Marseille, France

Abbaye St. Victor, Marseille, France

Around 415 AD two monasteries of St. Victor were founded in Marseille – one for monks and one for nuns.

In either 731 or 838 Saracens attacked Marseille and destroyed both monasteries entirely. Only the one for monks was rebuilt. It was not until the early 11th Century that work began on the new Abbaye St. Victor but just fifty years later it was the major Abbey in this part of France.

In August 1361 Blessed Guillaume Grimoarde became Abbot of St. Victor and it was he who surrounded the abbey with the heavily fortified walls which make it so distinctive today (and give it the appearance of a castle more than an abbey). A year later he became Pope Urban V.

However, this was probably the peak of Abbaye St. Victor’s importance. Over the following two hundred years it declined. The great library at St. Victor’s seems to have vanished mysteriously in the late 16th Century, although there is no proof it seems probable that the Abbot, Giuliano di Pierfrancesco de Medici, broke up the collection on the orders of Catherine de Medici and that the books ended up as Royal properties.

Pope Clement XII dissolved the Abbaye in 1739 and for many years it was occupied as a house. Today it operates as a museum and is one of the oldest and most fascinating buildings in Marseille.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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