Basilica of Our Lady of Protection
Nôtre Dame de la Garde or Our Lady of Protection is at the highest point above Marseille, 162 meters above the Old Port to its south.
Charles II of Anjou ordered in 1302 that beacons were set up along the Mediterranean coast of Provence. This hill was the site of one of those beacons.
A chapel had been built on the hill in 1214. A fortification was built here in the early 1500s and a more significant church constructed within. It continued as a church within a fortress until the Revolution in the late 1700s. The religious buildings were shut down and worship stopped in November, 1793. The fortress became a prison for members of the royalty and nobility.
The church was reopened for worship in 1807. The number of worshipers increased significantly, and the fortress chapel was expanded.
In 1850, the priest asked the Ministry of War, which still owned and controlled the fortress, for permission to further enlarge the existing church. Alphonse Henri, comte d'Hautpoul, on his final day on the job as Minister of War, agreed in principle but said that the request was too vague. Come back with details.
The following year, in April 1851, a new request was submitted. This was for an entirely new church, much larger. This came with the support of General Adolphe Niel.
The project was approved. Construction started in 1853. There were problems, both financial and practical, as it was difficult to cut the foundations into the very hard rock at the peak.
The church was finally consecrated in June, 1864.
The views are fantastic. In the first picture we are looking west over Île d'If and the other islands in the Frioul Archipelago. Below, we look over the Old Port and beyond that to the new port complex continuing for kilometers up the coast.
In the second picture we have turned toward our right. The innermost third of the Old Port is barely visible at left, just above the nearby trees.
Below, the long red roof of Gare Saint-Charles is visible if you know what to look for (about 11 o'clock from the cross, to the right and slightly above a row of three large rectangular buildings). The blue and white tourist tram provides one way to get up and down the hill between the Old Port and the basilica.
The interior walls of the church are covered with devotional plaques, thanking Our Lady of Protection for saving the donors from storms, shipwrecks, and other troubles.
Ship models hang from the ceiling, representing ships saved by Mary's intervention and ships that were lost but someone survived.
Above the plaque listing the numerical characteristics of the hill and cathedral, we see a plaque thankful for protection against cholera, one of the recent plagues.
That's right, this is a plague plaque.
Reconnaissance à N.D. de la Garde
qui nous a préservées du choléra
nous et nos familles
Les Dames Télégraphistes
Recognition to Our Lady of Protection
who has saved us and our families
from the cholera
The Lady Telegraphists
There are several plaques commemorating individuals and groups involved in the final fight to eject the German occupiers. The Germans retreated to the basilica and its surroundings, and the battle to finally eject them raged around the peak of the hill.
Brave leader, killed on the field of honor on 7 September 1944 at the head of the 2nd Battalion of the 3rd Algerian Infantry Regiment, having fought for the liberation of Our Lady of Protection on 26 August 1944 with his brothers in arms of the 7th Algerian Infantry Regiment of the 9th Cavalry and of the Free French Forces.
Another honors the Marseille Volunteers of the African Commandos killed for the liberation of France.
From here we will leave Marseille by car. We will drive south and east along the coast to Cassis and La Ciotat.