La Vieille Charité

Museum in Marseille

Chapelle Et Hospice De La Vieille Charite
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Charliemoon

La Vieille Charité, originally constructed between 1671 and 1749 in Marseille’s historic Panier quarter, has evolved from its initial function as an almshouse into a vibrant museum and cultural center. This remarkable building is crafted from pink and yellow-tinted molasse stone quarried from Cap Couronne, forming a rectangular structure (112 x 96 meters) without outward-facing windows but featuring three arcaded galleries that open onto an 82 x 45-meter interior courtyard. At the courtyard’s center, a stunning Baroque chapel designed by Puget showcases a round church topped by an ellipsoidal dome and fronted by a Corinthian column-adorned portico, highlighting his architectural genius.

In the 17th century, France employed harsh measures to control beggary, with “beggar-hunters” rounding up non-residents and locals alike—expelling the former and jailing the latter. Almshouses like La Vieille Charité were converted into workhouses where the detained, including children, were put to work.

Throughout its history, the building has served various roles: surviving the French Revolution, acting as an asylum, and later housing the French Foreign Legion as barracks until 1922. It provided shelter after World War II for those displaced by nearby demolitions and the homeless affected by the dynamiting of the Old Port.

Following a period of decline when squatters took over, La Vieille Charité underwent a significant restoration from 1968 to 1986, spearheaded by the Ministry of Culture, restoring its original splendor.

The Musée d’Archéologie Méditerranéenne (MAM)

This museaum is devoted to the art and civilizations of the Mediterranean region. It boasts the second-largest collection of Egyptian artifacts in France, surpassed only by the Louvre in Paris. The museum’s extensive collection includes items from various Mediterranean cultures such as the Cyclades, Cyprus, Greece, Greater Greece, Etruria, Rome, and the Celtic-Ligurian civilization, providing a comprehensive overview of the region’s rich archaeological heritage.

Located within the historic Vieille Charité complex, the museum serves as a central repository for Mediterranean history, attracting scholars and enthusiasts interested in the ancient world’s cultural dynamics.

Musée des Arts Africains, Océaniens et Amérindiens

This is another significant cultural institution in Marseille, situated on the second floor of the Vieille Charité. This museum focuses on showcasing artworks from Africa, Oceania, and the Americas, representing a wide array of cultures and artistic expressions from these regions.

The La Vieille Charité appears in our Complete Guide to Visiting Marseille!

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Visiting La Vieille Charité

Address: Centre de la Vieille Charité, Rue de la Charité, Marseille, France
Duration: 20 minutes

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