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Puget's chapel at the Vieille Charité
I’m sure it hasn’t happened very often that an architect gets a commission to build a major complex of buildings in his own home neighborhood, right around the corner from where he was born. But that was what happened to the architect Pierre Puget (1620-1694), who was born in the Panier district of Marseille in a street called Rue du Petit Puits (Street of the Small Well), which is now best known for its traditional chocolate shop and its Association de Bien-Fêteurs.
In the center of the courtyard of the Vieille Charité, Puget designed and started to build a striking baroque chapel with an egg-shaped dome. After Pierre Puget’s death in 1694, the construction of the chapel was supervised by his son François Puget (1651-1707) until it was finally finished and consecrated in 1707, the year of François Puget’s death.
As you can see from the fourth photo, the chapel was in very poor condition – nearly the entire roof was missing – until it was restored and renovated in the second half of the twentieth century. The restauration began in 1961. It was finished in 1981 for the chapel and in 1986 for the rest of the buildings.
Next stop on our guided walking tour: Association de Bien-Fêteurs
- Historical Travel
When you look at a beautiful, harmonious architectural ensemble like the Vieille Charité and hear that it was built as an almshouse starting in the seventeenth century, you might get the impression that the French really used to take good care of their poor people back then.
Well, they didn’t. The purpose of this lovely building, as declared by the city council in 1640, was to "lock up the poor inhabitants of Marseille in a selected clean place" to comply with the king’s policy of "enclosing the poor".
Then as now, large public construction projects took a long time to get underway and even longer to be completed. It wasn’t until 1670 that Pierre Puget, an architect who had grown up right here in the Panier district, was commissioned to design the building. The cornerstone was laid in 1671 but the building was not completed until seventy-eight years later, in 1749.
The inner courtyard looks open and airy but the outer walls of the complex have no openings except for the entrance at the front. This arrangement reminded me of the Hôpital Saint-Louis in Paris – another beautiful piece of architecture, but intended to function very much like a prison.
Today the Vieille Charité is home to a number of cultural institutions, including an international poetry center and library, a bookshop called the Librairie Regards, a municipal cinema called Le Miroir (The Mirror) and the municipal museums of Mediterranean Archeology, African Art, Oceanic Art and Amerindian Art.
On our guided walking tour of the Panier district we had a look around the Vieille Charité and also went into the chapel in the center of the courtyard.
Next stop on our guided walking tour: Puget's chapel at the Vieille Charité
- Historical Travel
L'Hospice de la Vieille Charite used to be a workhouse for the poor, and now contains two museums (archaeology, and African, Pacific and Amerindian art) and a cafe. My timing was bad on both occasions I happened upon the Vieille Charite, as it was too close to closing time to be worth buying any tickets. However, I was allowed to walk around the courtyard and take a few pictures.
Fascinating architecture and museums
La Vieille Charité is a fascinating architectural ensemble consisting of a Pantheon like church and a surrounding 3 story high building. It was built in the 17th century to house homeless, sick and old people.
Now you can find museums inside or just walk around and admire the architecture! Amazing!
R16) Vieille Charité
Around 1650, Marseilles was expanding fast in the port area, with many people without job.
"La vieille charité", designed by Pierre Puget, was built from 1671 till 1745 out of the local pink and white stones (from quarries "La Couronne") to house the infortunates. The building is composed of 4 wings opened to the interior like a cloister towards a courtyard with a Baroque style chapel. The building housed people who received training to find job. Later it became a hospice. It was classified as historic monument in 1951 and has been recently restored.
Today, it houses scientific and cultural activities such as Audiovisual national institute, High education in social sciences, CNRS research library, mediterranean archeology museum.
Leave the square towards the sea (south direction), taking "rue du Petit Puits" (notice chocolate-maker at the end of the street), and arrive after 2 small streets at "Place de
Red walk : La Vieille Charité
Building of the XVIIth Century aimed to offer a living place to homeless and orphans...a really nice one! With arches and 3 levels and a wonderful chaptel in the court inside...Now it is a cultural center and you can enter inside freely...
La Vieille Charité
This was the last sight we saw in our visit to Marseille. Built over a 100 year period in the 1600s and 1700s, the site was intended as a shelter for the poor and beggars of Marseille at the time. Now the site houses a museum of Egyptian archeology.
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
'vieille charité' used to be a...
'vieille charité' used to be a place to welcome beggars and poor people in the 17e century;now there is a museum of mediterranean archeology+museum of african,amerindian and oceanian art
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Marseille Travel Guide
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