Gard (30800) Population: 13,564 Altitude: 7 m
Saint Gilles (or Saint Gilles-du-Gard) is a small town on the edge of the Camargue, west of Arles. The main attractions for visitors would be the ancient Abbey de St Gilles, the Romanesque museum and the canal-side marina.
It's not a great town for exploring the old streets, but the St Gilles Abbey, with its ancient crypt, is really worth the effort.
Saint Gilles is an active town, but not particularly attractive. The main street through town, Rue Gambetta, is part of the main road crossing the top of the Camargue to Arles. The street is full of shops, signs, bilboards and traffic.
The tourist office is at the top of Rue Gambetta (Place Frédéric Mistral). Opposite in a medieval entry portal into the old town of Saint Gilles. We enjoyed wandering through the old town, but the streets are not the really narrow, cobblestone type that we've found in small medieval villages. The old town feels like it's more lived in than visited by tourists, but there are the occasional ancient doorway sculptures.
The centerpiece of Saint Gilles old town is the Abbey of Saint Gilles, on the Place de la République, a site to be seen, and visited.
On the west side of the square, opposite the Abbey, is the entrance to the Musée Maison Romane. This is not a Roman museum, but a Romanesque building with a historical and natural history museum - free.
The Rhône-Sête canal passes along the southeast side of the town. Just beside the bridge over the canal is a small boat marina, with two or three decent looking restaurants.
History of Saint Gilles
This is believed to have been a Phoenician market town, and later a Greek colony from Greek Marseille.
Saint Gilles is probably Ponte Aerarium a stop on the Bordeaux to Jerusalem pilgrimage route in the year 333; between Nîmes (Nemauso) and Arles (Arelate).
Gallo-Roman: There were several Roman latifundia (landed estates) here in Roman times, according to the many archeological discoveries made.
Medieval: This was a frontier area from the 5th to 9th centuries, and there were frequent conflicts between the Goths and the Saracens.
The Abbey of Saint Gilles was built here in the 7th century, and the town became pilgrimage site on the Saint Jacques de Compostelle route.
In the 9th century the Regordane Way, a transportation and pilgrimage route, was established from Le Puy en Velay south, along the western edge of the kingdom, to Saint Gilles, then a port on the Mediterranean.
The Wars of Religion in the 16th century caused considerable damage to the town. The Duke of Rohan occupied the abbey in 1622, and the clock tower was demolished.
• GPS: 43.677079, 4.433703
IGN (1/25,000) #2943 OT "St-Gilles, Vauvert"
The GR653 (Grande Randonnée) passes through Saint Gilles. This is also called the Chemin d'Arles, and is part of the historical pilgrimage route of Saint Jacques de Compostelle.
West, the GR653 passes Vauvert and Gallargues-le-Montueux, then follows quite close to the autoroute southwest to Montpellier.
The GR700 hiking trail begins/ends in Saint Gilles. The GR700 is fairly new, and incomplete, but the idea is that it follows the historical Regordane Way (Voie Regordane) between Le Puy en Velay and Saint Gilles. North from town, the GR700 goes through the center of Nîmes. North-northwest from Nîmes the GR700 goes up the Gardon valley, following along with the GR6 past Vézénobres and Alès.
We've not had good luck dining in Saint Gilles. There are a couple of restaurants on the Ave François Griffeuille with good reviews on social sites (Le Cours, Le Jardin Secret). During early Spring (2014, a Saturday) both were supposed to be open; one was closed and the other open but claimed to not be serving lunch.
There are some better looking places along the side of the canal, Quai du Canal, which we'll be trying next time.
Musée de la Maison Romane
The museum is housed in a 12th-century Romanesque building, classified as an hisorical monument in 1862. The displays include natural history, archeology and regional history.
Stair climbing is required to see all of the museum. Apart from the ground-floor displays, there are two upper-floor sections, each with its own staircase to visit one room each on two higher floors.
Location: Place de la Maison Romane
Open: Apr-Oct 9h30-12h30, 14h-18; Nov-Dec, Feb-Mar 9h-12h30, 14h-17h30
Closed: Sunday, holidays, all January
Tel: 0466 874 042
Transportation Saint Gilles
Department 30, Gard Buses
- See Beyond's Gard Department Bus Schedules for Gard bus-lines maps and bus-line schedules (Horaires).
Maps (Plans) for the Gard bus lines are on the www.edgard.fr website, with a flash webpage for each of five zones around Nîmes (www.edgard-transport.fr/plan/?rub_code=5).
Schedules for the Gard bus lines are available via the www.edgard.fr website horaires page (www.edgard-transport.fr/horaires/?rub_code=23).