Aigues-Mortes is about an hour south of Avignon in the heart of the marshy Camargue, a delightful walled town that was fortified in the 13th century by King Louis IX; it is now on the Canal Rhône-Sète although back in medieval times it was a strategic seaport on the Rhône delta. The creamy-stoned Gothic Church of Our Lady of the Sablon stands over the labyrinth of cobbled streets, built in the early years of the 13th century, and it was from here that Louis IX set out on his crusade to the Holy Land in 1248
Notre-Dame-des-Sablons has a turbulent history; starting life as a Catholic church, it was sacked by the Protestants in 1575 and the bell tower then collapsed in 1634, rendering the building unusable for almost a century. It was renovated between 1738 and 1744, and during the French Revolution in the 1790s was used as a barracks and salt depository. It reverted to Catholicism and in 1842 the interior was restored in Baroque style with vaulted ceilings, oil paintings and statuary. In the 1960s, this ornate makeover was reversed and the church today is pleasingly plain inside, its simple stone arches and bare walls giving it an air of medieval tranquility. In the 1990s, 31 startlingly contemporary stained-glass windows were added; they were designed by Claude Viallat and created by master glassmaker Bernard Dhonneur.
Rue Jean-Jaures, Aigues-Mortes. Admission to the church is free and it is open daily 9am-5.30pm. Aigues-Mortes is 84 km (52.5 miles) from Avignon and the road journey takes an hour along the A9.