Friday, June 21, 2013

L'Hotel Dieu de Marseilles

After the museum,  we happened upon a wonderful leafy square fronting the magnificient structure of the Marseille Intercontinental Hotel and I was fascinated enough to want to go inside  and find out about the beginnings of this absolutely beautiful structure .   

Diane was game and we lingered, overlooking the roof terrace with a cocktail.  What I found out from the waiter and pieced together later online is this:

Walking from courtyard to glimpse this imposing edifice

The origins of the Hotel-Dieu de Marseille date back to 1166, when the Brotherhood of the Holy Spirit based in Marseille built the Hospital of the Holy Spirit as a set of narrow houses, communicating with each other. It was located in the district Accoules, which once housed sick and abandoned children.

In the thirteenth century the administration of the hospital came under municipal control and two delegated rectors ensured proper operation. In 1344, Bernard Garnier,  a rich merchant, founded the Hospital Saint Jacques de Galicia, for women. 

Then in 1593, Charles de Cazaulx first Consul combined Marseille Hospital Saint Jacques de Galicia and the Hospital of the Holy Spirit into a single institution taking the name of Hôtel-Dieu. 

The combined hospital differed from other French hospitals as it entrusted the care of its patients to only secular personnel and boasted an area for those with the disease of leprosy, both men and women.  The Hotel-Dieu, located at the site of the former  Hospital of the Holy Spirit then grew over time as the population of Marseilles exploded (as did epidemics all through the city).  

At the end of the twentieth century the hospital turned into a teaching hospital for midwifery, paramedics, nursing, anesthesiology, nursery and childcare assistant training, radiology  etc. 

Then in 1993, the last patients left the Hotel Dieu and it  closed its doors finally as a teaching institution in 2006 and stayed abandoned for some years. 

 The waiter tells me that the whole city waited in fear that it would be demolished as no one came forward with the funds to restore it.  That was until a Qatar family financed the restoration, transforming the site into the present five star hotel, The Hotel Continental of Marseilles.   


Architecture:  The Hôtel-Dieu de Marseille building was erected from 1753 by the Marseille architect Claude-Henri-Jacques of Aggeville (1721-1794)  using the plans and elevations of the royal architect Jacques Hardouin-Mansart de Sagonne ( 1711-1778), grand-son of Jules Hardouin-Mansart.  

This last Mansart added to the size of the building making the Hotel Dieu de Marseille  comparable to the Hôtel-Dieu de Pierre de Vigny in Lille by Jacques-Germain Soufflot . ..becoming therefore
one of the major achievements of the French hospital architecture of the eighteenth century. 

The building was refurbished to its current state from 1860 to 1866 by the Hospital architect of Marseille, Felix Blanchet.  He extended the left wing of the courtyard,  erected pavilions at the ends of the two wings and then raised the whole floor of the building.   

Above all, he cleared the surrounding slums which crowded the entrances providing light and air while improving accessibility for patients on litters and sedan chairs.

 In 1865, two side wings were added to the main building and trees were added to complete the beautiful square in front.  The new Hotel-Dieu hospital was inaugurated by Napoleon III, November 15, 1866 for the feast day of the Empress Eugenie.

Here are some snapshots walking up from the port to the interior of the hotel.
Funny little oriental bridge on display at start of courtyard

Courtyard with exhibition center to the right, hotel in background

This young girl was playing all of these chess students in turn!  The courtyard was alive with activities.

Statue in the memory of martyrs of the resistance and for the victims of "la Barbarie Hitlerienne"... just to the side of the hotel

Uber display of orchids and hydrangea blossoms in the lobby
Hotel lobby decor, ceramic sea-life dictates the theme

Rooftop garden for hotel bar

Pristine surroundings don't bother me.  I can take it....anyway it was a nice way to wind down the day and be grateful.....for the day and the "hotel of God". 

 The word hotel, by the way, is derived from the French word "hote" ( host) and used to mean... any building with frequent visitors rather than a place offering accommodation. But that meaning still fits with the new one.  There were lots of people taking advantage of the atmosphere here for the price of a coffee or cocktail.  I would imagine some of them were locals.... so happy to see the place come alive again. 

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