Acclaimed historian Edwin Mullins examines the natural beauty, cultural appeal, religious history and environmental challenges of one of Europe’s last remaining wildernesses.
One of Europe’s last remaining wildernesses, the Camargue forms a unique landscape of salt-marsh, lagoons, cultivated farmland and seashore. Where the turbulent River Rhone meets the Mediterranean in southern France lies this huge delta, home to a rich array of wildlife flamingos, a host of other migrating birds and marshland flora as well as a complex mix of agricultural and tourist interests. The whole region is now under increasing threat from commercial and ecological pressures. Edwin Mullins, whose acquaintance with the Camargue dates back many years, evokes the area’s natural beauty and also its appeal to artists and writers. From Dumas pere to the great champion of Provencal culture, Frederic Mistral, and Vincent van Gogh, he considers the aesthetic inspiration offered by a romantic emptiness that was once despised as a mosquito-infested swamp. Assessing the impact of the nineteenth-century renaissance of local identity, and in particular the defining role of the Marquis Folco de Baroncelli-Javon, he explores how myth and vibrant local culture white horses, bull-fighting, the gypsy-influenced Marian cult of Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer have contributed to our fascination with the Camargue. His portrait includes the architectural beauty of St.-Gilles and Arles as well as the haunting beauty of the region’s open spaces. This accessible survey looks at the Camargue’s early Roman settlement and its medieval role as an embarkation point for Crusaders and pilgrims en route to Santiago de Compostela. It then considers its more recent history as a religious battleground and neglected backwater until its modern-day renaissance as a tourist attraction. Explaining the region’s turbulent religious past, Mullins describes how the Camargue has survived environmental challenges to remain a place of mystique and legend.
Edwin Mullins, who lives in London and Provence, is the author of the award-winning In Search of Cluny: God’s Lost Empire, Avignon of the Popes and The Pilgrimage to Santiago, all published by Signal Books.
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256pages, 30 b&w illus