There are many reasons to visit Marseille, France’s second largest city after Paris, and its famous basilica Notre-Dame de la Garde never fails to appear on everybody’s top list of things to see. Considered a minor basilica by the Catholic Church, but a major landmark by pretty much everybody else, Marseille’s “bonne mère” (good mother) is as well-known for the famous hill on which it stands as for the breath-taking view you can enjoy from there.
Although the actual basilica was only built in 1853, the La Garde hill has played a significant role in the history of the area for many centuries in the various capacities of look-out post, military fortification and religious site. The first chapel was built there in 1214 and quickly became a popular place of worship. At the beginning of the 15th century, the building is expanded and a vault dedicated to St Gabriel is added. One century later, King Francis I of France decides to fortify the city of Marseille with two forts: the famous château d’If, on the nearby island of If, and the fortress on top of the La Garde hill, incorporating the chapel.
The site survived the infamous Wars of Religion, the devastating plague of 1720 and 1721, and the turbulent times of the Revolution, during which it briefly becomes a prison for aristocrats, and eventually a national property. The chapel returns to its original role of sanctuary in April 1807, and from then on its popularity steadily increases. Even foreign royalty and illustrious writers never fail to stop by to pay their respects.
When the crowds start to become overwhelming, the basilica is built between 1853 and 1854. Its Romanesque-byzantine silhouette adorned with domes, multi-colored stones, gold and mosaics, it is the perfect example of the large constructions undertaken in Marseille under Napoléon III, and it has remained a dazzling sight from any point of view.
If you want to have a closer and personal look at it, as well as enjoy the spectacular view from it, New York Habitat has plenty of furnished apartment rentals in and around Marseille to help you achieve that goal.
If all you need is a cozy pied-à-terre in the heart of the city, try our fully furnished studio – Marseille Center – PR 1033. You’ll enjoy the quietness of the location above the neighboring roofs and the convenience of being downtown and near the Vieux Port.
If you’re looking for something slightly bigger outside the city, check out our furnished 1-bedroom apartment in Marseille – PR 441 on Endoume Rock, near the Corniche Kennedy. It is hard to beat its large terrace and incredible view over the majestic Mediterranean and the Frioul Islands. It will take you 10 minutes to reach downtown Marseille, or you can go explore the small fishing village of Le Vallon des Auffes and its rocky beach.
Are you familiar with Marseille? If you are, would you care to share your impressions below?