Posts Tagged ‘Notre Dame de la Garde’


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Tomorrow sees the opening of the new show at MUCEM.  It’s called ‘Lieux Saints Partagés’ and focuses on the sites where Christianity, Islam and 16_rituels_votifs_oea_mucem_idemec_manoel_penicaudJudaism all find commonality for place of worship.  It’s not just Jerusalem – the exhibition takes in other places, even Marseille where, it says, Notre Dame de la Garde is a centre for all religions. (more…)

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4924esperandieuThis is Henri-Jacques Espérandieu who, incredibly, designed and managed the build of Notre Dame de la Garde starting at the age of 23!

He also oversaw the construction of Marseille Cathedral, the biggest in France.

And, if you have visited the ‘Van Gogh a Bonnard’ expo at the Musée de Beaux Arts, you were in another of Espérandieu’s buildings – the Palais de Longchamps.

It seems amazing that a young man in his twenties would be given these commissions, especially from the Catholic ecclesiatical authorities as he was a Protestant!

So who was this talented architect?

He was born in September 1829 in Nimes, an ‘enfant deposé’ with ‘parents inconnus’. He was adopted into a Protestant family who recognised his talent.  Henri was drawing, painting and designing from the age of 8 and his family ensured that he was tutored in art.  Unfortunately he also developed diabetes which caused him to faint frequently – there was no insulin available at this time.

Henri went to study in Paris and was admitted to the Ecole des Beaux Arts. He undertook paid studies to repay the financial contribution of his father, planning a railway station, a suspension bridge, a country house and others. 

Beginning in May 1852, Espérandieu began to work for an architect M. Vaudoyer who was responsible for construction of the Marseille Cathedral. Vaudoyer asked Espérandieu to be his representative on site. The official appointment of Espérandieu to oversee the work of the Cathedral was made on 22 May 1854 and was the beginning of his brilliant career as an architect in Marseille where he settled in 1855.

Marseille was a booming port during the second republic with public money being channelled into grand buildings.240px-Marseille_Palais_Longchamp_Zentralsektion_JD25032007

The Palais de Longchamp is a grandiose confection of columns, statues and fountains, sited at the water tower where the water arrives from the Canal de Marseille; its wings house the Museum of Fine Arts and the Natural History Museum.

He also designed the Palais des Arts at the bottom of the cours Julien which is where a statue stands to commemorate him.

But surely Notre Dame de la Garde must have been the crowning achievement of his career. It is a stunning basilica, both inside and out, much loved in the city and now its iconic representative.

Sadly this talented man did not live long.  He suffered from complications from his diabetes and died aged only 45 after an amputation of his left leg in L’Hopital Nouveau in Marseille.

But what an extraordinary legacy he left the town he loved.  I did think, walking down from the Palais de Longchamps, that it was a shame he isn’t better known in Marseille, though a street does bear his name. 

IMG_5619Then I saw this in the Vieux Port…….a bright ferry-boat taking tourists across to the islands and felt happy to see Henri Esparandieu’s name at large in Marseille.

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telepheriqueThere’s nothing new under the sun it seems.  Eugene Caselli, the president of the MPM, has written to the transport minister with a request for backing for a télépherique in Marseille.  It would swing locals and tourists up the hill to Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde or across to L’Estaque….or even up to the Hopital Nord or out to the airport.  He points out that this is far cheaper per kilometre than the tramway and is an environmentally friendly alternative to all the tourist buses that labour up the hill to the church for example. 

In fact there was an ascenseur there until the 60s when it was demolished.  Locals haveoldposter of lifts commented that the authorities can’t even get the ferry boat to run across the Vieux Port consistently nor have installed the tramway L2.  There are also concerns around the 100 days per year when the Mistral would give passengers more thrills than they bargained for!

In Aix, too, present problems are rediscovering past solutions.

A recent architects’ and town-planners’ forum in Aix, convened to tackle the growing traffic problems in the Pays d’Aix area, came up with the idea of introducing a system of trams.  tramway

They want to encourage the Aixois to leave their cars at home and take to public transport.

