In this blog post I will continue my exploration of Aigues-Mortes. As you discovered 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 its 13th-century ramparts.
During the 13th century, the French kingdom 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 for the crusades of the time. However, it was difficult to find the right spot. At that time, the Provence coastline 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 ownership of 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 was completed in 1240, but 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 decided to go for a walk on the 1,650 meters long ramparts. There is an entrance fee of 8 euros (free if you are under 26) and this includes a visit to the ramparts as well as La Tour de Constance. 8 euros might seem like a lot for a walk on a wall and a visit to a tower, but I can assure you it is worth every penny (or centime in this case)!
Firstly, the view you get from the ramparts is just amazing. I couldn’t stop taking pictures- of picturesque Aigues-Mortes seen from above, of the military architecture of the ramparts, of 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 have small exhibits. You can also get an audio tour (available in several languages) with even more information.
La Tour de Constance
Last but not least, it’s worth visiting 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, well above the 33 meter high ramparts. And I wasn’t disappointed: the panoramic view over 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 the military structure that protected the town back in the day.
Don’t forget about the interior of La Tour de Constance though. I entered the watchtower via a small entrance tower and a bridge. 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 floor, I was struck by the serenity of the space and the beauty of the vaulted ceiling. The watchtower with its 6-metre thick wall breathes history.