TO SEE | TOWN
In this blog post I will continue my exploration of Aigues-Mortes. As you could discover in part 1 (which you can read here), I was positively surprised by this picturesque and historic town. After visiting its beautiful centre, I decided to take my visit to the next level by climbing La Tour de Constance and 13th-century ramparts.
During the 13th century, the kingdom of France wanted to have direct access to the Mediterranean Sea. King Louis IX – or Saint-Louis – not only wanted to trade with the West, but he also wanted to provide troops to the crusades of that time. Although it was difficult to find the right spot; as the coastline of the Provence belonged to the Holy Roman Empire, while the Kings of Aragon ruled the Languedoc-Roussillon seaside. Only the dead waters around “Aquae Mortuae” were negotiable. After obtaining the town and its surrounding lands, Louis IX started building the watchtower La Tour de Constance and the ramparts.
Both La Tour de Constance and the city walls date from the 13th century. The watchtower got completed in 1240, while Saint-Louis didn’t live to see the city walls finished. Even though these fortifications go back a long way, they are very well preserved. As I wanted to see Aigues-Mortes from above, I felt like a walk on the 1,650 meters long ramparts. An entrance fee of 8 euro is charged (free under 26 years) and this includes a visit to the ramparts as well as La Tour de Constance. 8 euro might seem a lot for a walk on a wall and a visit of a tower, but I can assure you it is worth every penny (or centime in this case)!
First of all, the view you get from the ramparts is just amazing. I couldn’t stop taking pictures. From picturesque Aigues-Mortes seen from above. From the military architecture of the ramparts. From the pink coloured salt marshes. And more! Secondly, you’ll learn a lot from the historical info offered when visiting the ramparts. In total, I walked on and under 17 towers and gates. Each of them has a sign, both in French and English, mentioning the name of that particular tower or gate as well as the location on the rampart. Some of them even host a small exposition. You can also get an audio tour (available in several languages) to get even more information.
La Tour de Constance
Last but not least it’s worth to visit La Tour de Constance, also known as “le donjon” or the dungeon. I was eager to climb the stairs to get a view from even higher above from the 33 meters high terrace. And I wasn’t disappointed: the panoramic view on the fortified town with the blue, pinkish purple of the salt marshes in the background is breathtaking! It gives a great overview of Aigues-Mortes. From above it shows its strategic position as well as its military structure to protect the town back in the days.
Don’t forget about the interior of La Tour de Constance though. Via a small entrance tower and a bridge I entered the watchtower. From the 14th century until the French revolution, the tower was a prison. Standing in the guardroom on the first floor and the knight’s hall on the second one, I was struck by the serenity of the space and the beauty of the vaulted ceiling. This watchtower with its 6 metres thick wall breathes history.