views updated May 11 2018


MARSEILLE. Overlooking the Mediterranean, and located not far from the mouth of the Rhône River, the port city of Marseille linked the economy of France to Italy, Spain, the Ottoman Empire, and North Africa. A city conscious of, indeed proud of, its Greek origins and its ancient lineage, Marseille entered the realm of France in 1481 when control of Provence passed by inheritance from the Angevin counts to the kings of France. Despite Marseille's recent incorporation, it rapidly became one of the crown's bonne villes ('good cities'), a city that enjoyed a special relationship with the monarchy based on its strategic position and its resolute Catholicity.

The population and economy of Marseille grew substantially over the early modern period. In 1524, approximately 15,000 people lived in the city; by 1698, inhabitants numbered about 65,000; and, during the French Revolution, Marseille's population fluctuated between 93,000 and 110,000. Earlier, its economy was based on its position as a regional commercial center, and later as a Mediterranean entrepôt (warehouse). In the late sixteenth century, Marseille succeeded in dominating Europe's trade with the Levant and the Barbary Coast, but, until 1660, this trading nexus experienced spurts of growth tempered by periods of contraction. Under King Louis XIV (ruled 16431715) and Jean Baptiste Colbert (16191683), the king's finance minister, royal policies ensured more sustained growth for the city and its ties to the Levant. In 1669, the crown created tariffs that discouraged any trade with the Levant that did not occur under the auspices of Marseille merchants and their enterprises. Henceforth, most of the wheat, sugar, coffee, and cotton textiles that entered France from the Levant would pass through Marseille, the bonne ville.

The families that prospered by this privileged trading position had long dominated urban society and municipal politics. In a number of cases, their elite status was reinforced by claims to nobility, since it was possible in Marseille to engage in commerce and to call oneself noble or écuyer (literally, 'horseman' or 'squire'). This merchant aristocracy was organized into factions by marriage connections and ties of patronage, and it was through such factions that aristocrats controlled the municipal council and acted as major players in provincial politics (though the seat of provincial and royal government was in nearby Aix-en-Provence). In the process, they competed to manipulate the masses of fishermen and laborers who made up the majority of Marseille's population.

Factional struggle characterized, and explains, much of the political narrative of early modern Marseille. Even during the period of the Wars of Religion (15621598), politics and factionalism constituted far greater sources of instability than Protestantism because Marseille always remained a staunchly Catholic city. Indeed, reformed Catholicism became deeply associated with the communal values of the city, and Marseille's numerous confraternities (all-male lay religious organizations) provided a vehicle for a new style of religious life. This local revival of Catholicism began in the early sixteenth century, long before the era of religious conflict in France, and the fact that Protestantism and religious violence were notably absent in Marseille suggests the extent to which Catholic reform succeeded. Like the city itself, reform and the confraternities fell under the control of the merchant aristocracy.

But reform, albeit Catholic, was not entirely without conflict. In the 1580s the reform movement in Marseille developed connections to the Catholic League throughout France, whose political goal was to maintain a limited monarchy in which power was shared by the king and the nobility. In 1591 Charles de Casaulx (15471596), with a good deal of popular support, seized control of Marseille's government and initiated a more radical agenda that served the goal of France's Catholic League. His dictatorship and Leaguer program set the city in opposition to Henry IV, thereby jeopardizing its status as one of the monarchy's bonnes villes. After Henry's conversion to Catholicism, Casaulx sought an alliance with Philip II of Spain. By refusing to accept France's first Bourbon monarch, Casaulx and supporters discredited the city and this phase of its Catholic mission. As a result, Casaulx was assassinated in 1596 by an elite conspiracy, and his demise opened the way for control by elites more willing to comply with the absolutist vision of Henry IV. In this way, Marseille, ever the bonne ville, became a cornerstone of Bourbon policies in Provence.

See also Catholic League (France) ; Confraternities ; Henry IV (France) ; Levant ; Louis XIV (France) ; Wars of Religion, French .


Emmanuelli, François-Xavier. Vivre à Marseille sous l'Ancien Régime. Paris, 1999.

Schalk, Ellery. "Marseille and the Urban Experience in Sixteenth-Century France: Communal Values, Religious Reform, and Absolutism." Abridged and edited by Raymond A. Mentzer. Historical Reflections/Réflexions historiques, 27 no. 2 (2001): 241300.

