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From the highest natural point in Marseille - a 162 m (532 ft) limestone outcrop at the south side of the Old Port - the basilica of Notre-Dame de la Garde raises a square tower 41 m (135 ft). It's then surmounted by a belfry of 12.5 m (42 ft) which itself supports a monumental - 11.2 m (27 ft) tall and almost 10 tons heavy - statue of the Madonna and Child made out of copper gilded with gold leaf.

It was completed in June 1864, built in a Romanesque-Byzantine style with domes, multicolored stone, gold and mosaics, and fits perfectly into the large constructions undertaken in Marseille under Napoléon III.

Well visible from the sea, as well as from the motorways entering Marseille, Notre-Dame de la Garde is the city's most well-known symbol and is traditionally regarded by all the 'Marseillaise' - whatever their religion - as the guardian and protectoress of the city, referred to as "La Bonne Mère" ("The Good Mother").

The view from the terrace in front of the basilica is stunning. The whole panorama of Marseille is at your feet, including the Vieux Port, the Bay of Marseille and the Frioul Archipelago. And of course the Château d’If, former fortress and alleged prison for "The Count of Monte Cristo" in the novel by Alexandre Dumas.

There are two ways to climb to the basilica on foot - from either the north or the south - but it's a steep 12-15 degree climb. Luckily there is a bus service departing from the Old Port, especially for the many cruise ships making stopover in Marseille.

And thanks to the GPS I managed to drive all the way...

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Additional Photos by Kaj Nordstrom (kajenn) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 542 W: 241 N: 844] (2422)
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