1902 Encyclopedia > Marseilles


MARSEILLES (Fr. Marseille), the third largest city of France, and the chief commercial port of the Mediter-ranean, in 43° 17' N. lat. and 5° 22' E. long., is the chief town of the department of Bouches du Rhone, headquarters of the 15th army corps, the seat of a bishop, and of numerous commercial and scientific institutions. The population (1881) is 269,340.
The old harbour of Marseilles opens on the west to the Gulf of Lyons ; and the famous Rue de la Cannebière, leading east-north-east from the inner end of the harbour, and continued by the Rue de Noailles, the Allées de Meilhan, and the Boulevard de Longchamps, to the Palais des Arts, forms the first main artery of the town. A second great artery, at right angles to the first, connects the Aix gate and its triumphal arch with the grand Promenade du Prado, by the Cours Belsunce and the Rue de Rome. North of the old harbour, between the Aix gate and the sea, lies the old town of Marseilles. The finest streets, the Rue St Ferréol, the Rue Paradis, and the Rue de Breteuil, are to the south of the Rue Cannebière,

Plan of Marseilles.

running parallel with the Rue de Rome, between it and the foot of the hill upon which is Notre Dame de la Garde. From La Cannebiere to La Joliette, the centre of the new docks, runs the broad Rue de la Republique, lined with fine buildings, and opening a line through the oldest part of the town. The entrance to the old harbour is defended by Fort St Jean on the north and Fort St Nicolas on the south. Behind the latter is the Anse (Creek) de la Reserve. Beyond this again, situated in succession along the shore, come the old imperial palace, the Anse du Pharo, the military exercising ground, and the Anse des Catalans. The new parts of the town extend in this direction to the Vallon d'Endoume behind Fort St Nicolas. To the old harbour, which covered only 70 acres, the basin of La Joliette (55 acres) was added in 1853. Communicating with the old harbour by a channel which passes behind Fort St Jean, this dock opens on the south into the outer harbour, opposite the palace and the Anse du Pharo ; it is separated from the roadstead on the west by a simple jetty. A series of similar basins have since been added along the shore to the north, viz., the Lazaret or " Bassin des Docks" (37 acres), that of Arenc (59 acres), the " Bassin National," twice as large as the preceding, and the graving dock of 20 acres; a fine revolving bridge, worked by steam, separates the graving dock from the rest. Farther out, the Chateau d'lf and the islets of Pomegue and Ratonneau, where vessels formerly did quarantine, have 45 acres of harbour accommodation. The port of Marseilles has in all an area of 422 acres, but there are only 4-?,- miles of quays, an amount of accommodation quite inadequate for the enormous traffic, now amount-ing to more than 3,400,000 tons. Protected on the east by Cape Croisette, and on the west by Cape Couronne, the roadstead of Marseilles and its approaches are lighted by six lighthouses, of which the most distant (130 feet high) is 8 miles south-west of the town, on the Planier rock. The docks along the Lazaret basin cover an area of 45 acres, and the company to which they belong also holds a large area of ground for their enlargement, and has ex-clusive rights over 1J to 2 miles of quays. The ware-houses occupy 27 acres of floor space on their several stories, and the 200,000 tons of goods for which they afford storage are easily manipulated by powerful hydraulic machinery wrought by steam. From the harbour station at the docks the railway is carried up to the principal station, " Gare St Charles," which commands the town. The Toulon line goes round the zoological gardens, and the whole upper part of Marseilles, and sends a branch to the Prado station. There is a fourth station to the south of the old harbour near the custom-house, and at the foot of the steps of St Victor ; it is proposed to join it by a tunnel to the Marseille-Prado station. The large steam vessels for trading with Algiers, the Levant, and the further East lie in La Joliette, but the old harbour still displays the ancient characteristics of Marseilles. The old-fashioned Mediter-ranean traders with their lateen sails are crowded together in the Bive Neuve Canal to the south, while the sailing vessels of heavy tonnage are moored to the quay by their sterns. At the end of the old harbour opens out La Caunebiere, so called from former rope-walks, of which it occupies the site; it is now the liveliest part of the town, where the principal cafes, shops, hotels, naval and com-mercial agencies, as well as the Bourse, are found.