Donna Bohanon


views updated Jun 27 2018


Marseilles is the chief seaport of France on the Mediterranean; capital of Bouches-du-Rhône department; and since 1948 seat of an archbishopric (Massiliensis ) immediately subject to the Holy See.

City. Founded c. 600 b.c. by a Greek colony from Phocaea and taken by Julius Caesar in 49 b.c., it was a Gallo-Roman civitas occupied by Visigoths (480), Burgundians, and theodoric the great (507537), and finally ceded to the Frankish kingdom. In 879 it was incorporated into the kingdom of Boso, later the kingdom of Arles. In feudal times it was divided among the seigneuries of the bishop, viscount, and Abbey of Saint-Victor. Louis of Anjou conquered it (1246), and Louis XI annexed it to the crown of France (1486). Rebuilding in the 17th century increased its area from 161 to 482 acres. Trade with the Levant made it rich, and in the 19th century it became an industrial city and France's main port.

Marseilles must have known Christianity early through its contact with the East, but its first bishop was not lazarus, risen from the dead in the Gospels, as 12th-century legends say (see aix). A 2d-century inscription seems to be its oldest relic of Christianity. It probably had a bishop in the 3d century, but Oresius at the Council of Arles (314) is the first-known bishop. Marseilles had several famous priests and religious c. 400, including salvian and John cassian, who founded there c. 415 the oldest and most famous monastery in Gaul, saint-victor, through which Eastern spirituality entered the West. The writer gennadius died there c. 500.

Saracen raids and the establishment of a Saracen military colony on the coast of Provence ruined Marseilles. During the obscure period from the 6th to the 10th century, the bishops are said to have left the city for the Abbey of Saint-Victor; at least they administered the abbey's goods. Bishop and viscount divided the city c. 1069, and the walled episcopal part became a fortress. The Cathedral of Notre-Dame-la-Majeure, outside the walls from the 6th century (almost the only such instance known), was rebuilt c. 1150 in Romanesque within the bishop's quarter. In 1257 the bishop had to cede his seigneurial rights over the city to Charles of Anjou, but in 1275 he still regarded himself as a subject of the emperor.

As a military port, Marseilles was a center of galley slaves. St. vincent de paul performed a mission of charity among them (1622) and contributed to a hospital founded for them (1643). The 19th century brought a profound change in the religious life of the city. Napoleon's fall was regarded as a blessing; his continental system had ruined trade. The city became legitimist, afire with a traditional and exuberant Catholicism. Caulkers and stevedores formed brotherhoods; there were penitents, and a mission in 1820 had great success. The episcopacies of the Mazenods (182337, 183761) were conservative, after the Old Regime. Then the population increased, and a new bourgeoisie, less faithful, arose; but the masses kept their faith, however little they practiced it (12 to 15 percent in 1953).

Archdiocese. From the 4th century Marseilles, the chief Greek colony in Provence, acted like a metropolitan. Its bishop created the Diocese of Nice, another Greek colony but not a Roman civitas; installed a bishop in Toulon; and then in the 5th century tried to do the same in two nearby villages, Cithariste and Garguier, dependent on the civitas of arles but cared for by Marseilles. Arles protested this invasion of its rights, and the papacy intervened. Marseilles had to yield, but these quarrels filled the whole episcopacy of Proculus (380428), who at the Council of Turin (398) secured recognition of himself, for life, as a metropolitan (of Narbonensis II ?). Pope Zosimus, however, withdrew the rights and finally forbade him to exercise his episcopal functions (417418). But Proculus did as he wished and died (428) in the peaceful possession of his see. The incident shows Rome's wish to judge as a final court of appeal and to fix metropolitan boundaries according to civil provinces. Its metropolitanate ended, Marseilles had to content itself with being a suffragan of Arles. It was the only diocese in Gaul to be almost entirely urban.

