1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Aigues-Mortes

AIGUES-MORTES, a town of south-eastern France, in the department of Gard 25 m. S.S.W. of Nîmes, on a branch line of the Paris-Lyon-Méditerranée railway. Pop. (1906) 3577. Aigues-Mortes occupies an isolated position in the marshy plain at the western extremity of the Rhone delta, 2½ m. from the Golfe du Lion. It owes its celebrity to the medieval fortifications of remarkable completeness with which it is surrounded. They form a parallelogram 596 yds. long by 149 yds. broad, and consist of crenellated walls from 25 to 36 ft. in height, dominated at intervals by towers. Of these, the Tour de Constance, built by Louis IX., is the most interesting; it commands the northwestern angle of the ramparts, and contains two circular, vaulted chambers, used as prisons for Protestants after the revocation of the edict of Nantes. The remainder of the fortifications were built in the reign of Philip III. Aigues-Mortes is the meeting-place of several canals connecting it with Beaucaire, with Cette, with the Lesser Rhone and with the Mediterranean, on which it has a small port. Fishing and the manufacture of soda are the chief industries with which the town is connected. It has trade in coal, oranges and other fruits, and in wine. In the surrounding country there are important vineyards, which are preserved from disease by periodical submersion. There is a statue in the town in memory of Louis IX. who embarked from Aigues-Mortes in 1248 and 1270 for the seventh and eighth crusades. To further the prosperity of the town a most liberal charter was granted to it, and in addition the trade of the port was artificially fostered by a decree requiring that every vessel navigating within sight of its lights should put in there. This ordinance remained in force till the reign of Louis XIV.