Because of my interest in the Mary Magdalene, during our three weeks in France (which were spent almost entirely in the northern part of the country) my mother and I drove down from Cluny (which otherwise would have been as far south as we'd have gone) to Sts. Maries de la Mer - just so I could see the church (well ok, and so I could dip my toes in the Mediterranean!) After leaving Cluny and driving most of the morning and afternoon, we arrived in Sts Maries by 4pm. We were able to park, see the church, and get out again before dark.
Sts. Maries is a summer resort town – very very similar in feel to Santa Cruz – with this massive fortress/church in the middle. The church looks like a fortress on the outside complete with ramparts through which you can drop burning oil, and on the inside is a sweetwater well for when the town was under siege. The inside of the church is Romanesque with all sorts of kitcsch.
Truly, it’s the weirdest place when you consider you're in France not California. ;) There are bits and pieces all over, a variety of altars and pictures and artwork, and even a pagan altar (which is marked as such!). The crypt has the relics of St. Sarah, whose origins are unclear but who many believe may have been the daughter of Christ by the Mary Magdalene, and who is the patron saint of the gypsies.
It was very warm in the crypte with all the candles burning. Overall I found the church amusing and delightful and am glad I went to see it. The Maries, it turns out, are the aunts of Jesus not the Magdalene or Mother Mary, although the Magdalene is said by some to have landed there along with Joseph and possibly Lazarus. The stories aren’t totally straight. Go figure. ;)