The Most Magnificent Churches in Marseille

| © Noppasin Wongchum / Alamy Stock Photo
Shyla Watson

Marseille is an amazing city where history, spirituality, and architectural grandeur join and create a dialogue between and culture. Amidst the vibrant streets and azure Mediterranean backdrop, Marseille boasts an array of awe-inspiring churches that stand as testaments to centuries of devotion and artistic prowess. Churches are a place of sanctuary, solitude, and service. They are fantastic places to not only worship and pray, but also enjoy a moment of peace and meditation in a safe space. Furthermore, most historic churches have breathtaking architecture and incredible interior design. Read our list to discover the most magnificent churches in Marseille, France.

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Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde

Catholic basilica

Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde from The Vieux Port – Marseille – French Riviera

Erected in 1864, this neo-Byzantine church was established atop foundations of an ancient fort. The church is adorned with beautiful mosaics, a bell tower that’s over 100 feet tall, and a copper statue of Madonna and Child. The interior is equally exquisite, with detailed art and numerous side chapels. There is also a Romanesque crypt in the basement. The church, which is commonly known as ‘Lady of the Guard,’ has been visited by many royal members over the centuries. In 1516, the women related to Francis I of France, including his wife, mother, and daughter, visited the sanctuary and chapel of Notre-Dame de la Garde. Louis XIII also visited the church in 1622. In addition to these prominent figures, the basilica receives an estimated one million visitors each year.

Cathédrale de la Major

Roman Catholic cathedral

Formally known as Cathédrale Sainte-Marie-Majeure de Marseille, this building is a French national monument and stunning Catholic cathedral. The church has been built upon and added to over the years, but the original cathedral was established in the 12th century. A portion was demolished in the 1850s, and rebuilt. The ‘old cathedral’ was built in the traditional Romanesque style, which was popular pre-Renaissance. The ‘new cathedral,’ however, was built in the Byzantine-Roman style. The church seats 3,000 people, making it one of the largest cathedrals in all of France. Cathédrale de la Major is open to the public each day, aside from Tuesdays, and hosts mass and confessions.

Abbaye Saint-Victor

Former Roman monastery
The Abbaye Saint-Victor was named after Victor of Marseilles, a French soldier turned martyr. The history behind the abbey dates back to the first century in 415, when a French monk founded two monasteries, one for each gender; however, because evidence of Saint Victor only goes back as far as the 5th century, the true date of the Abbaye’s establishment has yet to be confirmed. Regardless, the abbey housed many nuns and monks over time. In addition to the church that they worshipped at, the monastery featured a tall tower, library, and crypt, which at one point, held the remains of St. John Cassain. The church was dissolved in 1739 and converted into a prison. However, it has since been restored and is used as a place for worship.

Église des Réformés

Exquisite gothic church
Also known as Église Saint Vincent de Paul, this Roman Catholic church takes the place of a demolished chapel and convent of reformed Augustinians. It took roughly thirty years to build, but was finished in 1886. The architectural style is neo-gothic, and features two 70-foot towers flanking the entrance. The interior includes high ceilings, pipe organs, numerous stained glass windows, a high alter, and an impressive pulpit; all of these features were designed by different sculptors, artists, and architects. The church holds mass each morning, and is open for many hours throughout the day for individual public worship and prayer.

Église Saint-Michel Archange

Popular church for service
The Church of Saint Michael doesn’t have as much history as some of the other churches in Marseille, but it is still a very popular place for visitors seeking service, or just beautiful architecture. The church was built in traditional neo-Gothic style; the interior features an apse, or semi-dome. The arch has beautiful stained glass windows, and holds a grand organ underneath. Additionally, there is a tomb underneath the church, which actually houses the remains of a former priest. Église Saint-Michel Archange holds mass everyday, and is open for additional occasions, such as weddings, funerals, and baptisms.
By: Shyla Watson

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