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French village honors patron saints' legendary voyage

Guillaume Horcajuelo / EPA

Pilgrims carry statues of Saint Mary Salome and Saint Mary Jacobe during a procession on a beach of Saintes-Maries-de-la-mer, southwestern France.

Guillaume Horcajuelo / EPA

A gypsy woman touches a decorated display case containing the relics of Saint Mary Salome and Saint Mary Jacobe.

Guillaume Horcajuelo / EPA

A pilgrim carries a flag of the 'Saintes Maries' Brotherhood.

The European Pressphoto Agency reports — Every October, pilgrims from all over Europe gather in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, France, to honor the village's patron saints.  

According to Christian texts, Mary Jacobe (the sister of Mary, mother of Jesus) and Mary Salome (the mother of the Apostles James and John) were expelled from Jerusalem with Mary Magdalene and many others around the year A.D. 40. After being shipped off on a boat without sails or oars, they reached France's Camargue coast. The Breviary of the Aix-en-Provence Diocese says that the two women remained on the shore and converted the local people and Romans occupying the region.

As part of the annual pilgrimage, worshipers pay their respects to the pair during a mass to their relics, contained in a decorated display case. Then guardians on horseback, priests, pilgrims and locals wearing traditional attire take part in a procession through the village carrying statues of Saint Mary Salome and Saint Mary Jacobe. Their march takes them to the sea, where the two statues are blessed. 

Editor's note: These pictures were taken on October 21-22, 2012 and made available to NBC News today.

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