Marseilles' bishops include: Honoratus I (d.c. 500), who wrote a vita of St. hilary of arles; the doubtful St. Cannas; St. Theodore (566591), who was involved in the intrigues and quarrels of Frankish kings; William Sudre (136166), cardinal legate of Urban V; Philip Cabassole

(136668), who performed many missions for the popes of Avignon and was patriarch of Jerusalem, cardinal, rector of the county of Venaissin, and the friend and patron of petrarch; the Oratorian Jean-Baptiste Gault (164243), who in his four months in Marseilles made a lasting impression by his active and personal charity to galley slaves and by his care to restore the holiness of the priestly life; and Henri de belsunce (170955), a converted Protestant and adversary of the Jansenists, whose heroic charity during the plague of 1720 and 1721 was marked by his consecration of the city to the Sacred Heart and who never left his diocese, of which he wrote a history. Suppressed as a suffragan of Arles by the concordat of 1801, the see was restored in 1822 as a suffragan of Aix with its present borders (250 square miles).

Bernard, abbot of Saint-Victor (106579), was the legate of Gregory VII to the Diet of Forcheim (1077). St. elzÉar of sabran (12861323) and his wife St. Delphine (12841360) were canonized by their nephew Urban V in 1369. Several modern programs for the education of youth prospered under the direction of priests [Fathers Allemand (17721836) and Caire]. Father Timon-David (182391) from 1847 to his death inspired the Work of Youth for the Working Class with the need for a deeply Christian life. The Work, which educated 15,000 children, had 17 affiliates during his lifetime.

Marseilles' monuments include Saint-Victor (11th century), the old cathedral (12th15th century), and the new Byzantine style cathedral (185293). Its great shrine is the Romanesque Notre-Dame de la Garde (1214) on a hill overlooking the city. There are pilgrimages to Notre-Dame du Château, to Allauch, to Notre-Dame de Tous-saint, and to Ste.-Marthe.

Bibliography: albanÈs and chevalier, Gallia christiana novi ssima: Marseilles (Valence 1899). Les Bouches-du-Rhône: Encyclopédie départementale, 17 v. (Marseilles 191337). p. broutin, La Réforme pastorale en France au XVII e siècle, 2 v. (Tournai 1956). j. b. duroselle, Les Débuts du catholicisme social en France (18221870) (Paris 1951). j. leflon, Eugène de Mazenod, Bishop of Marseilles, Founder of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, tr. f. d. flanagan (New York 1961), with recent bibliog. l. h. labande, "L'Église de Marseille et l'abbaye de Saint-Victor à l'époque Carolingienne," in Mélanges F. Lot (Paris 1925) 307329. h. leclercq, Dictionnaire d'archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie, ed. f. cabrol, h. leclercq, and h. i. marrou, 15 v. (Paris 190753) 10.2:220493; 8.2:204486. l. gros, La Pratique religieuse dans le Diocese de Marseille (Marseilles 1954). o. engels and l. voekl, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 195765); 7:107108. Annuario Pontificio (1965) 265.

[e. jarry]


views updated May 21 2018


MARSEILLES , capital of the department of Bouches du Rhône; second largest town in France. The earliest recorded presence of Jews in Marseilles can be traced to the sixth century. In 574 there was a sufficient number to provide asylum for the Jews who fled from *Clermont-Ferrand to escape the coercive measures by Bishop *Avitus to convert them. In 591 Bishop Theodore of Marseilles also attempted to compel the Jews of the town to accept baptism, but Pope *Gregory i intervened in their favor. Although scant information is available on the Jews of Marseilles during the early Middle Ages, the importance of their settlement there is confirmed by the names of sites alluding to them. At the close of the tenth century there is mention of a valle Judaica in an area of fields and vineyards and at the end of the 11th century, of a vineyard named rua Judaica. During the 12th century, the Jews formed two communities; one in the upper part of the town, which was under the jurisdiction of the bishop; the other in the lower town, which belonged to the viscount. Both communities were placed under the authority of the bishop. (It was this right which Frederick i Barbarossa ratified for Bishop Peter in 1164.) The two communities are mentioned by the traveler *Benjamin of Tudela, who also indicates that the yeshivot and the scholars were established in the upper town. As might be expected, the merchants settled in the lower part in the vicinity of the port. There they traded with Palestine, Egypt, North Africa, Spain, and Italy, dealing mainly in wood, spices, textiles, metals, pharmaceutics, various products for dyeing, and slaves. Commercial partnerships with Christians were very common. They rarely engaged in moneylending, although toward the end of the 12th century they did advance loans to the Monastery of Saint Victor and to the squire of Trets. In 1257 the statutes of Marseilles granted Jews the status of citizens. Nevertheless they were subject to some important restrictions. Jews were prohibited from working in public on Christian festivals, or from taking an oath in a lawsuit against Christians, and no more than four Jews were allowed to embark on a ship bound for Egypt. By at least the middle of the 14th century, all the Jews of the town had united into a single community, led by three officers who administered the schools, the three synagogues, the almshouse, and the mikveh.

