Dead Waters

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Off we travel to Aigues-Mortes, meaning “dead waters.” It took us approximately two hours to reach the ramparts of Aigues-Mortes — http://www.ot-aiguesmortes.fr using “Karen” our GPS navigator–our return trip took 1-1/2 hours using the old standby navigator, Bev.

By the time we arrived, guess what, it was time for lunch! We found a lovely little spot, Le Dit Vin Restaurant – www.ditvin.com – After lunch, Darren was quite ambitious and took to walking the perimeter of the wall. As he found out, once on top of the wall the only way to get down was to circumnavigate the entire wall. It was a 1-1/2 hour walk! Not only that he got a free sunburn along the way.

History

*Aigues-Mortes is a fortified city built in the 13th Century by the King of France, Louis IX. France possessed no seaport on the Mediterranean as such. As King Louis was to embark on a crusade to Palestine, and Louis IX did not want to embark from a “foreign” seaport like Marseille (foreign, because Marseille was ruled by the counts of Provence, thus separate from central government).

In 1240, King Louis, obtained a tract of virgin land frequented only by fishermen from the monks of the Abbaye de Psalmody. There he rapidly built the powerful Tour the Constance. In order to encourage people to settle on this rather desolate site, the king granted a charter in 1246 that offered many advantages, such as tax exemption and other commercial privileges.  Cluster of settlements developed in the vicinity.

The Seventh Crusade

In 1248 a huge armada chartered from Venice and Genoa gathered at Aigues-Mortes, which at the time was linked to the sea by the channel of Grau Louis. An estimated 1,500 ships, carrying 35,000 men plus horses and equipment set sail for Cyprus on August 28th. They arrived in Cyprus 23 days later and met with some success before being defeated at Al-Mansurah, Egypt. In 1270, St. Louis embarked with a fleet from Marseille that sailed to Tunis. It was there that he died of the plague, a disease he contracted while attending to his afflicted crusaders.

Decline

Aigues-Mortes stayed prosperous until the mid-14th Century, when it had a population of 15,000. However, the sea withdrew and the channels silted up in spite of dredging. The town’s activities now include wine growing, which extends over 75 percent of the municipality and salt extraction.*Reference:  Michelin Guide – Provence

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