In 1214, the abbot of St Victor allowed a hermit, Master Peter, to construct a chapel on this hill. He quite naturally called it the Chapel de la Garde, the name of the hill on which there was a watch tower. Over the years this chapel became a pilgrimage for Christians. In 1477 a new chapel was built on the site of the old one.
Frangais I had a fort built on the la Garde mountain and had the chapel, which was consecrated in 1544, altered and enlarged. On the door of the fort, which together with the drawbridge has been conserved, can still be seen the coat of arms of Francais I, three fleurs de lys and the salamander.
s4In 1853 a new church was built, but only after much discussion. Indeed, the Ministry of War had to befpersuaded to abandon the fort and accept that a cathedral be constructed in its place. The architect Esperandieu, also designer of the Major cathedral, built it in the same Roman Byzantine style. The basilica of Notre Dame de la Garde was consecrated on the 4th June 1864.
It has been given the popular name of "Bonne Mere" or "Good Mother" over the centuries by the pilgrims who sought its protection. This is the slightly unconventional but very significant name under which the local population continue to venerate their church. The building was crowned by the virgin and child's statue on the 21st June 1931 in the presence of 300,000 people. Whether Marseilles is approached from the sea or the land this immense statue dominates and seems to cast its protection over the city.
You can watch my 2 min 07 sec Video Marselles out of my Youtube channel.
The Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde is the most prominent structure of the entire Old Port area because it sits on a 530 foot spur of land. A chapel existed here before the church from 1214. The present church was erected in the 19C and was consecrated in 1864. It has a 148 ft tall tower with a gilded statue of the Virgin at its top. The walk up to the church and above the tower is a 12-15 degree climb. (We did it from the base of the church).
The Basilica towers above Marseille and offers excellent views of the city, the islands, and the sunset. It sits atop La Garde hill, the natural highest point in Marseille and a traditional lookout post. On top of the basilica sits a 60m (197ft) belfry topped by a gold statue of the Madonna, which the locals refer to as "la bonne mere" (good mother). Construction of the basilica began in 1853 and completed in 1864. The Basilica can be reached by a long staircase or by road, depending on which side you're approaching from. It's nice to check out the inside, but the highlight of the basilica is the beautiful panoramic views.
Hours: summer 7am-8pm; off-season 7am-7pm
Directions: Map of Marseille
Notre-Dame de la Garde is the most famous church of Marseille. It dominates Marseille and "La Bonne Mère", as all people in Marseille calls it, is simply beautiful. Notre-Dame de la Garde protects the town and its inhabitants. Especially the fishermen. Inside you'll see lot of small boats and paintings about ships that Notre Dame supposly protected of sinking. Tought, it's not a really old church (mid XIXth century), it seems to allways have been there.
This church has a human size and is the favoite of all visitors.
I was surprise to learn about the size of the statue on the top of the church : not less tha 11 m !
the view from there is also incredible : the islands of If and Frioul, the city with the old harbour. A quiet place that you have to discover. Do it by feet ! It's a sport adventure as the streets are sloping !
Notre Dame de la Garde is a seafarers' church, with models of ships hanging from the ceiling. Built in the 19th century, it was designed by Esperandieu (Hope in God), who was ironically a Protestant.
It has a mix of architectural styles, as befitting a cathedral in this city of mixed heritage and traditions. No mere carbon copy of the other cathedrals in France, this one is a unique piece of work. The inside is stunningly beautiful, and the front terrace offers some of the best views of the city.
After driving up an extremely steep hill..... did not think the bus was gonna make it. ... we got to the Basilica. There was a service in progress, and I really wished I put more effort into learning French so that I could understand what the man was saying. The Basilica dates back to 1214. Above the main altar stands a statue of Mary presenting her son to us.
Altitude of the hill=147.85m
Height of tower = 33.80m
Height of the statue = 9.72m
Weight of the statue = 9.796m
The view from the top gives you a fantastic glimse with the sea on the one side the city of Marseilles encircled by mountains on the other side.
Overlooking the city of Marseille on a steep hill, is the dominate structure of the Notre Dame de la Garde with its gold capped Statue of the Virgin Mary atop the square bell tower.
The view from the terrace is stunning overlooking the old port, much of the city of Marseille, the nearby islands and the Mediterranean Sea.and is worth the effort to get there - local bus from Vieux Port is suggested.
The interior of the cathedral is ornate and above the alter is a mosaic showing the strong links to the sea as Marseille has always been a seafarers city.
There is a small museum of model ships of almost every type and kind and a cafeteria serving a range of hot and cold food and drink at reasonable prices - however it is dining with a great view.
The crypt is "different" as those wishing to make an offering of lighted candles place them through a small window onto a moving conveyor belt. The light and heat reminded us more of a concentration camp oven rather than a place of worship and reflection - but then again maybe it was my imagination.
Alternative web site http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Notre-Dame_de_la_Garde
The bus 60 frm the Vieux Port is the best solution.Don't go if the mistral is blowing because it's a very heavy wind over there.
Stunning panoramic view around.
The interior of the basilica is decorated of coloured mosaics and there is a collection of exvoto on a wall.In case of having a messe you will have to wait in order to take some pictures.
If you fancy seeing Marseilles in a superb panoramic view, you could do worse than take "le petit train" up the hill behind the Vieux Port to the church Notre Dame de la Garde, known locally as "la bonne mère". For a cost of 5 euros per person, you take your place on the "train" and then get taken up the hill with an accompanying commentary in french and english. When you get to the church, you can then take in the amazing views of the city, the sea, and the archipelago of Frioul. The church itself is pretty amazing with a stunning atmosphere, if you like that sort of thing.
This ornate Neo-Byzantine church is locates atop the signal hill of La Garde, the highest natural point in Marseille, being a 162 m. At the top Our lady handles baby. Local inhabitants refer to Our lady as la bonne mère (the good mother). Truly she looks like good mother who care for all inhabitants of Marseille.
Basilica now is renovated and walls, floor and roof is decorated by mosaic. Looks really beautiful.
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