Notre-Dame de la Garde
Notre-Dame de la Garde is a basilica located in Marseille, France. This ornate Neo-Byzantine church is situated at the highest natural point in Marseille, a 162 m (532 ft) limestone outcrop on the south side of the Old Port. As well as being a major local landmark, it is the site of a popular annual pilgrimage every Assumption Day (August 15). Local inhabitants commonly refer to it as la bonne mère ("the good mother").
Commissioned by Saint Charles Eugene de Mazenod, then bishop of Marseille, and designed by the architect Jacques Henri Esperandieu (1829-1874), the church was built between 1853, when the foundation stone was laid on September 11, and 1864. "The basilica was built in the 19th century in the same style as the Cathedral of Sainte Marie Majeure on the opposite side of the port." The church was built on the site of a 13th century chapel, also dedicated to Our Lady of the Watch, the traditional guardian of seafarers. It shared space atop the hill with a 16th-century fortification established for Francois I, built in 1525, whose own salamander badge is to be found within the present basilica's north porch.
The basilica is surmounted by a 60 m (197 ft) belfry topped with a huge statue of the Virgin and Child, visible across much of the city and for miles out at sea. Construction of the basilica took five years and required 170,000 tons of material, including 23 shiploads of marble and porphyry from Italy. The interior is decorated with inlaid marble, mosaics and murals. Many of the walls are covered with hundreds of ex-votos, including paintings, plaques, model boats, war medals and even football shirts given by players and supporters of Olympique de Marseille, the local football team.
Credit: ©HTO3 / Flickr