Sunday, April 8, 2012

Mr Gilbert, Palm Frond Artist

Mr GIlbert with this year's creation for Prince Albert and Princess Charlene

Last Saturday, on the day before Palm Sunday, I was walking to the market in nearby Beausoliel to buy Uncle Jim's favourite bread for dinner.

There was Auntie, zooming along, thinking about nothing in particular except what kind of soup to make to eat with  Uncle Jim's favourite bread, but as I was passing the pretty Eglise St Charles, something caught my eye. 

Under a little red and yellow tent was Mr GIlbert, who was busily working away, creating the most intricate and beautiful sculptures made out of palm fronds.  He was surrounded by hundreds of his creations, some topped with white and red ribbons.

What was this all about, I wondered?

Here in the south of France, palm frond sculptures or Rameaux are popular around Easter time to celebrate Palm Sunday.  You can also see Rameaux  in nearby Ventimiglia, Italy, but the ones you'll find there are mostly simple crosses that cost just a few euro. 
A Thai Loy Krathong sculpture

Mr Gilbert's elaborate Rameaux cost a lot more and put those little crosses to shame! His are true works of art and they reminded me of the beautiful and intricate sculptures that Auntie saw in Thailand during their annual Loy Krathong holiday.

Rameaux aren't just works of art.  They have a symbolic meaning for Catholics and if you bring your Rameaux to church on Palm Sunday, your priest will bless them for you.  After that, you can display your Rameaux in your home.

Mr Gilbert put down his fronds and scissors for a few  minutes and he told me his story.

Rameaux fit for royalty
Mr Gilbert's family has been making beautiful and ornate Rameaux sculptures for 7 generations and his family are the official suppliers of Rameaux to Monaco's Royal Family.
Palm fronds ready for sculpting
Every year, starting the week before Palm Sunday, Mr Gilbert rises at 4AM and works away until midnight each day to make hundreds of Rameaux for his many clients.  

This year, the special Rameaux he made for  Prince Albert and his new wife, Princess Charlene was tall, elaborate and beautiful.  A true work of art.  He proudly showed it to Auntie with the special ones he had made  for Princess Caroline and Princess Stephanie.  He was going to deliver them to the Palace later that afternoon.

Before I left Mr GIlbert, Auntie bought a small, pretty one and when I got it home, Uncle Jim and I  spent some time marvelling at it and how it was made.  

Then we had dinner with a delicious vegetable soup and Uncle Jim's favourite bread which was the reason why I discovered Mr Gilbert and his Rameaux in the first place.

And I bet you thought that Easter eggs were the only creative things to make at Easter!

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