearers arrive in the middle of the festivities while the animal is being skinned. Kisses and congratulations are exchanged, and religious and pagan alike run to the collegiate church, mixing the profane and the sacred, entering the church drunk with joy (and perhaps not only that...) and jumping up and down singing:

- Sant Macèu, Sant Macèu, li tripeto, li tripeto...(- Saint Marcel, saint Marcel, les tripettes, les tripettes...)

This is how the famous tripette dance was born and the famous festival instituted.

This is why, on January 16, 1350, Saint Marcel became the town's patron saint, and the immolation of the ox became identified with his cult.

Over time, a bishop of Fréjus, horrified by this pagan rite of sacrifice associated with a Christian saint, tried to suppress the procession. The Revolution, which did not look kindly on this kind of demonstration, also tried, but to no avail, for tradition prevailed, and is still very much alive... Every morning on January 16, tambourines and fifes make their music heard through the streets... In the afternoon, the ox, all wrapped up, is led through the village, escorted by the butchers... The clergy is there, blessing the arms, the flag... and the ox.

At the hour of compline, the crowd enters the collegiate church and the Tripettes dance begins... Even the parish priest hops along!

Tripettes de Barjols - 1978 - photo André Abbe

On January 17, a solemn mass is held, and once again there's dancing and the bust of the saint is carried around the village. The poor ox is dead! It was sacrificed the day before, and will now be skewered, immolated. But it's only sacrificed every four years, and it's not the one that's taken around town, of course. The meat consumed comes from a slaughterhouse where the animal has been duly killed in accordance with current hygiene regulations.

Some is eaten roasted, others stewed...

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