The people of Marseilles call it Les Réformés because it was built on the site of the former chapel of the Reformed Augustinians.
Located in the heart of Marseille, at the top of the mythical Canebière, in the Chapitre district, it attracts a lot of locals, pilgrims, curious people and, of course, tourists.
Construction and emergence of the Réformés Church
Located in the 1st arrondissement of the Phocaean city, it is on this site that the Chapel of the Augustinians Reformed, to whom we owe the name of the present Church, used to stand. It was the Duke de Guise, then Governor of Provence, who laid the foundation stone on June 20, 1611. The Chapel was destroyed in 1868, in response to the Concordat.
The architect François Reybaud was in charge of the construction. The foundation stone of the building was laid by Bishop Eugene de Mazenot on April 22, 1855. But in 1862, Abbot Joseph Pougnet became in charge of the construction. The construction was slowed down due to lack of funding. The Church asked the Parish of Saint Vincent de Paul for help in raising funds. 3 million French francs were raised and helped to complete the construction of this architectural monument. It was built with difficulty and the inauguration took place on September 20, 1886 after more than 30 years of work. It was later consecrated in 1888. The monumental building, in ogival Gothic style from the 13th century, overlooks the Canebière with its neo-Gothic façade and its statue of Joan of Arc, created by Botinelly in 1943, which welcomes visitors to the porch. Its dimensions are spectacular: 63 meters long and 30 meters wide. It is 30 meters high and the interior height reaches 23 meters. The spires of the Les Réformés Church each reach 70 meters in height! The gigantic wooden doors are decorated with majestic bronze panels, as well as the 1270 square meters of stained glass windows, created by Édouard Didron, which deserve a visit.
The Réformés Parish today
Over the years, the Réformés Church saw its faithful becoming so rare that it was planned to be demolished in the 1980s. But in 2005, with the arrival of Father Michel-Marie Zanotti-Sorkine, it regained its former glory. Since December 2014, the Réformés Church is part of the Historical Monuments. After approval by the Regional Commission for Heritage and Sites, it became the 82nd classified monument of Marseille and the 41st protected monument of the city.
In 2015, the 2 bell towers and spires of the building required urgent work.
The same year, the original plans of the building were found, carefully stored on a shelf for over 30 years. These plans were drawn by François Raybaud and are dated and signed by the architect. From a historical point of view, this determined that Father Joseph Pougnet carefully followed his predecessor's instructions, except for the ornaments and stained glass windows that he supervised himself. This discovery was also a great help for the restoration work in 2018.
Every year, the Santonniers' Mass is celebrated there, which takes place on Christ the King's Sunday, around mid-November, before the opening of the Santons' Fair. If you are in Marseille at this time, we strongly advise you to attend this typically Provençal ceremony.
Today, the Réformés Church is one of the most popular parishes in Marseille with nearly 800 faithful attending at the major Catholic celebrations. It is the perfect place to pray in Marseille.
Lovers of architecture and art cannot miss this jewel in the heart of Marseille.