Abbey of St. Victor (Abbaye Saint-Victor)
The Abbey of St. Victor is thought to be the oldest church in France. It was built in the late fifth century AD. In fact, there were two monasteries built—one for men and one for women. Both were largely destroyed in the eighth century by Saracen invaders, and the convent was never rebuilt. By the 11th century, the abbey was once again thriving as a center of religious life in the Mediterranean. One of St. Victor’s abbots even went on to become Pope—Guillaume de Grimoard, who became Pope Urban V in 1362.
In the 1800s when the monks in residence barricaded themselves inside the abbey during an outbreak of the plague instead of helping the local population, the monastery was stripped of its religious association. For visitors to Marseille, whether on a guided tour or visiting alone, the Abbey of St. Victor offers a window into more than a thousand years of history in France.
Things to know before you go
- There’s a small fee to pay to enter the abbey.
- Guided visits of the basilica and the crypts take place on Tuesdays from 4pm-6pm.
- Enjoy panoramic views of the city from outside the abbey.
How to get there
Abbey St. Victor lies to the west of the Old Port (Vieux Port) on rue de l’Abbaye. Public buses #82 and #83 stop nearby at on rue Robert. Bus #60 stops outside the abbey. To combine a trip to the abbey with other key sites, some visitors opt for a multi-stop tour with transport provided.
When to get there
The abbey is open every day, with guided tours on selected days. The interiors make a nice shady spot to explore on hot summer days.
Enjoy a Sweet Treat
Just next door to the abbey is the Four des Navettes bakery, famous for its delicious boat-shaped cookies known as navettes, flavored with orange blossom. The oldest bakery in Marseille, Four des Navettes has been making its tasty treats since 1781, and the recipe is a closely guarded secret. Buy a box and enjoy dunked in a good strong cup of coffee.
- Fort Saint-Jean
- Palais du Pharo
- Place aux Huiles
- Roman Docks Museum (Musée des Docks Romains)
- Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations (Le Mucem)
- Notre-Dame de la Garde Basilica (La Bonne Mère)
- Old Port of Marseille (Vieux Port)
- Chateau d'If
- Marseille Cathedral (Cathédrale La Major)
- Maritime and Commercial Museum of Marseille (Musée de la Marine et de l'Economie de Marseille)
- Cantini Museum (Musée Cantini)
- Vallon des Auffes
- Museum of African, Oceanic and American-Indian Art (MAAOA)
- Museum of Mediterranean Archaeology (Musée d’Archéologie Méditerranéenne)
- Centre de la Vieille Charite