Despite its antiquity, Marseilles has no ancient monuments. The old cathedral, which superseded a temple of Diana, itself preceded, it is said, by an altar of Baal, has given place to a modern structure, of wdiich the exterior only is completely finished. It is a Byzantine basilica, in the form of a Latin cross, 460 feet long, built in grey Florentine stone blended with white stone from the neigh-bourhood of Aries. Near the cathedral stands the bishop's palace. The cathedral is situated at the entrance of the harbours, but a more distant church has superior attrac-tions for the sailors,—the celebrated Notre Dame de la Garde, the steeple of which, surmounted by a gilded statue of the Virgin, 30 feet in height, rises 150 feet above the summit of the hill on which it stands, commanding a view of the whole port and town, as well as of the sur-rounding mountains and the neighbouring sea. The pre-sent chapel of Notre Dame de la Garde occupies the site of one built in 1214. Like the new cathedral it is in the Byzantine style, and constructed of the richest materials.
Descending from Notre Dame by steps, with shops on both sides containing objects of devotion, such as medals and chaplets, and passing the Promenade Pierre Puget, which affords another fine view of the sea, we reach the church of St Victor, close by Fort St Nicolas. Originally an abbey founded about 410 by St Cassian, it was afterwards destroyed by the Saracens, but rebuilt in the 11 th century ; destroyed a second time, it was finally restored by Pope Urban V., a former abbot, who surrounded it in 1350 with high square crenellated towers. Tradition relates that St Lazarus inhabited the catacombs under St Victor ; and the black Virgin, still preserved there, is popularly attributed to St Luke. The spire of the ancient church des Accoules marks the centre of Old Marseilles. At its foot are a " Calvary " and a curious chapel of modern construction in rock work. Notre Dame du Mont Carmel, also in the old town, occupies the place of what was the citadel of the Massaliots when they were besieged by Julius Caesar. The new Hôtel de la Préfecture, at the end of the Rue St Ferréol, the Palais de Justice, and the Bourse, are all buildings of the last twenty years. The first is a palatial edifice 300 feet long and 260 wide, adorned with statues and bas reliefs ; it has a fine staircase and large reception rooms,decorated with paintingsi Before the Palais de Justice stands a statue of Berryer. The pediment and peristyle are decorated with bas reliefs by Guillaume. The outer hall is surrounded by beautiful pillars of red marble. The Bourse has in the vestibule a bas relief representing Marseilles receiving the productions of all parts of the world, and allegorical statues of Marseilles and France. The hall is larger than even that of the Bourse at Paris. The hall of the Chamber of Commerce, at whose cost the whole edifice was built, is remarkable for the magnificence of its mural paintings and gildings. The Hôtel de Ville, an old and unimportant building, stands on the quay to the north of the old harbour. The Palais des Arts de Longchamps, completed in 1870, is a work of consummate taste; it is built at the terminus of the Canal de Marseille, that great work which has metamorphosed the town and its surroundings by bringing into it the waters of the Durance. This canal, which leaves the river opposite Pertuis, has a length of 94 miles, of which more than 15 are underground. It crosses the valley of the Arc, between Aix and Bognac, by the magnificent aqueduct of Roquefavour, comparable with the noblest works of ancient or modern times. The canal then purifies its waters, charged with ooze, in the basins of Réaltort, sets in motion seventy-two mills, which it supplies with upwards of 1200 horse-power, carrying about 200 cubic feet of water per second to the district of Marseilles. Right and left of the Château d'Eau, which occupies the centre of the Palais de Longchamps, and is 128 feet in height, are the picture gallery, a fine collection of ancient and modern works, and the natural history museum, remarkable for its conchological department and the interesting collection of ammonites. Behind are exten-sive zoological gardens, with the astronomical observatory, one of the most important in France. The museum of an-tiquities is established in the Palais Borély, in a fine park, recently purchased by the town, at the end of the Prado, and approached by the two finest promenades of the city. It includes a Phoenician collection (containing the remains that support the hypothesis of the Phoenician origin of Marseilles), an Egyptian collection, numerous Greek, Latin, and Christian inscriptions in stone, &c. A building within the city, recently finished, 177 feet by 64, with an impos-ing façade, contains the school of art and a valuable library. The triumphal arch of Aix, originally dedicated to the victors of the Trocadero, was in 1830 appropriated to the conquests of the empire.

Marseilles contains large hospitals. The Hôtel Dieu in the old town was founded in 1188, and rebuilt in 1593 ; it has 450 beds. The Hospice de la Charité, in the same neighbourhood, accommodates 600 patients, while at the opposite extremity of the town, near the Prado station, are the modern Hopital de la Conception (with 800 beds), the military hospital, and the lunatic asylum.

The scientific institutions of the town are also numerous, includ-ing a faculty of science, an astronomical observatory, a preparatory school of medicine and pharmacy, a musical conservatoire, a school of art, a lyceum, and many private institutions. The principal learned societies are the academy of science, letters, and art, the medical association, and the geographical, statistical, agricultural, and horticultural societies.

