Marseille's amazing Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde
Marseille is a favourite tourist destination preferred for its warm Mediterranean climate, prehistoric sites, and the allure of its culture. One of the world-famous tourist attractions in Marseille is the Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde, which the local residents reverently refer to as La Bonne Mere or ‘the Good Mother’. Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde (Our Lady of the Guard) was designed by Jacques Henri Esperandieu with construction commencing on September 1853 and it took eleven years to be completed. The basilica is an architectural masterpiece both structural and in interior adornment.
Any visitor visiting the church would not miss the ‘Good Mother’, a 30 ft statue of Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus at the top the Cathedral’s bell tower. The aureate statue was installed around 1870 and it is re-gilded periodically after every 25 years. It is a pilgrimage site with thousands of pilgrims visiting annually for the Feast of Assumption on August 15. The church also has deep historical significance with classical aspects that anyone would appreciate. Recent history is still visible on its northern walls as it bears scars of the Marseilles’ Liberation War of 1944 with visible bullet markings, burns and shrapnel pockmarks.
The historic church is also popular amongst Marseille visitors for its awesome panoramic view of Marseille since it is built on a naturally high ground; it stands on the 532 ft La Garde hill. The superb panorama includes city view, the islands, and the vast sea.
The sea and Marseilles’ waterways means visitors get to catch Marseilles’ famed boat ferries. There’s a free ferry service that shuttles across the Old Port from La Mairie (Town Hall) and the Rive Nueve with the journey usually half an hour one-way. Other boat services include the Frioul If Express, which serves most of the islands across to Marseille. There are clear sign posts all across the city on where to catch your ferry and it is hard to get lost even for a first timer, provided your French is fair. The ferry boats are a great way to sightsee in this city but it is also possible to hire boats at your pleasure.
Marseille, France’s second largest city is a cauldron of its own culture and it takes pride of its uniqueness from the rest of Europe. It is a city of culture evidenced by the 17 museums and over 40 theatres and it has been designated as European Capital of Culture 2013.