Marseille is the second largest city in France, after Paris. Located on the southeast coast of France, Marseille is France's largest city on the Mediterranean coast and largest commercial port. Marseille is the capital of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region, as well as the capital of the Bouches-du-Rhône department.
Marseille, which can be called the oldest city in France, was founded in 600 BC by Greeks from Phocaea as a trading port under the name Massalia. The connection between Μassalia and the Phoceans is mentioned in Book I, 13 of the History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides. The precise circumstances and date of founding remain obscure, but nevertheless a legend survives. Protis, while exploring for a new trading outpost or emporion for Phocaea, discovered the Mediterranean cove of the Lacydon, fed by a freshwater stream and protected by two rocky promontories. Protis was invited inland to a banquet held by the chief of the local Ligurian tribe for suitors seeking the hand of his daughter Gyptis in marriage. At the end of the banquet, Gyptis presented the ceremonial cup of wine to Protis, indicating her unequivocal choice. Following their marriage, they moved to the hill just to the north of the Lacydon; and from this settlement grew Massalia.
It was the site of a siege and naval battle, after which the fleet was confiscated by the Roman authorities. During Roman times the city was called Massilia. It was the home port of Pytheas. Most of the archaeological remnants of the original Greek settlement were replaced by later Roman additions.
Marseille adapted well to its new status under Rome. During the Roman era, the city was controlled by a directory of 15 selected "first" among 600 senators. Three of them had the preeminence and the essence of the executive power. The city's laws amongst other things forbade the drinking of wine by women and allowed, by a vote of the senators, assistance to a person to commit suicide.
It was during this time that Christianity first appeared in Marseille, as evidenced by catacombs above the harbour and records of Roman martyrs. According to provencal tradition, Mary Magdalen evangelised Marseille with her brother Lazarus. The diocese of Marseille was set up in the 1st century (it became the Archdiocese of Marseille in 1948).
From the 1950s onward, the city served as an entrance port for over a million immigrants to France. In 1962 there was a large influx from the newly independent Algeria, including around 150,000 returned Algerian settlers (pieds-noirs). Many immigrants have stayed and given the city a French-African quarter with a large market.
Rue Paradis and Rue Grignan are home to luxury goods stores and independent boutiques with all the major brands. The Centre Bourse with its department stores is a haven for shopaholics with more than 200 shops, offering a range of chic or more casual ready-to-wear fashion. The souvenir and gift shops (soaps, olive oil, etc.) are to be found between the Old Port and Le Panier, popular tourist areas. There are also regional gourmet and craft products on sale in the department stores (Galeries Lafayette, etc.) as well as at the Tourist Office shop (where you can find some unique “Marseilles-themed” items).
Over the last few years the old town district of Le Panier has become a popular location for artist studios (painting, sculpture), crafts (ceramics, santons, wood), galleries, gastronomic produce (chocolates, olive oil, navette cakes), etc. There are a myriad of places to visit as you stroll through Marseille’s oldest quarter.
The friendly atmosphere is the main flavour of meals in Marseille where the typical daily fare includes olive oil and garlic. At the crossroads of the Mediterranean, Marseille is no stranger to foreign cuisine and has even adopted some recipes as its own. The result? Spicy dishes with a sunny touch, not to mention fish, shellfish and other seafood delicacies that make up the local fare. There are many restaurants in Marseille, ranging from traditional cuisine to world food, not to mention oriental fare and Mediterranean food with a strong Italian influence, and of course the seafood specialties. Establishments tend to be well decorated and the popular "city" style is a sign of these contemporary times.
- Marseille Cathedral (Cathédrale Sainte-Marie-Majeure de Marseille or Cathédrale de la Major) is a Roman Catholic cathedral, and a national monument of France. It has been a basilica minor since 1896. It is the seat of the Archdiocese of Marseille (formerly the Diocese of Marseille until its elevation in 1948). Some modest structures remaining from the largely demolished earlier cathedral, the "Vieille Major", still stand alongside, dwarfed by the huge scale of the later construction. The present cathedral, the "Nouvelle Major", was built on an enormous scale in Byzantine-Roman style from 1852 to 1896 on the site used for the cathedrals of Marseille since the fifth century, principally by the architects Léon Vaudoyer and Henri-Jacques Espérendieu (1829-1874).
