Place Colonel Edon, Marseille
Beloved symbol of Marseille, perched on the highest hilltop overlooking the city and the harbor, Our Lady of the Guard has stood watch over Marseille for some 150 years. It is most easily reached by catching bus 60 from Quai des Belges, which will deposit you in the parking lot of the church. You will still need to hike up about three flights of stairs to reach the church. If you are the more energetic sort, it’s only about a mile from the Vieux Port, but it’s a lot of uphill, so don’t take it on unless you are in decent shape.
This Catholic church was designed in a blended Romanesque-Byzantine style by a Protestant architect. It is built of warm golden blocks with darker blocks picking out architectural details and marking a pattern along all the edges of the building. A gilded 30-foot-tall Virgin holding the infant Jesus enjoys a dizzying view from the top of the bell tower.
The interior of this church could only belong to Marseille. Sailors’ devotion is marked by the fascinating collection of votives, objects pledged to the church in gratitude for the protection of the Virgin. An entire wall is papered with paintings of ships and boats, many on stormy seas. There is also a very interesting mobile made entirely of aircraft of various sorts.
Be sure to take the time to check out the views from the front of the church. From here, you can see Chateau d’If plopped into the middle of the harbor, the ferries for Corsica moored at La Joliette, and the Vieux Port, chock-full of sailboats, as well as the entire city stretched up to the hills in the distance.
Avoid visiting at 10am, 4pm, or 6pm, when services are held. When you’re ready to leave, just catch bus 60 in the parking lot. It’s very convenient to hop off on Avenue de la Corse by Place St.-Victor. From there, it’s an easy walk down to visit Abbaye St. Victor and Marcel Carbonel Santons on your way back to the Vieux Port.