Origin of santon

Origins and history of the santon of Provence

The Provençal word " Santoun " means " Little Saint ". It refers to clay figurines made in Provence and called in French " Santons".

Saint-Luc places the birth of Jesus in a "Crupio": (in Provençal: Grupi) which means "stable manger". This is the origin of future representations of the Nativity.

The Christmas party was decided by Pope Liberius in the year 354.

This Christmas party replaces the pagan festival of the "Nathalis Solis Invicti": Unconquered sun growing after the winter solstice.

The first representation of the Nativity, which was found, was carved on a marble sarcophagus of the fourth century.

It was not until 1223 that St. Francis of Assisi decided, at the castle of Grecio in Italy, to represent the living nativity scene.

Nativity scenes appear in churches only in the 16th century, with wax figures (only for the divine characters and for the purity of the candle). Others will be made of wood, plaster or bread, dressed in fabrics.

At the revolution, the churches are closed but the nursery is present in the homes.

It is then that the first small santons appear. The Santon Lagnel is one of the most famous and oldest. He was born in 1764. The first santon fair is in Marseille (December 1803).