March 22, 2006
I already briefly mentioned the medieval walled city Jason and I visited yesterday afternoon: Aigues-Mortes ("dead waters" due to the marshland around it). The city was possibly founded around 100 B.C., but the earliest documentation is from the 10th century, and the fortified city walls are from the 13th century. It was a royal port city during the 7th and 8th crusades, and later a state prison for people of the wrong faith (protestant instead of catholic).
And this is located 30 minutes from our house here. Rich historical area indeed, however tragic.
Since Jason's French teacher is away all week on another grade's field trip, he has almost every afternoon off (they shuffled his other classes around to fill in the morning gaps and consolidate class times, which I thought was very considerate). So I decided he and I should go on a mother-son adventure, and we drove off into the rain with the TOM-TOM GPS device set on Aigues-Mortes. Despite its proximity and interest, we'd never yet been.
Driving with the GPS device is funny when I have an idea which way I want to go, and it doesn't agree. It kept saying, "Turn around when possible" and "Make a U-Turn NOW." I kept replying, "No, sorry, I'm going the other way." Until it finally recalculated the route to go the east-south way around the big pond, instead of the west-south-east way around. The device preferred bigger roads, and I preferred small roads I'd never been on before.
We eventually got there, to the more modern part of the town away from the marsh. The drizzle was tapering off. I instructed Jason to shut off the TOM-TOM and look for old ruined structures. We looked around at everything and followed our noses until suddenly an enormous castle wall loomed up in front of us as we crossed a bridge over a canal. It took our breath away.
We parked right under the outer wall and strode through the main gate. Walking the ramparts of the irregular quadrilateral took almost 45 minutes, it was so big. Here's the view over the lagoon, from top of the south wall. All along the parapets of the tall stone walls, there are arrow slits alternating with full crenellations, and every so often, a latrine (a stone seat with a round hole, dropping down to the ground way below). Those soldiers on guard duty, you know, they sometimes hear the call of nature, and I guess they don't mind answering in full view of the whole city.
Personally, I am very glad for indoor plumbing. In fact, I used the "real" facilities near the gift shop (where, incidentally, they sell wooden swords and shields that piqued my son's interest momentarily), and I liked the authentic ceiling so much I took this photo.
The tower of Constance is very wide, round, and tall, standing at the north-west corner of the city, surrounded by a dirty moat. Inside it has a double dome (two domes atop each other at different levels of the building). Here you see the underside of the lower dome.
Marie Durand, the sister of a Protestant pastor, was 15 years old and newly married when she entered the tower. When she came out nearly 40 years later, her husband and father were dead. She wrote many letters, both for herself and others, and managed to secure slight improvements in the prisoners' conditions (letting the ladies out to the rooftop for fresh air, for instance, and being allowed a copy of the Psalms).
I know for sure I underappreciate the freedom of worship that I have enjoyed my entire life, both in Switzerland, the United States, and now France. Be thankful! Pray for those in countries that still persecute people of dissenting faiths...
March 22, 2006 | Permalink
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Interesting. Also interesting about how the GPS device works (or not).
Posted by: Martin LaBar | Mar 22, 2006 1:44:31 PM
I belong to a covenant group in my Methodist church that asks the question each week, "When in the face of opposition have we declared our faith," and I find I am never here in the south of Virginia in a place where my faith is opposed. I remember my minister saying her job was to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. At this point, I am wondering, am I too comfortable? Or just blessed to live in this place.
Posted by: Willow | Mar 24, 2006 9:47:23 PM