In the 14th century, Jews were granted equality with other citizens of Marseilles, yet they continued to have special privileges. Thus, although it was forbidden for all other citizens to sell flour in any place but on the bridge, a municipal ordinance of 1359 authorized Jews to sell or buy flour for unleavened bread (maẓẓot) in the Jewish quarter. Similarly, an ordinance issued in 1363 stipulated that whereas all other inhabitants were to sweep the street before their houses on Saturday, Jews were permitted to do so on Friday. Finally, in 1387 Jews were exempted on evenings of Jewish festivals from the general obligation to walk about with a lamp after curfew.

Although they lived in an international trading port, the Jewish population remained relatively stable. For much of the Middle Ages, new arrivals in the town constituted little more than 10% of the population. (An important exception was in 1351, after an influx caused by the *Black Death persecutions, when the percentage of new arrivals in the community reached 30%.) Although Jews did not generally participate in the maritime trade, limiting their transactions mainly to Spain, they were well represented in the town's urban commercial life, many of them acting as brokers. The Jewish surname Sabonarius has led to the belief that it was the Jews who introduced the soap industry to Marseilles. They had a virtual monopoly over coral craftsmanship, although those engaged in this occupation made very little money. Poorly off, too, were the Jews who earned their livelihood as laborers, porters, stonecutters, and tailors. Since they dealt only in small sums, even Jewish moneylenders were not noticeably wealthy. Jews did, however, distinguish themselves in the medical field, the number of Jewish physicians in the town often exceeding that of their Christian colleagues. During the 15th century, Jewish economic life experienced a setback and economic activity was reduced to the retail trade, mainly the sale of wheat and textiles. Jews also suffered more than the rest of the population when the town was plundered by the Aragonese in 1423. Most of them became impoverished, and struggled to recover economically.

Late in 1484 and early in 1485, shortly after the incorporation of *Provence into France (1481), the Jewish quarter of Marseilles was attacked. In the wake of plunder, destruction, and murder, the Jews of Marseilles began to flee. In 1486, however, the municipal council curbed their emigration and drew up an inventory of their belongings. The ensuing period is marked by severe upheavals in the composition of the community, as reflected in the extant lists of the heads of families; at least one half of the community's members were relatively new arrivals. Jews from Spain began to arrive in large numbers, particularly after 1491. Many shipowners in Marseilles amassed fortunes as a result of their expulsion in 1492. Spanish Jews hired vessels at exorbitant prices to transport them to Italy and Constantinople, and many of these ships called at the port of Marseilles. At times, the exiles attempted to remain in the city without the authorization of the municipal council. A general expulsion order for Provence was issued in 1500 and enforced in 1501. For about 20 years, conversions increased considerably as great numbers of Jews chose baptism to evade expulsion.

The 12th-century Jewish traveler Benjamin of Tudela refers to Marseilles as a "town of learned men and scholars." Among those he mentions is R. *Isaac b. Abba Mari of Marseilles, a renowned commentator and author of prayers. Several members of the Ibn *Tibbon family also lived in Marseilles, or were born there. (Records of a rabbinical lawsuit in this family about 1250 mention family relationships and marriages between the Jews of Marseilles and those of *Naples, *Aix-en-Provence, and *Montpellier.) *Nissim b. Moses of Marseilles was the author of a commentary – which some regard as "almost rationalist" – on the Pentateuch, entitled Sefer ha-Nissim or Ma'aseh Nissim. Samuel b. Judah ha-Marsili (also known as Miles Bonjudas), born in Marseilles in 1294, translated several philosophical and scientific works from Arabic into Hebrew. Other scholars born in the city include Judah b. David (also known as Bonjudas Bendavi or Maestre Bonjua), a talmudist and physician of the late 14th/early 15th century, and the talmudist and commentator Jacob b. David *Provencal (second half of the 15th century), both of whom emigrated to Italy.

