A must-see

article | Reading time5 min

The Constance's tower, remnant of the castle of Saint Louis

Photo de la tour de Constance depuis le rempart Ouest

At the start of your visit, or after walking around the parapet walk, discover the Constance's tower, the most emblematic building in Aigues-Mortes. Don't leave the monument without visiting the two rooms, the courtyard and the terrace!

The big tower

The Constance's tower was built between 1240 and 1248 by Louis IX. A cylindrical volume measuring 22 meters wide by 37 meters at the top of the lighthouse, the tower has two entrances, one to the north towards the countryside, the other to the south towards the château. Originally surrounded by an annular moat spanned by two bridges, it protected access to the king's castle, which burned down in 1421. The tower has four levels served by a spiral staircase.

The tower is perfectly cylindrical in plan. Since the reign of Philippe-Auguste, only the kings of France have been allowed to use this plan for their master towers. Other lords were obliged to adopt square, rectangular or horseshoe-shaped plans.

Installed on the coast, the tower asserts the presence of royal power on this land and marks the entrance to the kingdom of France.

Tour de Constance de face
Tour de Constance

© Philippe Berthé / Centre des monuments nationaux

The lower room and the cul-de-basse-fosse

The cul-de-basse-fosse  has no access staircase. It communicates with the lower room through an opening in the center of the room, and was accessed by ladder. It could have been used to store food supplies, weapons and the wood needed to power the lighthouse, enabling it to withstand a long siege.

The lower circular room is covered by a twelve-quarter ribbed vault.  on delicately carved capitals, supported by polygonal columns. Following the same principle as the cul de basse fosse, the keystone on which the arches rest communicates with the room above.

The 6-meter-thick walls, pierced by two entrances, contain four firing arches, the well, an oven and the spiral staircase serving the upper floors, leaving the entire volume perfectly uncluttered.

The chimney was installed in 1868. A modern elevator has been installed in the wall, providing access to the terrace.

The north and south entrances to the lower hall are protected by gates and portcullises that delimit the volume of the stunners. These are operated by soldiers from the courtyard. .

The courtyard is housed in the thickness of the wall at the top of the lower room, and provides a perimeter view of the entire room through its eleven openings. To the north and south are the two stunners opening onto the lower room to control access to the tower.

Photo de la salle basse de la tour de Constance, une archère au centre, une cheminée décorée, et  les ouvertures de la coursière en haut
Salle basse de la tour de Constance

© David Bordes / Centre des monuments nationaux

The upper room

The upper room is architecturally very similar to the lower room. It is accessed via a delicately decorated vestibule, on whose walls graffiti of boats can be seen. During the Wars of Religion, the tower became a prison for Protestants.

The vestibule was where a guard was stationed to control access to the upper room. The walls of this room depict the ships that frequented the port of Aigues-Mortes at the time. A galley and two naves with Latin sails.

A world-famous graffiti, REGISTER(to resist in Occitan), is engraved on the rim of the oculus in the upper room. It's a sort of injunction engraved in stone by Marie Durand, a leading Protestant figure who stood up against royal intolerance to support the resistance of her fellow Protestants.

Other Huguenot graffiti can be seen on the vault of the gun chamber. Protestant names are preceded by a capital W .

Photo de la salle haute de la tour de Constance, une archère au centre, la meule au dessous.
Salle haute de la tour de Constance

© David Bordes / Centre des monuments nationaux

The terrace

The tower's terrace rises to a height of 26 meters, dominating the landscape. The parapet was modified towards the end of the 16th century to accommodate four gun embrasures.

The cylindrical volume of the lighthouse features a spiral staircase leading to an annular passageway. The upper platform is topped by a metal lantern, a kind of cylindrical cage with a conical cover in which the fire burned. Transparent horn blades were attached to the bars of the cage.

It was permanently powered by fire, signalling the harbor to ships from the sea, day and night. Wooden bundles were hoisted by the oculi to the terrace, where they were transported to the hearth. of the fireplace.

Once on the terrace, you can admire the exceptional view of the town, the ramparts, the canals, the salt works, the architecture of the Grande Motte, the Pic Saint Loup...

Phare de la tour de Constance depuis la terrasse
Phare de la tour de Constance

© Herve Leclair / aspheries.com

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