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Inside Notre Dame de la Garde

Notre-Dame de la Garde (literally Our Lady of the Guard) stands high above Marseille, watching over the people below.   Local inhabitants commonly refer to it as la bonne mère (“the good mother”).

Standing, as it does, on the highest natural point in Marseille, a 149 m (490 ft) limestone outcrop on the south side of the Old Port, it commands incredible views over Marseille city and port.

The views inside are equally good, though.  The crypt is rather plain and austere whereas the upper church is adorned with fine mosaics and paintings.


The nave is just 32.7 m long and 14 m wide and each side chapel measures 3.8 m by 5.4 m. This somewhat modest size belies the magnificence of its contents, with white and red marble columns, sparkling mosaics and ornate tiles.

Mosaics from Nimes cover approximately 1,200 metres of ceilings and walls. Each panel of tiles from Venice comprises around 10,000 small tiles. The floors are covered with approximately 380 sq m of Roman mosaics in a geometric pattern.

The mosaic-covered nave is topped by three cupolas decorated with identical mosaics: on a field of flowers doves form a circle around a central floret. The colours of the flowers differ for each cupola: white for the first, blue for the second and red for the third.


In the four corners of each, where the dome of the cupola meets the pillars, are medallions depicting events from the Old Testament.

Further mosaics decorate the transept and chorus.

And the side vaults don’t miss out on adornment:


The role of protectress, is clearly visible in the paintings and hanging models of boats and planes.

Linking to the WordPress Weekly Challenge: Inside.

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