We stopped for a while on the way back from Spain to Italy at the pretty French seaside town of Les Saintes- Maries-de-la-Mer on the recommendation of our friend Maria, whose suggestions are always excellent.
Known as Villo de la Mar in the Middle Ages, it was on the site of a Roman fort that, according to legends, the Saints Mary Jacobe, Mary Salome, Martha, Mary Magdelene and their black servant Sarah, accompanied by Maximus, Lazarus and Sidonius, were shipwrecked on the wild shores of the Camargue.
Mary Salome, Mary Jacobe and Sarah remained after the other left to pursue different things. The spot where they were buried became an important site of worship and Christian pilgrimage.
The current church was built at the start of the 12th century, apparently on the ruins of a shrine. Then later it was fortified to provide the inhabitants with protection against the Corsairs.
A well was dug within its precincts to provide water in time of siege. It is still in the church.
The 2 Marys can be seen in their little boat.
Sarah can be found in the crypt where she receives homage from pilgrims each year, especially gypsies who have adopted Sarah as their Patron Saint.
We climbed the winding steps to the roof of the church for some great views of the town.
The town is very popular in the warm months. There is a long, white sand beach and inviting blue water.
The town is very quaint and the main streets are lined with pretty shops, houses and cafes.
On our way back to the car we came across an enthusiastic games of boules.
It is easy to see why so many people flock to the seaside and the Saintes Maries.
The Camargue area is full of rice paddies…I had no idea. We passed several on our way back to the highway.
Camargue is a beautiful and diverse area…don’t miss it if you come to the south of France.