Tuesday, July 24, 2007


I visited Marseille in March, and I've finally gotten around to posting some pictures. Enjoy!


Sunset in front of the cathedral

The Old Harbor at night

We caught a noon Mass at this cathedral. Before Mass there was a rosary and afterwards we said the Angelus. All the prayers sounded more vehement in French, which became my new favorite language.

A sign inside the cathedral's entrance - click to read it. If you think there's no one left in Europe who understands, think again. "Gardez la foi!"

The view from the shrine of Notre Dame de la Garde, Our Lady of the Guard.

To get to the shrine you had to cross a drawbridge. How cool is that? The mistral nearly blew me away, though.

Looking back...

The shrine seen from the Old Harbor. Everyone in Marseille loves Notre Dame de la Garde! Her shrine is covered with ex votos. My friends and I were trying to find the way up to it, and this nice old gentleman asked us if we were "looking for the Virgin" (I heard something something la Vierge? anyway), and he told us how to find the stairs.

The cathedral by the sea - a strange mix of Baroque, Byzantine, and Italian Gothic.


Theres a subtle feeling to Marseille. The colors of it are pale and bright - bleached ivory; pink like an ancient dress that's lifted from a trunk all brittle and camphory; pale cornflower; and a tender Easter icing color for some of the shutters, not quite cyan, not quite sea-green. There's something gaunt and forbidding about it, but also a certain feeling I've found in certain poems - say, the last stanza of Louise Bogan's Song for the Last Act. I liked it, and I'd definitely go back. When I was arranging the trip, I read a lot of sources that said it wasn't safe, was full of angry Muslim immigrants, etc. But our experience was good. We were just passing through to Lourdes, but we wished we could have stayed longer.

Note: If you want a really scary French city, try Toulouse. We had to wait there for several hours coming back from Lourdes, and we decided to go and venerate Thomas Aquinas's relics. The poor guy is buried in a desecrated Gothic church known as the "Convent les Jacobins" (!) which was stolen and gutted during the Revolution and gingerly patched up at a later date. It's pretty much a museum. We crawled under a rope and touched our rosaries to St. Thomas' golden casket, and then prayed for our college. We came back through a boisterous rally for Saddam Husein, which involved a large circle of young Muslim men singing loudly, holding banners, and pumping their fists in the air while all the women in their headscarves stood silently to one side. Oddly enough, I got more crap from boorish males in ten minutes there than I did the whole time I was in Italy. If you are a woman, don't be seen outside there, alone, unless you want to be very annoyed.


Erik Keilholtz said...

On Sept 20th at St. Margaret Mary's in Oakland I will be giving a lecture on the French Symbolists and nineteenth century neo-Byzantinism. I will be talking about this church quite a bit.

Meredith said...

I'd enjoy hearing about the church - it was was being restored and we couldn't go inside. I thought it looked Byzantine, although I couldn't say why, apart from the mosaic on the front.