Abbaye du Mont-Sion

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    • Day 33

      Notre Dame de la Garde

      May 3, 2019 in France ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

      Just when you think you’ve experienced more than enough history for one trip, you come across something like Notre Dame de la Garde.

      Set atop a limestone peak rising 162 meters above the port below, construction of the first chapel, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, was done between 1214 and 1218. At the beginning of the 15th century, it was replaced by a larger chapel, which was then reinforced to serve as a defensive fort and a place of worship.

      The building then went through a long period of political upheaval within France, the details of which are far too convoluted and dull to recite here. If, however that’s your thing, do a Google search, there’s lots to read about.

      Of (relatively) recent interest is the battle for Marseilles that took place in August 1944. Strategically, during WWII, the occupying Germans were using Notre Dame as one of their defensive fortresses in Marseilles. The allied forces had begun their assault to retake the city in mid August, but the battle culminated on August 24, 1944 when a brigade comprised mostly of Muslim Algerian rifleman went on the attack, and used a “back door” that was unknown to the Germans to gain the upper hand.

      The battle scars of this skirmish can still be seen on the exterior walls of the basilica.

      The French Underground was extremely strong in Marseilles and the Nazis virtually razed Marseille in their efforts to undermine their efforts. Somehow, perhaps by divine intervention, this enormous monument remained almost unscathed by the bombing and shelling that nearly destroyed the rest of the city.

      Brenda and I walked up the hill to visit the temple on Friday afternoon, and we were astounded by the breathtaking views of the metropolis that is spread out below her. The interior of the basilica pays homage to the Resistance fighters that liberated the city in 1944 and to all the sailors who lost their lives at sea while trying to earn a living.

      The church is not as old as many of those we visited in Italy, but it is no less beautiful or historically important, particularly given the part it played in the last world war.

      There is also a lesson somewhere in there that all religions can co-exist given the right circumstances.
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    Abbaye du Mont-Sion

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