The broad delta of the Rhone river had since the earliest days, been a centre for religious cults. The river itself connected the Mediterranean world with that of northern Europe and was a vehicle for the transmission of legends and religious ideas.
The Greeks had brought the worship of the Goddess Artemis and from this originated a strong tendency for the development of cults devoted to feminine deities. By the middle ages these had been transformed into the cults of Mary Magdalene, her sister Martha and the women who had bought perfume to administer to Jesus’ body after the Crucifixion, Mary Salome and Mary Jacobi.
They had arrived with Lazarus and Maximinus and seventy-two disciples from Palestine.
At Tarascon were the relics of Martha and at Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, the relics of the Marys Salome and Jacoby and their servant Sara. At La Sainte Baume was the cave in which Mary Magdalene had lived out the rest of her life as a hermit.
The Roman period had brought martyrs from the persecutions and as the metropolitan see of Gaul, Arles had produced Holy Men and Confessor Saints.
It was a region exceptionally rich in sacred legends. Pilgrims to Compostela travelling along the Toulouse Road could venerate the relics of Saint Honoratus and Caesarius at the Alyscans and Trophimus at Arles’ cathedral. At Trinquetaille was the marble column to which Saint Genesius had been tied and decapitated, still reddened by his blood.