Basilica of Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde

Article

November 30, 2021

The Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde basilica or more simply Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde, often nicknamed "the Good Mother" (in Provencal Nouestro-Damo de la Gardo and the Boueno Maire), is a minor basilica of the Catholic Church dated from the 19th century. Emblem of Marseille, dedicated to Notre-Dame de la Garde (protector of Marseille with Saint Victor), it dominates the city and the Mediterranean Sea from the top of Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde hill (classified site since 1917) . It straddles the districts of Roucas-Blanc and Vauban, on a limestone peak 149 m above sea level raised by 13 m thanks to the walls and foundations of an old fort. Built by the Protestant architect Henri-Jacques Espérandieu in the Romano-Byzantine style and consecrated on June 5, 1864, it replaces a chapel of the same name built in 1214 and rebuilt in the 15th century. Built on the foundations of a 16th century fort built by Francis I in 1536 to resist the siege of Charles V, the basilica has two parts: a low church, or crypt, carved into the rock and in Romanesque style, and at- above a tall church in Romano-Byzantine style decorated with mosaics. At the top of a square bell tower 41 meters high, itself surmounted by a sort of 12.5 meter tower which serves as its pedestal, stands a monumental 11.2 meter statue of the Virgin and Child. made of gold leaf copper. The stone used for the construction, in particular that of green color from the surroundings of Florence, having proved to be sensitive to atmospheric corrosion, it was necessary to undertake from 2001 to 2008 a long and meticulous restoration which also concerned the renovation of the mosaics, damaged during the Liberation by bullet holes and blackened over time by the smoke from the candles. True palladium of the city of Marseille, Notre-Dame de la Garde has been considered since the Middle Ages as the guardian of sailors and fishermen.

A chapel in the 13th century

An exceptional site

The panorama of the Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde Basilica is exceptional: an overview over the city of Marseille, which opens widely to the west on the sea is bordered by hills: to the north the Étoile, Nerthe, the Estaque chain (from Cap Couronne in Martigues), Sainte-Baume and Garlaban to the east, Carpiagne, Marseilleveyre to the south and even in very good weather, Mont Ventoux. From this vast depression emerges a peak of Urgonian limestone (Barremian age, one level from the Cretaceous period) 162 meters high, at the top of which stands the Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde basilica. This hill was the object of a quarry operation opened from 1905, after the construction of the basilica. This quarry operated by Mr. Honoré operated until 1946. It is estimated that during this period, a volume of 800,000 m3 was extracted. The hill which extended continuously to the south towards the heights of the Gratte-Semelle district, is opened by a bleeding in which the rue du Bois-sacré was opened. This artificial cliff is the subject of extensive surveillance, with regular visits and preventive purges to avoid landslides. Due to its location on the shore and its elevation, the hill of the Guard was in the days of dead reckoning, a point of observation and a landmark. It has therefore undoubtedly been occupied for a very long time as a lookout post and watchtower. In 1302, Charles II of Anjou issued orders to ensure that signals were sent along the Mediterranean coast of Provence; among the designated points is the Notre-Dame de la Garde hill.

A first chapel

In 1214 a priest of Marseilles, Master Pierre, had the idea of ​​building on the hill of the Guard a chapel dedicated to the

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