Masterpieces of Light and Space: Marseille Cathedral, Marseille, France

Marseille, France

Marseille has been populated on the Mediterranean coast of France for thousands of years…literally. It was once a Greek city-state, a Carthaginian trading hub, and then a Roman port. The old city of Marseille is for lack of a better word, ancient. The city’s economic importance throughout the middle ages kept it populated and hell, people still live there along the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean, eating at very specific times throughout the day…not eating in between (can you tell what stuck with me most about France?) We were well aware of the Basilica of Notre Dame de la Garde (which I have yet to write about) before visiting, but hadn’t given much thought to any other major churches in Marseille. The Abbey of St. Victor was amazing, but the Cathedral of St. Mary-Major (Marseille Cathedral) was essentially what I expected to see from my not exactly perfectly understanding of the essence of France.

Marseille, France
Marseille Cathedral, right on the waterfront

Marseille Cathedral itself is a beautiful and imposing edifice with striated patterns in the bricks and very, for lack of a better word, French features. I don’t know how else to describe the shape of the domes and the decorative motif.

Marseille, France The Nave of Marseille Cathedral

We walked in just about 30 minutes before they were going to close up for the day (yes, we were THOSE people) and it was very quiet. I was immediately struck by the large, beautiful banners. I felt like I had walked into a coronation scene from some sort of medieval movie.

Marseille, France
Organ Trumpets at Marseille Cathedral

I’d really like to have had the opportunity to sit through a service here because the organ was imposing (heheh…that makes me giggle.) The stained glass was very French looking. Almost as if it had been made in a rococo style, but that’s not at all the style I mean. I guess it wouldn’t look out of place in the background of a rococo style painting. For what it’s worth, I do not at all like the rococo style, but I like the stained glass. I’ll let you interpret that.

Marseille, France Illuminated statuary

It may have simply been a function of the time of the year that we were there, or the time of day,or whatever, but the windows seemed to illuminate certain statues in a very holy way.

Marseille, France
Altar and Chancel

Even the altar and chancel of Marseille Cathedral were adorned with colorful, ornate banners. I really feel like the textiles of this church were among the most impressive textiles I’ve seen anywhere, what with the amount of drapery and whatnot. Clearly the church was designed in such a way that the amount of drapery would not interfere with the design of the natural lighting.

Tucked down below the wall of the old city, a bit of a walk from anything really, Marseille Cathedral should definitely be on your “hit list” if you’re going to visit France’s “second city.”


Author: Charlie

Thirty-something husband and father. Aspiring baker. Decent cook. Childish humorist. General enthusiast.

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