Updated: Sep 20
Hello. My name is Angela. I'm in Provence again this year for an immersion with Virginie. We decide to go visit Marseille that day. When we arrive, I see the little train that goes to the Basilica of Notre Dame de la Garde. I am very happy because I really want to visit it. The last time I came to Marseille, I tried to visit the Basilica but I couldn't go because I'm sick in transport.
Marseille in Provence -The little train ride
Arriving at the port, Virginie buys the tickets and we get on the little train. The train crosses the city. We saw sites such as the Town Hall, the Old Port, the Museum of Deportations, Fort Saint-Nicolas and Fort Saint-Jean. The train went along the coast and we saw the monument for the soldiers of Africa as well as the sea. There are many islands off the city of Marseille such as the Frioul islands.
Marseille in Provence - An exceptional site
After skirting the sea, we arrive at the Basilica of Notre-Dame de la Garde. The people of Marseille call her the “Bonne Mère”. The Basilica of Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde is an emblematic figure of the city of Marseille. It is located on the Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde hill and thus benefits from an exceptional panorama. She watches over sailors, fishermen and all Marseille residents. It is a huge monument with a large golden statue of the Virgin and Child at its top. This statue measures 11.2 meters.
Marseille in Provence - The "Bonne Mère" in a few dates
It was in 1214 that the religious vocation of the Notre-Dame-de-la-Grade hill began. A priest named Pierre built a small chapel and a sanctuary there. From the Middle Ages to the Renaissance, several chapels follow one another.
In 1853, the first stone of the Basilica of Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde was laid because the chapel at the time was not large enough to accommodate pilgrims. The works are carried out by the architect Henry Espérandieu. It was consecrated on June 5, 1864.
The statue of the Virgin was hoisted to the top of the Basilica in 1870. It weighs 9,776 kg and measures 9.72 meters. It is made of gilded copper.
On August 25, 1944, the Basilica was liberated from German occupation. It was then bombarded by the Germans and still bears the traces of these battles. One of the tanks used during the assault is still present below the Basilica.
In 2021, the "Bonne Mère" celebrated her 150th birthday.
Marseille in Provence - Basilica style
The Basilica of Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde is made up of:
A low vaulted church or crypt
An upper church
The building is Romano-Byzantine in style. It is an architectural style that mixes Byzantine architecture (domes, mosaics) with Romanesque architecture (barrel vaults). This mixture of styles is frequent in the 19th century.
The crypt is entirely in Romanesque style. It has a very little light.
Inside the upper church, there are two types of marbles: white marble and red marble. We speak of polychromy (which means mixture of colors) of the stones.
The ceiling and the walls are very beautiful and are covered with golden mosaic. Many boat models hang from the ceiling. The floors are covered with Roman mosaics.
Marseille in Provence - The basilica shop
At the end of the visit, we took the time to visit the Basilica's souvenir shop. There are religious objects such as carved nativity scenes in the different regions of France. There are also sculptures of the holy family.
The fame of Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde goes beyond the limits of Marseille. Visitors come from all over Provence and even from all over the world to have the chance to admire this masterpiece.
When you come to us for an immersion stay in Provence, Virginie will be happy to share this excursion with you. She will also be very happy to help you discover the landscapes, the smells, the culture of this beautiful region while helping you improve your French.