The creation of the city of Aigues-Mortes is attributed to Marius Caius, around 102 B.C. According to PAGEZY, it was not until the XÂ° century that a document was discovered showing a region called Ayga Mortas in common language ( or Dead Water) which later became Aigues-Mortes.
Then in the XIIÂ° century, the world turned towards Aigues-Mortes, more precisely in 1240. At this time, Louis IX must leave in crusade with the others sovereigns of Europe to take over Jerusalem. It does not possess a port open to the Mediterranean and the king decides that Aquae Mortuae (Dead Water) will be the French port and therefore the point of departure for his expedition.
In effect, to the east, the port of Marseille belongs to the emporer Germain and to the west, the baron of Montpellier is ruled by the king of Aragon..
Aigues-Mortes is nevertheless not a port since it is located on the shores of an immense lagoon that only communicates with the sea by estuaries. To populate this city encircled by impure ponds, Louis IX grants it particular advantages in the form of a consular charter. To reach the city of Aigues-Mortes by land, a roadway was dug through ponds that will be defended by the "CarbonniÃ¨re Tower" (still visible today).
In 1248, Saint Louis embarks for the 7th crusade from Aigues-Mortes. The city is almost finished and becomes an important economic area for trade with the eastern countries. It is also at this time that Saint-Louis builds the TOWER of CONSTANCE on the ruins of the MatafÃ¨re Tower (built by Charlemagne) to protect the coast, the port and the city.
In 1270, Saint Louis embarks from Aigues-Mortes for the 8th crusade which also be his last as he dies not long after of typhus, off the coasts of Tunisia.
Afterwards, the Tower of Constance became a very famous prison. Amongst its prisoners, it had Saint Louis' nephew, as well as other well-known people: templars, camisards and bonapartists. It was also known to be a redoubtable fort for protestant women.
This fortress still towers above Aigues-Mortes. Its silence has witnessed many dramas that have taken place there. Many people died demanding to live and think according to their conscience.
The center of the town, a sunny little square, predictably named Place St. Louis and graced by his statue, is a pleasant place for lunch. The restaurants that line one side of the square feature outside tables shaded by trees and umbrellas. After lunch, visit Our Lady of the Sands church, just opposite, one of the first buildings constructed in the town. Indeed, it may have predated the town. The main altar is a table from the Psalmody Abbey. The L'Hotel de Ville, also on the square, is a fine example of a typical town hall of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
Two seventeenth-century churches, within three blocks of the square, are worth visiting. The Chapel of the Grey Penitents has a striking altarpiece. A number of large eighteenth-century paintings decorate the Chapel of the White Penitents. Government Hall, near the Constance Tower, dates from the sixteenth century. On the roof of the hall is a turret which defends the bridge that runs from the wall across the moat to Constance Tower.
The only local industry of note, the extraction of salt from sea water, has been practiced here for over two thousand years. Phoenicians and Romans labored at the same task on the same site.
The inhabitants of Aigues-Mortes have found novel uses for the salt. In the fifteenth century, the town was attacked and occupied by a force of Burgundians. When the town was retaken, the Burgundians were all killed. Faced with disposing of the mountain of corpses, and fearing disease, the bodies were piled into the tower and covered with salt. The tower has since been called the Burgundians Tower.
During the peak of the summer season, the main streets can be busy, though not oppressively so. A stroll down side streets can be most rewarding, especially if you have stayed overnight and are up before the arrival of the day trippers.