The mean temperature of Marseilles is 58° Fahr.; frost is rare, and snow almost unknown. The heat of summer is tempered during the day by the cooling sea breeze. The most disagreeable wind is the mistral, a violent and cold north-west wind, winch blows on an average one hundred and thirty-eight times a year, but has at least the advantage of restoring salubrity to the frequently un-healthy shores of the Mediterranean. The sirocco, a south-east wind, blows some sixty times a year ; though hot and parching in summer, it softens the winter climate. The east-south-east wind is cold and damp, and brings rain. The Canal de la Durance has greatly modified the climate of Marseilles and its neighbour-hood, for by restoring vegetation it has increased the fogs and rains ; there is now an annual rainfall of nearly 24 inches.

Marseilles is at once the largest commercial port of France and a manufacturing town, working up the raw materials brought in by sea from every part of the world. The leading industry is that of soap-making, which occupies sixty factories with 1200 artisans, and annually produces 65,000 tons, valued at £2,000,000 sterling. With this manufacture are connected oil and chemical works ; in the former, which employ 2000 to 2500 workmen, 55,000 tons of different oils are produced yearly. The chemical works comprise a dozen mills, manufacturing chiefly the salts of soda and concen-trated acids. Two thousand operatives are there employed, and the value of their annual production is estimated at £320,000. There are also three sugar-refineries, producing 65,000 tons of loaf-sugar, of which more than half is re-exported. Sulphur from Sicily too is refined and converted into sticks or flowers of sulphur, to the value of £80,000. Petroleum refining occupies 100 workmen. Metallurgy is another great industry ; a large quantity of ore, imported from Elba, Spain, and Algeria, is smelted in the blast furnaces of St Louis in the suburbs. The Mediterranean iron-works and yards, together with other private companies, have large workshops for the construction or repair of marine steam-engines and every branch of iron shipbuild-ing, employing several thousand workmen. Marseilles is a great centre for the extraction of silver from lead ore ; 16,000 tons of lead and 25 tons of fine silver are separated annually. There are 64 flour-mills with 300 sets of stones, and 100 factories prepare semolina and other cereal pastes, while 34 tanyards dress 500,000 sheep skins and 335,000 goat skins. To this list of industries must be added the manufactories of matches, candles, and wax-lights, with brass foundries, glass-works, and manufactures of coral, and of Oriental hosiery.

The port of Marseilles is the centre of numerous lines of steamers. The French company of mail steam packets (Messageries Maritimes) despatch their boats regularly to Italy, Egypt, Reunion, India, China, and the far East, as well as to Greece, Turkey, the Black Sea, Smyrna, and Syria. The Transatlantic Company runs its vessels to Algiers, Tunis, Malta, and the coast of Italy, and has also a regular line between Marseilles and New York. Many private com-panies have services to Corsica, Algiers, the coast of Languedoc and of Spain, and the Italian Riviera. Other lines connect Marseilles with Brazil and La Plata, Havre, and London. Landward there are two lines of railway to Aix, and a third to Toulon. A navigable canal is greatly needed to connect the port directly with the Rhone, in order to avoid the difficulties of egress from the river and to make Marseilles the natural outlet of the rich Rhone basin. The countries with which the greatest traffic is maintained are Algeria, Spain, Italy, Turkey, and the Russian ports on the Black Sea ; next in order come England, Austria, the western coast of Africa, Reunion, the Cape, British India, Brazil, the Antilles, China, and Senegambia. From the Black Sea, Turkey, and Algeria come the cereals which form the chief imports in point of bulk ; from Italy, Spain, the Levant, China, and Japan the silk, which is the import of greatest value (£4,000,000 yearly). Then follow ores and metals, iron, cast iron, lead, and copper; also wood, raw material for oil manufacture, raw sugar, cattle, wool and cotton, rice, and various dry vegetable foods, petroleum, cocoa, gums, pepper, and other spices, wines and brandies, coal, skins, cod-fish, cheese, and sponges. The principal exports in respect of value are silk, woollen, and cotton fabrics, refined sugars, wines and spirits ; those of greatest bulk are cereals in the form of grain or flour, coal, building materials, oil-cakes, iron and other manu-factures in metal, wines and spirits, oils, glass and crystal, lead, and coffee.

Of the seagoing tonnage, one-third is under the French flag, but the coasting trade, carried on by French sailors alone, is almost half as large as the ocean trade. The shipowners of the port pos-sess almost seven hundred vessels, without counting the hundreds of fishing boats which ply along the coast.

