Posted by: Debra Kolkka | August 4, 2015

Saints by the sea

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.

Les Saintes-Maries


Les Saintes-Maries

A well was dug within its precincts to provide water in time of siege. It is still in the church.

Les Saintes-Maries

The 2 Marys can be seen in their little boat.


Les Saintes-Maries

Les Saintes-Maries

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.

Les Saintes-Maries

We climbed the winding steps to the roof of the church for some great views of the town.

Les Saintes-Maries

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.

Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer


  1. We were luck to visit Saintes Maries-de-la-Mer when the Annual Gypsy Festival was on. The city streets were crammed with caravans and people. It was very colourful.

    • We just missed it…next time.

  2. Interesting place. It looks like a bit of a time warp.

    • It is a bit old fashioned, part of its charm.

  3. Old churches provide so many interesting visuals.

    • This one certainly did.

  4. I loved the market images of Camargue.Would love to go there! 🙂

    • The whole area is great, there is lots to see and do.

  5. What gorgeous photos!

    • Thank you, it is a very pretty place.

  6. Thank you for the beautiful photos, Deb! As you know, we love that town. We always spend a day or two there on our way back from Bagni di Lucca to Spain.
    Van Gogh, Hemingway and Picasso were also regular visitors. Also the Vikings and the Saracens, who used to raid the area. This is why there is this incredible water well inside the church, so that people could survive the long sieges protected by those huge walls.
    It is a wonderful place to visitation!

    • I can see why you like to stop here, it is a lovely place to spend a few days.

  7. That Sarah is a sight! She can hardly breath. The coast is lovely.

    • Smothered with love I think, lucky Sarah.

  8. I love a beautiful seaside village. This one is gorgeous. Thanks for sharing.

    • It would be a cute place to stay for a while and enjoy the beach.

  9. Another place to visit! I think we need to hire a car and take about three weeks off and travel in your footsteps. Thank you for the photos.

    • You really need a car to get to many of these out of the way places.

  10. How lovely. I’d love to ‘happen’ upon that and mooch and I daresay, munch, as well.

    • It was a very pretty little place. A delicious gelato was eaten.

  11. You visit such gorgeous places, many of which I have never been to or heard of before! 😀

    • There is an endless supply of wonderful places to visit.

  12. That’s the first time I’ve heard of rice growing in Italy

    • Camargue is in southern France, but rice also grows in Piedmont in the north of Italy as well.

  13. […] On the way home from Barcelona we stopped at the sea side town of Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-mer. […]

Leave a Reply


%d bloggers like this: