Fos-sur-Mer, Bouches-du-Rhône, France

Fos-sur-Mer is a French commune, located in the department of Bouches-du-Rhône in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region. The town of Fos-sur-Mer is located 49 km north-west of Marseille, on the Mediterranean coast, at the bottom of a gulf to which it gave its name and which sinks between the pond of Berre and the Rhône delta, and at the southern end of the Crau plain. The town has 6 km of sandy beaches, three ponds – the Lavalduc pond, the Engrenier pond and the Estomac pond -, and it is crossed by the Arles à Bouc canal (portion of the Canal de Marseille au Rhône).

Fos is the site of a major port development operated by the Autonomous Port of Marseille. The facilities include container handling terminals and a gas (methane) terminal. The waterside location of the industrial zone is attractive to heavy industry including steel. The steel group ArcelorMittal has its Sollac Méditerranée plant here.

In the 1st century BC, the Roman general Marius and his 30,000 men came to the region to protect Italy from the Cimbri and Teutons who were ravaging Gaul and Spain. To improve the supply of his 5 five legions, Marius made bypass the mouth of the Rhone by digging an artificial channel called Fosses Mariennes (Fossae Marianae). What gave the current name “Fos-sur-Mer”.

Ideally located at the bottom of the Gulf of Fos, the deep-water port had significant activity until the fall of the Roman Empire and even in the Merovingian era.

The many shipwrecks loaded with amphorae found in the Saint-Gervais cove bear witness to a flourishing trade with all the Mediterranean region, from Spain to Egypt, via North Africa.

In the Middle Ages, Fos-sur-Mer was the original stronghold of the lords of Fos. It took the form of a coastal strip about 25 km long and less than 10 km wide and included the castle, one of the oldest and most important in Western Provence, the village and the lands of Fos, rural churches like Saint-Julien and Saint-Pierre near Martigues and the Saint-Gervais de Fos abbey.

The latter was located between the Etang de l’Estomac and the large marshes of Basse Crau. The first mention of the place, in 923, only mentions a church already dedicated to Saint Gervais, cited as an annex to the Saint-Sauveur de Fos church. Granted for a time to the Bishop of Marseilles by the Archbishop of Arles, Manassès, it was then returned to the latter some fifty years later. On the initiative of a priest, Pation, undoubtedly in charge of the church, and with the agreement of the Archbishop of Arles, a community of monks settled there in 989and set about, perhaps with the help of the Lords of Fos, the construction of the abbey buildings. This was officially consecrated in May 992 by the Archbishop of Arles Anno. In 1081, after having gravitated in the spiritual orbit of the abbey of Saint-Victor of Marseille, the abbey of Saint-Gervais was ceded to the abbey of Cluny. It was the only abbey affiliated to Cluny in all of maritime Provence.

The privilege of Pope Innocent II who confirmed in 1130 the possessions of the abbey of Saint-Gervais mentions 22 churches in at least seven dioceses. This estrangement fromBaussenques wars, 1145-1162) explain that this supervision did not last more than 80 years. In 1223, the abbey was placed, not without a tenacious resistance from the abbots of Saint-Gervais for more than 35 years, under the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Arles who soon made it an abbey of canons regular to which he united the churches of Saint-Sauveur and Sainte-Marie de Fos, Saint-Pierre de Lavalduc and Sainte-Marie de Bouc for the maintenance of the small community.

The family of the lords of Fos, probably of local strain, derived its name from the guard Fos Castle which was entrusted to him during the x th century by the Archbishop of Arles, Manasses, nephew of Hugh of ‘Arles and master of a large part of western Provence. On the latter’s death in 961, the Fos would have retained their function but now for their own account by transforming it into a hereditary office. This castle occupied a remarkable strategic position, controlling access to the salt flats and fisheries of the Etang de Berre and one of the routes linking Marseille to Arles.

The first lord of Fos is known Pons de Fos, whose name appears in a charter of the abbey of St. Victor, the “short Cadiere,” probably from the end of x th century. It is probable that he can be identified with Pons de Marseille, certainly his father, cited in 965 with the title of viscount alongside the count of Arles Boson II. Following the expulsion of the Saracens from Provence in 972, this Pons Fos was assigned by the Count of Provence, (Guillaume I) says the Liberator, part of the liberated lands, more precisely the eastern part of the littoral zone of the bishopric of Toulon. Henceforth, the lords of Fos were also lords of Hyères. They drew their wealth above all from the presence of salt marshes on their territories, in particular those of the Lavalduc and Engrenier ponds in the seigneury of Fos, and acted as “salt lords”.

In 1018, the lords of Fos attempted to transform their lordships into alleux and refused the suzerainty of the count of Provence over Fos and Hyères. There followed a three-year war led by Count William II of Provence who lost his life in 1018 and whose allies, the Viscounts of Marseille, occupied the castle of Fos in 1020. It was a waste of time, shortly afterwards, in 1031, a new campaign was waged and the territory of Fos was ravaged by the count’s army. The lords of Fos again demonstrated their desire for independence by shunning peace assemblies. Around 1048, the situation had hardly changed and Gui, Lord of Fos, still refused the suzerainty of the Count of Provence for Fos and Hyères, hence a new conflict at the end of which, in 1056, he ended up submitting. This result was probably obtained more by negotiation than by force because the same year, Rostaing, son of Gui, obtained the bishopric of Aix, which could not have been done without the agreement of the Count of Provence.. In 1060, the Fos were again qualified as the count’s faithful.

Around 1070, the lords of Fos seized the Pont des Pêcheurs, a control point for neighboring fisheries, the exit from the Etang de Berre and the road from Marseille to Arles. It took the intervention of the viscounts of Marseille and the lords of Les Baux to force them to return their prize.

The death of Bertrand I, in 1093, left the county of Provence without a male heir live. The result is a partition of Provence and the coexistence of three count houses. The lords of Fos then took an oath of loyalty and recognized the Count of Toulouse Raymond de Saint-Gilles as suzerain.

The lords of Fos participated in the First Crusade (1096 – 1099) in the person of Pons IV de Fos, precisely in the army of the Count of Toulouse.

In 1112, by his marriage to Douce, daughter of the countess Gerberge of Provence, the county of Provence fell to the count of Barcelona Raimond Bérenger who hastened to come forward in Provence to assert his rights. During the homage to which many lords submitted in 1113, the counts of Fos were not among the families represented. In 1115 / 1116, Raimond Berenger therefore led a campaign to subdue the recalcitrant and, on this occasion, seized the castle Fos where he received the tribute of Pons V Fos for the territories of Fos and Hyères.

The castle occupies a remarkable strategic position, controlling access to the salt marshes of Fos and to the fishing grounds of the Etang de Berre (bourdigues). At the foot of it gradually develops a Provencal village. From the 13th until the 18th century, the family of the Porcelet (coat of arms of the town) will reign over the castle.

In the Middle Ages, the rocky outcrop called Hauture is an ideal place for the construction of a castle. The latter, like the Church of Saint-Sauveur, are mentioned for the first time in 923 and will be enlarged during the 13th century.

In the 1960s, a public interest land-use planning project, creating an industrial-port complex, disrupted the peaceful life of Fosséens devoted to agriculture and fishing and structurally modified the landscape. Two thousand years separate the ancient port from the modern port, but its installation benefits from the same advantages: a sheltered port, in deep water, allowing the reception of the largest ships in the world and located at the crossroads of northern and southern Europe.

Historical heritage
The history of Fos-sur-Mer is written in the stones of the old village, testifying to the strategic place occupied by the place since Antiquity. The medieval Hauture site is home to a castle, one of the oldest in Basse-Provence, located on the rocky promontory. From this privileged point of view, the sea and its ancient memories hidden in the sands of the Gulf of Fos are visible. Installed on the highest point of the Hauture, the Saint-Sauveur church and its renovated bell tower, typical of Provençal Romanesque art, rise towards the blue skies. Another historical gem: the Notre-Dame-de-la-Mer chapel reveals its curves, which are also typical of Provençal Romanesque art.

The Hauture castle
Mentioned in 923, the Castrum de Fossis is located on this rocky promontory. It is one of the oldest and most extensive castles in Basse Provence. It will be profoundly changed in the 13th century. Ensuring the surveillance of sea and river routes and controlling the exploitation of salt flats were its two main roles.

Saint-Sauveur Church
Site classified as a “historic monument” since 1965, the Church of Saint Sauveur is located on the highest point of the Hauture. It has the particularity of having two semicircular vaulted naves, the first of which, the north nave, dates from the first Romanesque age (11th century). The second, built in freestone at the end of the 12th century, reaches 9 m at the keystone. Although reworked several times, it retains the pure lines and curves of Provençal Romanesque art. This church was one of 5 religious buildings in Fos in the Middle Ages.

Chapel of Notre-Dame-de-la-Mer
At the southern entrance to the city, it is the only other place of worship preserved from the Middle Ages and classified as a “historic monument” since 1965. Vaulted barrel vault, was built in the 12 th century in the middle of a necropolis and belongs to the second Roman Age Classic.

Ancient cultural heritage
During Antiquity, Fos was an important port dependent on Arles.

Medieval cultural heritage
From the early Middle Ages, the eastern slope of the castle delivers grain silos as well as burials. Remains of burials on the south face of the church also seem to date from this period and are very similar to those found on the side of the Notre-Dame-de-la-Mer chapel.
Also from the early Middle Ages but now disappeared under the sea, early Christian abbey of Saint-Gervais, consecrated to Saint Protis and Saint Gervais.
The St. Savior Church located on the heights of Fos-sur-Mer is classified historic monument 17 September 1967. Built on a sloping rock, it is reminiscent of the prow of a ship. Dating from the xi th century, it was remodeled in the xix th century. The church, still dedicated to worship, also hosts temporary exhibitions.
The Notre-Dame-de-la-Mer is located on a hill between the castle of Hauture and the seafront. If the chapel dates from the xi th and xii th centuries, the necropolis dates back to around High Empire in the early middle ages. The building was listed in the inventory of historical monuments on April 23, 1965.
The village has preserved the castle ruins xiv th century, ownership of Viscounts of Marseille. The ramparts of the castle are classified as a historical monument since then on April 21, 1937.

Modern heritage

The city before expansion
Postcards from the beginning of the xx th century attest to the presence, at that time, of fishermen’s huts, built of reed along the ponds and Anse Saint-Gervais. Others show the old town hall located in the “lower town”
The Second World War left some traces in the castle (opening of a door in the keep, blockhouse, casemate and underground tunnel) as well as in the hills (two blockhouses near the water towers). Other facilities, no longer present, were placed on the beaches.

The modern city and industrial zone and port
The installation of the industrial and port zone gave rise to the creation of several residential districts, all located north of the Hauture: Amaryllis, Jonquières, Saladelle, les Carabins, le Mazet, new town center with town hall, cinema the Odyssey, nautical center on the Estomac pond.
The new arenas, built in 1984 between the beach bridge and Les Salins, follow on from those located near the Bergerie to the north of the town.
The small fishing port gave way to a marina built in the 60s and 70s, modernized by the construction of a lighthouse, a harbor master’s office and was subsequently extended.
The Saint-Gervais lighthouse, built by the architect Émile PAMART from 1978, and commissioned in April 1980, is the last built in France. Built in reinforced concrete, it has natural lighting from its shaft provided by glass blocks arranged on the south side. It has been listed in the inventory of historical monuments since June 21, 2012
The monuments of the industrial era are the subject of guided tours during the summer season.

Museums and cultural spaces
Temporary exhibitions in the Saint-Sauveur church.
Village-Museum at the Tourist Office.
Inter-municipal Heritage House (Hauture castle).
Media library.
Undergrounds of the Hauture castle.
Information space in the industrial and port area.
Former Léon-Arnaud museum in the Notre-Dame-de-la-Mer chapel (collections of amphorae and coins transferred to the archaeological museum of Istres).

Nature and landscapes
The town hides many unspoiled natural spaces, which delight nature lovers. A tradition of sheep farming, as evidenced by the sheepfolds scattered throughout the coussouls, is established among these rare and exceptional fauna and flora. In all seasons, the walker can be inspired by the bucolic magic of this unique steppe in France. Beautiful natural resources are also available to the curious in the Salins de Fos and the ponds that adjoin them.

The Salins
Until 1968, the Salins site was operated by the Compagnie des Salins du Midi. The town of Fos-sur-Mer then used, until 1987, this natural site to draw the salt necessary for snow removal. In 2006, the town of Fos-sur-Mer acquired the saltworks. The exceptional richness of the site, in terms of biodiversity, has been safeguarded by patient work to rehabilitate the old salt tables, initially financed by the late intermunicipal association, then by the City, with the help of the association. Water and environment life (Eve) and the support of the company Elengy.

Since 2013, the saline has been one of the ten sites included in the “Life + Envoll” project, coordinated by the “Amis du marais du Vigueirat” in Mas-thibert. Thanks to the major rehabilitation works, the site now has two hundred hectares between the sky and the water where birds frolic as far as the eye can see: the site of the Saline de Fos has an unreal beauty and an offbeat charm., which has become a real refuge for passing birds at the gates of the Camargue. Since 2016, a 55 m² observatory, accessible to all audiences, allows you to observe, discover, understand and admire the heritage bird species present on site. This equipment completes the 5-kilometer educational trail, marked with information panels on the flora and fauna, which allows you to walk around the site.

The Coussouls of Crau
Part of the Coussouls de Crau Nature Reserve is located north of the town of Fos-sur-Mer. This exceptional natural environment, bequeathed by the former Durance delta, was shaped by pastoralism. Witness the many sheepfolds, swarmed across this plain of pebbles and short grass. This reserve shelters an exceptional and diversified fauna which makes the happiness of the botanists and ornithologists.

This fragile steppe environment has been protected since the 1990s, thanks to the involvement of environmental protection associations and public policy. Today, the Coussouls de Crau reserve has a total of more than 7,400 hectares, divided between the municipalities of Fos-sur-Mer and Saint-Martin-de-Crau. In 2004, the Conservatoire Etudes des Ecosystèmes de Provence and the Chamber of Agriculture of Bouches-du-Rhône were appointed co-managers of the Nature Reserve.

Beaches and port
In Fos-sur-Mer, the equipped beaches that are easily accessible from free car parks are ideal for families. Boaters also benefit from a port labeled Port Propre, with a docking area and adapted infrastructure.

The big beach
The 400 meters of fine sand of the Grande Plage are bordered by a wooden promenade. The beach is equipped with playgrounds, swings, a pyramid of ropes. It has the “Tourism and Handicap” label, thanks to a specific reception system.

The beaches of Saint-Gervais and the Lighthouse
Camped at the foot of the lighthouse, the beaches of Saint-Gervais and Le Phare await swimmers looking for a more intimate setting. They offer a breathtaking view of the Gulf of Fos.

Cavaou beach
Continuing on, the Cavaou beach extends over more than a kilometer, to the limits of the industrial port zone. Thanks to the large free parking lots, it can accommodate many lovers of the pleasures of the sea.

Port Saint-Gervais
Anchor in Fos-sur-Mer means enjoying a sheltered location, quality equipment and a professional welcome.

The marina has 840 rings spread over 2 basins as well as a fairing area with a capacity of 35 boats.

The “Clean Ports” approach in which it is committed guarantees good environmental management thanks to appropriate facilities and services: Clean point and selective sorting terminal for waste collection, Wastewater collection, Fairing area with launching, Refueling station

Events and festivities
Crau Festival, Chromatic Festival in the 2000s, Laughter Wednesday, summer season… Find the highlights on the City’s official website. The bullfighting traditions are also alive there [ archive ], with the release of “bious” supervised by the herdsmen on horseback in the city center, municipal arenas and a school of raseteurs.

Provencal traditions
Located at the gates of the Camargue, the town of Fos-sur-Mer cultivates a bullfighting tradition firmly anchored in the hearts of the Fosséens.

Some herds still perpetuate the breeding of Camargue bulls. A school was created in 1998. It perpetuates the art of the Camargue race, also called the cockade race, during which raseteurs must remove, with force and skill, using their hook, the attributes previously placed on the head of a bull. On the occasion of the many festive gatherings in the city, Abrivados are regularly organized in the streets of the village: free bulls run through the streets, surrounded by herdsmen on horseback, while the population tries to make them escape.

Crau festival
Organized during the month of May, the Fête de la Crau is an opportunity to discover a culture from elsewhere, while celebrating the pastoral and Provençal traditions, dear to the city of Fos-sur-Mer. At each edition, a country, a region of France are invited to share their traditions. In 2016, Greece had the honor of the feast; in 2017, it was the Basque Force of ASC Napurrak which stood out in ditches. In 2018, on May 19 and 20, Les Ptits Louis from the Philanthropic and Carnival Association of Dunkirk will be the guests.

Neighbours Day
On the first Saturday of June, the “neighbors” are invited to celebrate the arrival of sunny days by organizing convivial dinners in around 40 districts of the City. Ambulatory activities are offered by the Tourist Office: music groups and live performance companies visit all the districts.

Sea festival
Under the leadership of the Office fosséen de la mer, with the support of the town’s nautical associations, the Fête de la mer takes place between the port of Saint-Gervais and the small lighthouse beach. Sea trips, demonstrations and initiations of jousting, diving, paddleboarding, Hawaiian pirogue, sea rescue, canoeing are on the program.

Music Festival
On June 21, music is in the spotlight in the old center of Fos-sur-Mer. From the Town Hall square to the Saint-Sauveur Church, via the Saint-Cézaire chapel and the places of the Republic and the Castle, groups offer all styles of music, always to the delight of Fosséens. faithful to this convivial and festive meeting.

In the fall, the Tourist Office organized at the Halle Parsemain, a festive evening in the pure Alsatian tradition, with sauerkraut, beer and musical entertainment. Guaranteed atmosphere.