In the second half of the 17th century, a second community was established in Marseilles for a brief period. As a result of an edict issued by Louis xiv in 1669, which granted tax exemption to the port of Marseilles, two Jews of Leghorn, Joseph Vais Villareal and Abraham *Athias, settled there in 1670 with their families. Their commercial success rapidly attracted other Jews. The local authorities soon protested against the presence of Jews and particularly objected to the existence of two places of Jewish worship. They obtained an expulsion order which was carried out in 1682. Despite successive renewals of the expulsion order, a new community was founded in 1760. About 1768, it owned a small synagogue and in 1783, it erected a cemetery. Although the community's membership remained relatively stable, a split occurred at the end of 1790, and both the municipality and the civil court were called upon to intervene to settle the differences. Forcibly reunited, the community established a new synagogue and a cemetery in 1804. The community was then composed of about 300 members, of whom over one third were living in poverty. The Jewish population increased rapidly to 450 in 1808, 1,000 in 1821, and 2,500 in 1865. As a result, several new institutions were established, including schools for both boys and girls, a poorhouse, and a synagogue on the Rue de Breteuil that remains in use today.

Holocaust Period and After

Between 1940 and 1942, Marseilles, along with *Lyons, was the city in the southern or "free" zone where the greatest number of Jews and Jewish organizations and institutions found sanctuary from the German invasion. After the Allied landing in North Africa and the German occupation of France in November 1942, there was a vicious hunt for Jews in Marseilles, which led to mass arrests and deportations. At the same time, the resistance movement increased its activities in the city. The synagogue on Rue de Breteuil was pillaged, the facade destroyed, the prayer books and the Torah scrolls burned. With the defeat of the Germans, about 5,000–10,000 Jews remained in Marseilles. The population, which was comprised of refugees from Provence and Alsace, immigrants from Eastern Europe, and Sephardi Jews from the eastern Mediterranean and from North Africa, gradually rebuilt the community and its institutions, including the Rue de Breteuil synagogue. The former military camp of Grand Arenas near Marseilles became a transit camp for Jewish survivors migrating to Palestine. Beginning in 1956, the city attracted Jewish immigrants from North Africa, and in 1962 it became their main port of entry into France. In 1969, there were an estimated 65,000 Jews in Marseilles. In 1987, the Jewish population stood at 70,000, making it the third largest Jewish community in Western Europe. Although the community's buildings and institutions expanded, they could not keep pace with the population growth. In 2002 Marseilles and the immediate vicinity was said to have over 40 synagogues. It also had three community centers, a Jewish primary school, an *ort vocational school, and a network of institutions and organizations including youth movements, kosher restaurants, and mikva'ot. A consulate general of Israel was located in Marseilles.


Gross, Gal Jud, 366ff.; B. Blumenkranz, Juifset chrétiens… (1960), index; R. Aubenas, Recueil de lettres des officialiés de Marseille…, 2 (1938), 37, 40–42, 54–55; A. Crémieux, in: rej, 46 (1903), 1–47, 246–68; 47 (1903), 62–86, 243–61; 55 (1908), 119–45; 56 (1908), 99–123; I. Loeb, ibid., 16 (1888), 73–83; R. Busquet, ibid., 83 (1927), 163–83; J. Weyl, ibid., 17 (1888), 96–110; Z. Szajkowski, ibid., 121 (1962), 367–82; idem, Analytical Franco-Jewish Gazetteer (1966), index; M. Zarb, Privilèges de… Marseille (1961), 90, 142; Histoire du commerce de Marseille, 1 (1949), 290–3; 2 (1951), 89–96; 3 (1951), 24–31; 4 (1954), 537–9; D. Hauck, Das Kaufmannsbuch des Johan Blasi (1965), index; A. Latil, in: Répertoire des travaux de la societé de statistique de Marseille, 30 (1867), 122–53. add. bibliography: Guide du Judaîsme français (1987), 39; Jewish Travel Guide (2002), 71.

