Le Panier was the site of the ancient marketplace in Greek Massalia. It was the area they first settled in 600 B.C.E. The area was expanded in the 16th, 17th, and 18th century by rich traders. The neighbourhood’s name comes from a 17th century inn, “Le Logis du Panier.” “Le Panier” translates into English as “The Basket.”
The mural below reads: “Wonderful city, anchored on the Mediterranean, reefs surround it, sun heats it.”
Le Panier has steep cobblestone streets, apartment buildings with weathered shutters, funky coloured doors, laundry hanging on a line outside the windows, graffiti down every alley, as well as plaza squares with a great selection of restaurants, cafes, artist galleries, and cute shops. The area has a rich history, and there is something interesting to see and learn about around each new corner.
Steep cobblestone streets.
Apartment buildings with weathered shutters.
Some with a fresh coat of paint.
Beautiful brick facade paired with the shutters I’m in love with.
Funky coloured doors.
Laundry fresh from the line.
When the graffiti is almost as beautiful as the nature it represents.
Plaza squares with restaurants, cafes, artist galleries, and cute shops.
A fun, irreverent, and artistic energy.
Paint your chairs and table purple, I will sit there.
Cute shops, like this one for soap down our street.
Soap in the shape of sardines, strung on a line. Cute!
Real sponges from the Mediterranean Sea!
It also sells local beer and wine, for those not as into soap.
The street we are on, Montee des Accoules, used to be known as the “Climb of the Observatory.”
Up, through the atmosphere!
At the top of the hill there was an observatory, originally opened by the Jesuits in 1702. Astronomers there discovered dozens of meteorites, comets, and made observations about the eclipses of the moons of Jupiter. In 1868 the observatory was moved elsewhere, and the building is now a children’s museum.
This is what it used to look like:
The building is not much to look at now, but still interesting to think about.
A nearby placard (the top brown one in the picture below) reads: “Ancient Observatory of Marseille, 1702-1861. Where Jean-Louis Pons discovered, during the summer of 1801, his first planet and 17 others as of the date 1819.” Although the placard reads “planete”, Jean-Louis Pons was known for discovering 37 comets – more than any other person in history. Another fun fact, a crater on the moon is named after him.
Unfortunately, a large portion of the Le Panier neighbourhood was destroyed during WWII. Marseille came under Nazi occupation on November 12, 1942. The Nazis targeted the Old Town of Marseille, including Le Panier, in an effort to route out their declared enemies: Resistance fighters, refugees, Jews, communists, as well as so-called criminals and sex workers. Le Panier had a seedy reputation, but it was mostly inhabited by modest families. Nonetheless, on January 30, 1943 the Nazis forced 30,000 inhabitants out of their homes – 2,000 of them would be sent to concentration camps – and dynamited 1,500 buildings. French authorities managed to get the Nazis to spare some historic buildings. But this, in addition to bombing by Allied forces in May 1944, is why Le Panier doesn’t run all the way down to Vieux Port anymore.
Below: Buildings of post-WWII origin lying between Le Panier and Vieux Port.
Some points of interest in Le Panier include the Accoules Church, the Vieille Charitee, the Maison Diamantee, the Hotel Cabre, the Hotel Dieu, and the Hotel de Ville (City Hall). It is a short walk from Le Panier to Vieux Port, Fort St. Jean, Le Mucem, and Le Cathedrale de la Major (shown in the feature picture).
The bell tower of Accoules Church can be seen as we leave our apartment. It rings merrily throughout the day.
A nearby sign reads, of the Accoules church: “This 11th century church, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, is the most significant parish building in Marseille dating from the Middle Ages. The Sauveterre tower, a later addition, housed the bells that sounded the alert for the town. The church was destroyed during the French Revolution. Only the medieval bell tower, with its pyramidal arrow (18th century) remains.”
I liked the Maison Diamantee because of the cool stone work on its facade. It was built between 1590 and 1620 and is the second-oldest civil building in Marseille. Happily, it escaped the Nazi dynamite.
The Hotel Cabre was also spared. Dating back to 1535, it is the most ancient preserved house in Marseille.
For over 800 years, this spot was the site of the main hospital of Marseille. Patients with the bubonic plague in 1348 were treated here, and advances in cataract surgery were made by ophthamologist Jacques Daviel in 1747. The current building went up in 1788, and was rebuilt/renovated between 1860-1866. In 1993 the building became a teaching hospital until it was closed in 2006. It opened in 2013 as a five-star hotel.
Posts on Vieux Port, Fort St. Jean, Le MUCEM, Le Vieille Charitee, and Le Cathedrale Grande Major to follow.