Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Portrait of a maritime city

Marseille is, before anything else, a port town; and the nautical motifs of a city that produced, among other notables, the first explorer to circumnavigate the British Isles and then write about it (Pytheas, c. 320 BCE), are everywhere. Images of ships seem to be a kind of statement of local identity. Herewith a selection. First, a building in the Vieux Port area, apparently a kind of museum-cum-art-center:

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Next, a ship bracket on the Chamber of Commerce building (Marseille is said to have had the first Chamber of Commerce in the world):

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A bracket, possibly for a lamp, in the 19th century basilica of Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde:

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Mosaic lunette behind the altar of Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde:

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The basilica itself is a shrine to the gratitude of Marseillais sailors to their tutelary saint. It is hung with ex-votos in the form of military medals, helmets, life rings, paintings (and see my Flickr page for a few close-ups of the paintings):

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And, more difficult to photograph, large scale models of particular ships that had been wrecked were hanging from the ceiling of the nave, ex-voto gifts from the survivors of the wrecks. Here is my attempt to capture them:

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Note the anchor motif in the mosaic behind.

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