[Bernhard Blumenkranz /

David Weinberg (2nd ed.)]


views updated May 23 2018


Founded about 600 b.c.e., Marseilles began to flourish in the eleventh century as a staging port for the Crusades, and it prospered until devastated by the plague in 1348. Its merchant oligarchy operated it as an autonomous republic until it swore allegiance to France in 1481. Recognizing the city's strategic importance in the Mediterranean, Francis I (1494–1547) protected its commerce by strengthening its fortifications. It still maintained some autonomy within Provence and France, but failed in its effort to become an independent republic in 1591 to 1595, when it resisted the Protestant Henry IV (1553–1610). Its commerce exploited the West Indian sugar trade and reached beyond to Latin America, and into the Pacific and Indian Oceans, fueling the city's growth in the seventeenth century. Established in 1599, its chamber of commerce is the oldest in France. In 1660 Louis XIV (1638–1715) imposed greater royal authority over the city, but its trade continued to grow until another plague in 1720 reduced the city's population by half. Its trade brought rapid recovery, however, and by 1765 the population had returned to 1720 levels.

Marseilles supported enthusiastically the French Revolution, but the blockade against Napoleon Bonaparte damaged its commerce, causing it to welcome the 1814 Bourbon restoration. Marseilles's traditional republicanism rekindled later against Napoleon III (1808–1873). Its trade grew rapidly in the nineteenth century as it became the leading port of embarkation for French colonists departing to Algeria and the Far East, and for workers bound for the developing Suez Canal (completed in 1869). Construction of new ship channels and artificial ports beyond its Old Port began in 1853. In addition to its famous olive-oil soaps, sugar and tobacco were staples of Marseilles's foreign trade. Near the mouth of the Rhône River in a rich wine-producing region (Côtes de Provence), Marseilles served the hinterland of France and Europe through a network of railways and canals. It also became the point of immigration from North Africa and elsewhere, contributing to a multiracial population that sometimes led to ethnic conflict in Marseilles, with concomitant high unemployment and poverty as its population reached 500,000 by 1900.

In the twentieth century, declining French colonialism diminished Marseilles's role as a colonial financial and trade center. World War II was also hard on the city, as the Italians bombarded it in 1940 and the Germans destroyed the historic Old Port sections in 1942 to 1943, followed by heavy Anglo-American bombing and destruction during the city's liberation in 1944. Loss of colonies and the closing of the Suez Canal further hurt Marseilles, but under its socialist mayor, Gaston Defferre, in 1953 to 1986 it once more became a major port and industrial center. Petroleum refining and petrochemicals were especially important to Marseilles and its outports at Lavéra (which is able to receive large oil tankers) and Fos-sur-Mer, which are under the authority of the Autonomous Port of Marseilles. Traffic through this port complex exceeds 90 million tons annually, with heavy imports of crude oil, natural gas, and raw materials for the steel and aluminum industries. Major exports include refined petroleum products, chemicals, and steel, with containerized shipping of general merchandise growing rapidly, as Marseilles has become Europe's second-busiest port in the twenty-first century.

SEE ALSO Agriculture; Bordeaux; Cargoes, Freight; Cargoes, Passenger; Chambers of Commerce; Containerization; Drugs, Illicit; Empire, French; France; Free Ports; Harbors;La Rochelle;Mediterranean;Nantes;Paris;Port Cities.


Busquet, Raoul, and Vautravers, Constant. Histoire de Marseille. Marseilles: Jeanne Laffitte, 1998.

Caron, François. An Economic History of Modern France, trans. Barbara Bray. New York: Columbia University Press, 1979.

Pinchemel, Philippe. France: A Geographical, Social, and Economic Survey, trans. Dorothy and T. H. Elkins. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1987.

Rambert, Gaston, ed. Histoire du commerce de Marseilles, 7 vols. Marseille: Chambre de commerce et d'industrie, and Paris: Plon, 1949–1966.

Ralph Lee Woodward Jr.


views updated May 29 2018

Marseilles (Marseille) City and seaport on the Gulf of Lyon, and connected to the River Rhône by an underground canal; capital of Bouches-du-Rhône department, se France. The oldest city in France, Phocaean Greeks founded the settlement in 600 bc. During the Crusades, Marseilles was a commercial centre and shipping port for the Holy Land. The 19th-century French conquest of Algeria and the opening of the Suez Canal (1869) brought great prosperity to the city. Industries: flour milling, soap, vegetable oil, cement, sugar refining, chemicals, engineering. Pop. (1999) 807,071.