- The Palais Longchamp is a monument in the 4th arrondisement of Marseille. It houses the city's museum of fine arts and natural history museum. The surrounding park (the Parc Longchamp) is listed by the French Ministry of Culture as one of the Notable Gardens of France. The Palais Longchamp was created to celebrate the construction of the Canal de Marseille, which was built to bring water from the Durance River to Marseille. Although the foundation stone was laid by the Duke of Orleans on 15 November 1839, the building took 30 years to complete, partly because of the enormous expense and partly because of difficulties with local regulations. Designed by the architect Henry Esperandieu, the building was centered on the structure and elaborate fountain known as the chateau d'eau ("water castle").
- La Vieille Charité is a former almshouse, now functioning as a museum and cultural centre, situated in the heart of the old Panier quarter. Constructed between 1671 and 1749 in the Baroque style to the designs of the architect Pierre Puget, it comprises four ranges of arcaded galleries in three storeys surrounding a space with a central chapel surmounted by an ovoid dome. The idea of an almshouse for the poor, dedicated to Notre-Dame, mère de Charité (Our Lady, Mother of Charity), was originally conceived in 1622; but it was not until 1640 that a suitable plot of land was acquired, with the first pensioners admitted in the following year. Although the foundation stone was laid in that year, construction commenced only in 1671, following a grand plan of the architect Pierre Puget. It was not completed until 1749, construction being prolonged as the result of reductions to the project imposed by the aldermen of Marseille. The central chapel was erected between 1679 and 1704, although Puget died before its completion.
- The Abbey of St. Victor is a late Roman former monastic foundation named after the local soldier saint and martyr, Victor of Marseilles. The Abbey is one of the oldest places of Christian worship in Europe. In about 415, John Cassian founded two monasteries of St. Victor at Marseille, one for men (the later Abbey of St. Victor), the other for women. In the eighth or ninth centuries both monasteries were destroyed by the Saracens, either in 731 or in 838, when the then abbess Saint Eusebia was martyred with 39 nuns. The nunnery was never re-established. No rebuilding took place until the first half of the eleventh century when through the efforts of the then abbot, Saint Wiffred, the men's monastery was at last rebuilt. It soon recovered, and from the middle of the eleventh century its renown was such that from all points of the south appeals were sent to the abbots of this church to restore the religious life in decadent monasteries. The remains of Saint John Cassian were formerly in the crypt, with those of Saints Maurice, Marcellinus and Peter, the body of one of the Holy Innocents, and Bishop Saint Maurontius. All that now remains of the abbey is the church of St. Victor, dedicated by Pope Benedict IX in 1040 and rebuilt in 1200. It was made into a minor basilica in 1934 by Pope Pius XI.
- Notre-Dame de la Garde This ornate Neo-Byzantine church is situated at the highest natural point in Marseille, a 162 m (532 ft) limestone outcrop on the south side of the Old Port. As well as being a major local landmark, it is the site of a popular annual pilgrimage every Assumption Day (August 15). Local inhabitants commonly refer to it as la bonne mère ("the good mother"). A minor basilica of the Catholic church, it is situated on a limestone peak of 149m (490 feet), on the walls and foundations of an old fort. Built by architect Henri-Jacques Espérandieu, the basilica was consecrated on 5 June 1864. It replaced a church of the same name built in 1214 and reconstructed in the 15th century. The basilica was built on the foundations of a 16th-century fort constructed by Francis I of France to resist the 1536 siege of the city by the Emperor Charles V. The basilica is made up of two parts: a lower church, or crypt, dug out of the rock and in the Romanesque style, and an upper church of Neo-Byzantine style decorated with mosaics. A square bell-tower of 41m (135 feet) is surmounted by a belfry of 12.5m (42 feet) which itself supports a monumental, 11.2m (27 feet) tall statue of the Madonna and Child made out of copper gilded with gold leaf.
Notre-Dame de la Garde