Aigues Mortes In The Camargue
Aigues Mortes, the city of the 'Dead waters' was established by the French Crusader King, Louis IX and developed and fortified by his son, Philip the bold, and his grandson, Philip the Fair.
When St. Louis decided to fulfil a lifetimes' vow and ambition, by leading a General Passage to the Holy Land, he was faced at once with a major problem; he had no port at which to embark his army. So he decided to build his own.
He purchased Aigues Mortes from it's owners, the monks of Psalmody. They had little industry at Aigues Mortes, collecting salt from the marshes, but it was a fever ridden spot, and they were glad to hand it over for a good price.
Louis built the Tower de Constance and had a channel or grau dug across the marshes to connect Aigues Mortes with the sea.The Tower de Constance, a great building a hundred feet high with walls twenty feet thick, was built to protect the workers during the construction of the town. It lies outside the main city and is connected with the city walls by a narrow bridge which spans the only part of the original moat left undrained.
From here, in 1248, he sailed with an army of 15,000 men, which included strong contingents from the hospital and temple, and landed and captured Damietta in Eypt. Then, when he had all but defeated the Egyptian army at Menorah, the impetuosity of his military orders led his army to ruin. The Christains were totally defeated, and Louis and many of his Knights were taken prisoner.
Thousands of the foot soldiers and all the Knights of the hospital and temple were executed by their captors. Louis was later ransomed by his wife, and returned to France a chastened man. However, he regarded his crusading vow as unfulfilled and in 1270, when an old man, he led an army out of, again through Aigues Mortes, and laid siege to Tunis. There he died, his vow still unfulfilled, in the autumn of the same year.
Aigues Mortes is picturesque because, unlike most medieval cities, it has not been greatly restored, and later development has kept away from outside the ancient walls. Except fro around the Tour de Constance which stands outside the city by the main gate, the moat has been filled in, and the area outside the walls to the south is used for sport and fairs.