Well this is hardly novel either – it was actually introduced back in 1903  with a tramway which took people between Aix to Marseille.  It set off from the top of the Cours Mirabeau – where the Terminus Café is today – and arrived in Marseille’s Quai des Belges nearly 2 hours later.  Trams ran every 15 minutes and were a great success.  The service only stopped in 1948 when trolley buses took over the route. As the French themselves say, plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose!



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Here’s the latest on getting around town.

navetteThe navette to Pointe-Rouge is back in service after the winter break.  It goes daily, on the hour, from the Quai des Belges (same as the boats to Frioul) and costs 3€ each way.  The journey takes 40 mins each way, and if you are just doing it for a boat-ride, you have to get off at Pointe-Rouge while the driver has  his cigarette, and then get back on again when it departs, on the hour.  Or you can take a picnic to the beach and pick up a later shuttle. What a bargain! I read that last year, its first year in service, it had double the expected number of punters so there may well be queues, as indeed there were when I went on it. Not surprising – it’s a really scenic trip. The new navette service to l’Estaque starts on April 13th.  Note that they don’t operate if the weather conditions are adverse. 

In the Vieux Port, the solar-powered ferry has gone and is being replaced by the reconditioned old favourite the César.  This takes people across the VP from outside the Hotel de Ville.  I think the solar ferry is going to be used in the docks area but I don’t have this info yet.

Further up the Quai du Port is the new terminus for le Petit Train.  petit-trainThis is operating daily 10-12, 14-16.  It goes up to Notre Dame de la Garde where there is a 30 minute stop then it takes visitors a picturesque way back along the coast and over the little inlets like the pretty Anse des Auffes.  It’s 7€ for adults 4€ for children.  The Petit Train service through the Panier starts next month.  There is also an electric bus service which runs around the VP and costs 50 centimes.

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Amid a veritable building site down in the docks, with cranes and construction workers and car-ferries coming and going, the new Musée Regards de Provence has opened and it is wonderful.

It’s housed in the old Station Sanitaire and signage indicates what awaited the immigrants – rooms for déshabillage, desinfection and service DDT. But today the building is full of big open spaces, flooded with light and filled with wonderful local paintings.

The first floor concentrates on paintings of Marseille.  So if you have just walked to the museum along the Vieux Port, you will have walked right through the subject of many of the pictures!  VP

This is how Louis Nattero saw the Quai du Port in the early years of the 19th century.  Not only is it a lovely painting in its own right, but it gives us a view of the old buildings that were detonated in WW2. 

Another painter I’d never heard of, Joseph Marius Hurard, worked from the opposite side. He was in the narrow streets of the Panier, looking across to the church up on the hill.

view from panier What a wonderful composition this is. 

‘Notre Dame de la Garde et Les Escaliers de la Rue Bompard’ focuses on the church in the centre of the painting, but it is framed by the real subject of the work – the busy street life of the Panier.  The windows are adorned with washing and the women in the street chat as they come back from the market or the fish-quay.

The second floor of the gallery widens its focus to include paintings from all over Provence, and there are so many treats in store.  There are works by Marchand, Chabaud, Seyssaud and Ambrogiani who is represented by a long and colourful painting which illustrates Provence from the Camargue to the Cote d’Azur.  One of my favourites.

Modern paintings are grouped in the Salle d’Estaque and, as with most contemporary art, it’s a mixed bag.  But this work ‘Plan d’Eau’ 2004 from Patrick Moquet, another artist new to me, was outstanding.modernart

Right at the top of the building is a very elegant restaurant with fabulous views across the docks and out to sea.

I went up for a coffee (11:30) but the whole place was set out for lunch.  They were OK about it and moved place settings etc so I could just have a coffee.  They have a good lunch menu with plats du jour but also light options.  If you opt for the beef, there are signs to reassure you that the animal was ‘né en France et abbattu en France’.


It’s a fabulous spot to sit and eat – especially if you like watching cranes and boats!

The whole museum has been finished to the highest standard and is a pleasure to visit.

It costs 6€ (5€ for seniors) and is open daily. :http://www.museeregardsdeprovence.com/




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