Les Bravades de St Tropez

In the year 68, Torpes who was a high steward under Roman Emperor Nero publicly refused to recant his Christian faith and this had him beheaded by Emperor Nero who had him thrown in the River Arno with a rooster and a dog.  The boat followed the currents to the town of Saint Tropez and to this day, the town inhabitants honour their Saint with 3 days of processions through the streets, church masses and military displays.

Since the 15th century, the town of Saint Tropez was attacked by pirates and in the 16th century they deemed it necessary to appoint a City Captain whose role became a war leader who would keep the militia in order and protect the city and its inhabitants.

For over a century, the City Captain and his men defended the city and the powers they had were officially recognised by patent letters from every King of France until Louis XIV.   Eventually, the militia was replaced by a royal garrison at the Citadelle and the use of weapons was no longer needed – however, the Bravadeurs still hold weapons today to honour their military heritage.

There are also regional Bravades held in Sainte Maxime, Fréjus, and Cogolin but the St Tropez Bravades are the most spectacular.

The City Captain & Les Bravadeurs

A City Captain is chosen annually by the Cepoun of the Bravadeurs and he is officially named on Easter Monday by the City Council.  He receives the honour to lead the Bravade with a sword engraved with his name.  He then chooses a Major (another adult) and two Ensigns (two children aged between 10 and 13 years old).

Bravade Uniforms

The General Staff wear black uniforms with gold – the City Captain and Ensign have blue scarves around their waist; the Major and Major Ensign have a cuff of the same colour around their left arm.

The City Captain and Ensign wear blue scarves around their waists; the Major and Major Ensign have blue scarves around their left arm (Bravades de St Tropez)

The City Captain and Ensign wear blue scarves around their waists; the Major and Major Ensign have blue scarves around their left arm (Bravades de St Tropez)

The remaining Bravade participants dress in soldier and sailor uniforms and fire traditional weapons including blunderbasses and muskets to signify the freedom of the Tropéziens during battle or protection of church processions, and to show loyalty to their Patron Saint.

The Bravades of St Tropez take place every year from 16 May to 18 May – in 2016, they fall on Monday 16 May to Wednesday 18 May.  The schedule of town events for 2016 is:

Monday 16 May

8am – Dawn serenade to the authorities and heads of the Bravades (21 shots are fired by the Bravade Brotherhood)

11am – Cimetière Marin:  Laying a wreath at the War Monument (Monument aux Morts des Deux Guerres)  by the City Captain

2.30pm – Place du Hotel de Ville:  Meeting of the Bravade participants

3pm – Taking the pike and flag and blessing of the weapons

3.30pm-8pm – In the town:  Small Bravade (The Bravade Brotherhood fire their muskets into the air and ground, followed by a procession of the bust of the Saint borne by the Cross Bearers and followed by the Pisans, who represent the executors of the Saint dressed in red robes. After many hours of firing their weapons at various spots throughout the town, the bust is returned to the Church).

bust

7pm – Public ball

Tuesday 17 May

8am – Place du Hotel de Ville:  Meeting of the Bravade participants

9am – Mass called ‘The Musketeers’ at the Parish Church followed by the main procession through the city with townspeople wearing traditional costumes.

Bravades de St Tropez

Bravades de St Tropez

3.30pm – Place du Hotel de Ville:  Meeting of the Bravade participants

4pm-midnight – In the town and Place du Hotel de Ville:  Main Bravade and surrender of pikes and flags (the Main Bravade is much like the Petite Bravade of the previous day but longer and the firing stops are more frequent and more intense!)

7pm – Public ball

Wednesday 18 May

8am – Place du Hotel de Ville:  Meeting of the Bravade participants

9am – Procession to Chapelle Sainte-Anne: The entire town follows the bust of the Saint out of the town to the hillside Chapelle Saint-Anne. After a Thanksgiving Mass, there is a picnic and parade back to town where the Saint is interred again until the next year.

11.15am – Salle Jean Despas:  Honorary vermouth offered by the City Captain to officials and Bravade participants

 

 

 

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