History.—The Greek colony of Massalia (in Latin, Massilia) was founded by the enterprising mariners of Phocaea in Asia Minor, about 600 B.c. The settlement of the Greeks in waters which the Carthaginians jealously reserved for their own commerce was not effected without a naval conflict ; it is, indeed, not improbable that the Pkcenieians were settled at Marseilles before the Greek period, and that the very name of the town is the Phoenician _____, "settlement." Whether the judges ____, " suffetes ") of the Phoenician sacrificial tablet of Marseilles were the rulers of a city older than the advent of the Phoenicians, or were a sort of consuls for Punic residents in the Greek period, is disputed. The fall of the Ionic cities before the Persians probably sent new settlers to the Ligurian coast and cut off the remote city of Massalia from close connexion with the mother country. Isolated amidst alien populations, the Massaliots made their way by great prudence in dealing with the inland tribes, by the vigilant administration of their oligarchical government, and by frugality and temperance united to remarkable commercial and naval enterprise. Their colonies spread east and west along the coast from Monaco to Cape St Martin in Spain, carry-ing with them the worship of Artemis ; the inland trade, in which wine was an important element, can be traced by finds of Massalian coins right across Gaul and through the Alps as far as Tyrol. The Massaliot Pytheas (330-320 B.c.) passed the pillars of Hercules and visited the coasts of Gaul, Britain, and Germany. The great rival of Massalian trade was Carthage, and in the Punic wars the city took the side of Rome, and was rewarded by Roman assistance in the subjugation of the native tribes of the Ligurian mountains. In the war of Caesar and Pompey the aristocratic town took the side of the latter, and made a courageous but vain resistance to Caesar. In memory of its ancient services the city, " without which," as Cicero says, " Rome had never triumphed over the Transalpine nations," was still left as a civitas libera, but her power was broken and most of her dependencies taken from her. From this time Massalia has little place in Roman history ; it became for a time an important school of letters and medicine, but its commercial and intellectual importance gradually declined into insignificance. The town appears to have been Christianized before the end of the 3d century, and its reputation partly revived through the names of Gennadius and Cassian, which give it prominence in the history of Semi-Pelagianism and the foundation of Western monachism.

After the ravages of successive streams of invaders, Marseilles was repeopled in the 10th century under the protection of its viscounts. In 1112 the town bought up their rights, and was formed into a republic, governed by a podestat, who was appointed for life, and exercised his office in conjunction with 3 notables, and a munici-pal council, composed of 80 citizens, 3 clerics, and 6 principal tradesmen. During the rest of the Middle Ages, however, the higher town was governed by the bishop, and had its harbour at the creek of La Joliette. The southern suburb was governed by the abbot of St Victor, and owned the Port des Catalans. Situated between the two, the lower town, the republic, retained the old harbour, and was the most powerful of the three divisions. The period of the crusades brought great prosperity to Marseilles. The activity of its shipbuilding, the magnitude of its fleet, the import-ance of its commerce and manufactures, all increased at once. The count of Provence, Raymond Bérenger, Charles of Anjou, and after-wards Alphonso of Aragon, successively attempted to make them-selves masters of the town ; it suffered at different times from incendiarism, pillage, and massacre during the 13th and 14th cen-turies, and in the beginning of the 15th. King René, who had made it his winter residence, however, caused trade, arts, and manu-factures again to flourish. Under Francis I., the disaffected con-stable de Bourbon vainly besieged the town with the imperial forces in 1524. During the wars of religion, Marseilles took an active part against the Protestants, and long refused to acknowledge Henry IV. The loss of the ancient liberties of the town brought on new disturbances under the Fronde, which Louis XIV. came in person to suppress. He took the town by storm, and had Fort St Nicolas constructed. Marseilles repeatedly suffered from the plague, and an epidemic raged from May 1720 to May 1721 with a severity for wdiich it is almost impossible to find a parallel ; Bishop Belsunce, Chevalier Rose, and others immortalized themselves by their courage and devotion.

During the Revolution the people rose against the aristocracy, who up to that time had governed the commune. In the Terror they rebelled against the convention, but were promptly subdued by General Carteaux. The wars of the empire, by dealing a severe blow to their maritime commerce, excited the hatred of the inhabit-ants against Napoleon, who accordingly hailed with enthusiasm the return of the Bourbons and the defeat of Waterloo. The news of the latter provoked a bloody reaction in the town against those suspected of imperialism. Since 1815 the prosperity of the city has received a considerable impulse from the conquest of Algeria and the opening of the Suez Canal. The completion of the canal of the Durance has covered with verdure the formerly arid country surrounding the town, and the openings made in the old part of Marseilles have improved its sanitary condition. (G. MB.)

The above article was written by: Gaston Meissas.

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