Abbaye Saint-Victor (Saint-Victor Abbey), Marseille

Abbaye Saint-Victor (Saint-Victor Abbey), Marseille (must see)

South of the Old Port, overlooking the sea, is the Abbaye Saint Victor. The abbey has always been on that spot, more or less since the year 415. Tradition has it that the abbey was founded by the monk John Cassian. Some say the crypt of the abbey contains relics from Saint Victor or evidence of a quarry dating back to ancient Greece.

Cassian founded two monasteries, one for men and one for women on opposite sides of the old harbor. Both were destroyed by Saracen raiders in the 8th or 9th centuries. In 977 monastic life at Saint Victor's began again. The abbey thrived more or less until 1794, when in the wake of the revolution it was stripped of all its treasures.

At various stages it became a warehouse, prison and a barracks. It made a comeback in Napoleon's day and it was designated a minor basilica after restoration in 1934 by Pope Pius XI.

Let us descend now, to the ancient crypt of Saint Victor. What will we find? Tombs. Tombs of saints and some bishops who were also saints. Also there are to be found ancient pagan sarcophagi. Soft music in the background accompanies visitors.

Ascending to the crenelated towers of the abbey we get a stunning view of the harbor and the sea. The abbey is perched on a hill close by Fort Saint Nicolas. The monks liked to catch sight of the Saracens and Vikings as far out to sea as possible.

Each year at Candlemas there is a pilgrimage from the Old Port to the abbey. Early in the morning a procession leaves the Old Port and heads to the Abbey. The black Madonna from the crypt is wrapped in her green cloak and presented to the public in the square in front of the abbey where she receives the blessing of the Bishop.

Why You Should Visit:
The abbey, and especially the crypt of the abbey will take you well back in time when Europe was still being formed.

It is worth paying the small fee to go downstairs and visit the wonderful crypt – it is like entering another world!

Want to visit this sight? Check out these Self-Guided Walking Tours in Marseille. Alternatively, you can download the mobile app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from Apple App Store or Google Play Store. The app turns your mobile device to a personal tour guide and it works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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Abbaye Saint-Victor (Saint-Victor Abbey) on Map

Sight Name: Abbaye Saint-Victor (Saint-Victor Abbey)
Sight Location: Marseille, France (See walking tours in Marseille)
Sight Type: Religious
Guide(s) Containing This Sight:

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