The 19th century was the century of neo-styles, especially in the world of architecture. There was a neoclassical art, the neogothic, neorenaissance, etc. And also a neo-Byzantine architecture. And within that current, one of the most fantastic examples can be considered the Basilica of Notre Dame de la Garde in the city of Marseille, in the southern Mediterranean coast of France.
Notre Dame de la Garde, exterior
On the hill where this temple stands, there used to be another medieval one, which in turn was rebuilt in the 15th century. And there was also a historic military stronghold. However, in 1853 it was decided to build the great temple that can be seen today. And it is that by then its popularity was enormous, and it had even become a place of pilgrimage.
The project fell to the architect Henry Espérandieu and he decided to resort to the Neo-Byzantine style, using both colored marble and leaving ample space inside for the installation of numerous mosaics, something that is immediately linked to the great Byzantine temples like the church of San Vitale in Ravenna in Italy.
All this decoration, which gives an impression of richness due to the abundance of gold tones, contrasts sharply with the crypt of the basilica. Which is excavated in the rock itself and has a tremendouslyaustere.
Notre Dame de la Garde, interior
It's actually the most sober of the set, since in Notre Dame la Garde everything tends to excess. For example the high bell tower that rises more than 40 meters above the entrance of the temple. And as if that were not enough, in its highest part there is a sculpture of the Virgin Mary of about 11 meters, all of it golden. A work by the sculptor Eugène Louis Lequesne. Without a doubt, this powerful presence makes it a landmark in the urban landscape of Marseille. It is as if she protected the city, and in fact the Marseillais call her la Bonne Mère, that is, the Good Mother.
But returning to the interior, we must mention that the many votive offerings that the faithful leave year after year, many of them linked to the world of the sea, are also striking. That is why small boats appear, for example, hanging by the chapels of the temple. In this way the set is the most striking and ornate. The white, red and green marble, with the mosaics on the walls and ceilings of the nave, the apse or the transept, plus the hanging votive offerings arranged in any corner of the church, make this basilica the most curious and unique sacred precinct in Marseille.