Notre Dame de la Garde

Discover Notre Dame de la Garde in Marseille, a basilica built on the highest naturally occurring point in the city, atop a 162 meter (531 feet) tall hill.

Of the many churches in Marseille, the basilica is the most famous one, and it is also a world-wide destination of annual pilgrimage, during the Dormition of the Theotokos, August 15th.

The church, which locals have nicknamed as “bonne mère” (“good mother”), was build in a Neobyzantine architecture style from 1853–1864, from plans by Henri-Jacques Espérandieu.

Notre Dame de la Garde in Marseille France

PHOTO: The basilica, as seen from the steep walkway leading up to it. Other ways to come up the hillside include “Petits Trains de Marseille” ( minitrains, which depart towards the church from Vieux-Port harbor.

Notre Dame de la Garde tower

PHOTO: Among the church’s architectural highlights are its 60 meter (196 feet) tall church tower, on top of which you can see a golden, 11.2 m (37 feet) tall statue of Virgin Mary and child Jesus.

Notre Dame de la Garde Virgin Mary and baby Jesus

PHOTO: A closeup of the Virgin Mary and child Jesus sculpture work on top of the church tower, at the height of 225.7 meters (740 feet) above the sea-level, which is why you can see the sculpture from far away.

Chateau d'If Island in Marseille France

PHOTO: The many observation platforms within the church have great, panoramic views to all directions around Marseille, including (pictured) Frioul archipelago. In the middle of the picture, you can see Chateau d’If (within If island), famous from Dumas’ “Count of Monte Cristo“.

Notre Dame de la Garde from Vieux-Port Marseille France

PHOTO: A view from the Marseille Vieux-Port harbor towards the basilica.

VIDEO: A video tour of Notre Dame de la Garde basilica.

The church is located on the highest naturally occurring point in Marseille, at the height of 162 m (531 feet), on the southern side of Vieux-Port harbor district.

Notre Dame de la Garde was built in the same architecture style as the other main religious building in Marseille, the Sainte Marie Majeure cathedral, which is located on the opposite side of the Vieux Port.

Before the current basilica, the place had a historical chapel from 1214, which was also dedicated to Virgin Mary, the guardian saint of mariners…fitting for this important European harbor city.

The church was also built on top of foundations of remains of a 1525 defensive fortress, which was build by King Francois I (at the same time as the Chateau d’If fortress), to protect the city from an offensive by Emperor Charles V’s troops.

Highlight of the basilica, in addition to the luxurious interiors, is its 60 m (196 ft) tall church tower, on top of which there is a golden sculpture of Virgin Mary carrying child Jesus.