Our 2012 Cathedralquest to France Day 16 Marseille .


Day 16, Tuesday, September 18


We started our day, after breakfast in the hotel, with a walk through the old area to the cathedral.  It was a rather long walk, and you guessed it, uphill.  We were on a road with a narrow side walk that was at the end of the big harbor with the huge ships.  

No  16 is our hotel.  No 1 (near left top) is the cathedral

 There are two cathedrals side by side.   Several buildings have stood on these foundations since the 5th century but the current Roman Provencal style church ( the old cathedral) built in pink stone from the Couronne quarries dates back to the mid-12th century.


The Old Cathedral is named Vieille Major . The bell tower wasn’t built until the 14th century. It was a cathedral until 1852 when the new cathedral began, but was still used as a parish church until the 1950s. The building of the new cathedral removed two of the Vieille Major’s bays. The Vieille Major isn’t open to visitors.There was a fence around the old cathedral so it wasn’t possible to go in.


The new cathedral was build from 1852-1893. The Romanesque – and Byzantine style Cathedral is extremely large with striped exterior stone,built from a variety of materials from many different places including Greenstone from Florence and mosaics from Venice.

 The Major cathedral  is 470 feet long and the front towers reach  200 feet. The central dome is perhaps the most impressive and the most beautiful aspect of the Marseille Cathedral, which is 235 feet tall. There are a total of five domes.  


The inside is decorated in beautiful mosaics. In the front sections of the church were a large number of school children and their teachers.  A teacher was telling them something – we couldn’t understand, then accompanied by a guitar the children would sing a delightful little song. 

We did spend a long time looking at the wonders of this cathedral.  


Our next visit was to the La Vieille Charité is a former almshouse, now functioning as a museum  and cultural centre, situated in the heart of the old Panier quarter, not far from the Cathedral.   The La vieille Charité  was constructed between 1671 and 1749 in the Baroque style to the designs of the architect Pierre Puget. It comprises four three-story arcaded galleries surrounding  a round church, crowned by an  ellipsoidal  dome and fronted by a portico in the classical style with Corinthian columns. This Baroque chapel ranks as one of Puget's most original designs. It was very quiet and inspiring place. 

 In the seventeenth century the repression of beggars was conducted with great brutality in France. The almshouses served as workhouses for the beggars. Children were found jobs as domestic servants, cabin boys or apprentices with seamstresses or bakers. As time passed the work of la Vielle Charité grew, the number of inmates increasing from 850 in 1736 to 1059 in 1760. As the imprisonment of the poor became less acceptable, the numbers decreased to 250 in 1781.

Spared during the  French Revolution,  the building was used as an asylum for vagrants and the dispossessed in the nineteenth century. It was transformed into a barracks for the French Foreign Legion until 1922, later for those made homeless by the dynamiting of the Old Port during World War II. In 1962 all the residents were rehoused and the building shut down. It was only in 1968 that funds became available to rescue the buildings, by then in a state of total dereliction. La Vieille Charité was painstakingly restored to its former glory between 1970 and 1986, restoration of the chapel being completed in 1981.


 We walked back down some of the street that we had just come up and passed through an area called the Panier-old Marseille. Seeing the old apartment buildings with iron balconies and clothes handing on them was a fun experience.   We got back down to the area around the old port and stopped in one of the many, many outdoor cafes and had a pizza for lunch.   We then walked to our hotel, dropped off the book that I had bought, and headed for the boat dock.  


We bought our ticket for a cruise to Chateau D’If – it was closed yesterday.  It was about a half hour ride. 

We landed and saw this huge castle high on the hill – guess what?  A lot of steps and steep paths.  Chateau D’If was built in 1524 by Francois I as an island fortress for prisoners. It is presently best known as the prison that held the Count of Monte Cristo in Alexander Dumas’ novel.  We could stay as long as we liked and catch another boat back. 

We managed to finally climb up the top of the fort.  There were several buildings there plus the actual fort or prison.  We went inside – more steps! 

There was a central courtyard – three stories high with cells on all four sides. 


One was marked for the Count of Monte Cristo.  Kathleen didn’t think she could make it up the rest of the steps, but I went up and explored the cells.  I got locked up for a while!



There were a set of steep circular steps in a tower leading the very top, so I said “why not”.  The view all around was breath taking.  Today had been hot, and a little overcast but still you could see for miles. We got back about 6:00. 

Near our hotel was a church, Église Saint-Ferréol les Augustins, that we had seen many times but had not visited.  It took a while to get to it because of all of the construction. The original building on site was owned by the Knights Templar's.  In 1369, it was given to a community of Augustinian hermits. By 1447, they decided to construct a new church building. It was dedicated in 1542, even though the vault was only completed in 1588. During the French Revolution, it came close to being destroyed, but was salvaged. Later it was renamed in honor of St. Augustine.  The façade was destroyed in 1801 due to construction work on the street, and it was rebuilt in 1875. In 1803, it was named in honor of Saint  Ferreol de Vienne, a Roman Catholic martyr from the 3rd century who was the namesake of another church in Marseille which was destroyed during the French Revolution.  We found our way inside and mass was just ending.  We didn't stay long.

Speaking of construction the nearly revitalized section of road in front of the hotel was opened this morning.  It is all paving stones.  The project is very large, and as I said yesterday quite noisy.

We stopped in a little café several door from our hotel for a drink.  Back to the hotel for a few minutes and then walked back around the old port for dinner.  Kathleen had reserved months ago this restaurant that she read about on Trip Advisor.  It was called La Table du Fort.  It was entirely inside and had 20 tables. The menu was all in French with no English translation.  Kathleen ordered for a starter what she thought for a fish soup, but turned out to be a nice fish pate.  I didn’t order a starter.  For our main course we ordered lamb – we could read that.  It was the best piece of lamb that I have ever had.  It came with couscous and a few lima beans.   We had some kind of tart, which also was delicious, for dessert. It was sort of a culinary mystery evening, and we risked by not understanding the full menu, but oh wow the food was good. 

Well we leave here tomorrow, leading for a little town called Aigues Mortes.   




Day 1 - Paris

Day 2 - Sens

Day 3 - Vezelay 

Day 4 - Abbey Fontenay, Semur-en-Auxois, Vezelay -

Day 5 - Beaune

Day 6 - Beaune, Autun, Citeaux, Chateau du Clos Vougeot-

Day 7 - Cluny  

Day 8 - Cluny 

Day 9 - Paray-le-Monial and Clermont-Ferrard

Day 10 - Le Puy-en-Velay 

Day 11 - Avignon 

Day 12 - Avignon to Nimes

Day 13 - Avignon

Day 14 - Marseille

Day 15 - Marseille

Day 16 - Marseille

Day 17 - Marseille to Aigues-Mortes

Day 18 - Carcassonne 

Day 19 - Carcassonne to Toulouse  (posted 10/6/15)

Day 20 - Toulouse

Day 21 - Albi

Day 22 - Toulouse