Cathédrale de la Major (Marseille Cathedral)

Cathedral in Marseille

Marseille - Cathédrale Sainte-Marie-Majeure
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Fred Romero

Also known as Cathédrale Sainte-Marie-Majeure de Marseille, the site comprises both the old and new cathedrals. In the late 19th century, Napoleon III, the Emperor of France, decided to replace the 12th-century Provencal Romanesque cathedral known as “Vieille Major.” He demolished almost all of it, saving only the choir and one bay of the nave following public protests against the destruction.

The new structure, “Nouvelle Major,” is a grand Romanesque-Byzantine Revival edifice that looms large over the waterfront. It stretches 469 feet in length, with its main cupola rising 231 feet high and has a seating capacity for around 3,000 people.

Situated on the Plaza Major, the cathedral’s facade features two types of stone tile, arranged in horizontal bands of color, whimsically earning it the nickname “the Pajamas” from locals. Inside, the decor includes Carrara marble, Tunisian onyx, and Venetian mosaics.

Little remains of the original 12th-century cathedral beside the new structure, following Napoleon III’s extensive demolition. What is left includes a chancel and an apse with smaller side apses, under a cylindrical vault with octagonal and heptagonal cupolas over the transept.

Why You Should Visit: This magnificent cathedral represents not just spiritual significance but also the historical grandeur of Imperial France. With its commanding presence, it showcases a power that’s historical yet unforgettable. Moreover, entry is free, making it an accessible marvel of historical architecture.

The Cathédrale de la Major (Marseille Cathedral) appears in our Complete Guide to Visiting Marseille!

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Visiting Cathédrale de la Major (Marseille Cathedral)


Daily 7 am to 6 pm

Address: Marseille Cathedral, Place de la Major, Marseille, France
Duration: 40 minutes

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