at 2, rue de la Charité, Marseille, 13002 France
La vieille charité is a former almshouse, now functioning as a museum and cultural centre, situated in the heart of the old Panier quarter of Marseille in the south of France. Constructed between 1671 and 1749 in the Baroque style to the designs of the architect Pierre Puget, it comprises four ranges of arcaded galleries in three storeys surrounding a space with a central chapel surmounted by an ovoid dome.ConstructionThe idea of an almshouse for the poor, dedicated to Notre-Dame, mère de Charité, was originally conceived in 1622; but it was not until 1640 that a suitable plot of land was acquired, with the first pensioners admitted in the following year. Although the foundation stone was laid in that year, construction commenced only in 1671, following a grand plan of the architect Pierre Puget. It was not completed until 1749, construction being prolonged as the result of reductions to the project imposed by the aldermen of Marseille. The central chapel was erected between 1679 and 1704, although Puget died before its completion.ArchitectureThe main body of the structure is a rectangle, 112m by 96m, composed of four walls in pink and yellow-tinted molasse stone from the ancient quarries at Cap Couronne, with no outward facing windows. On the inside are three arcaded galleries superposed on each other, opening onto an interior courtyard measuring 82m by 45m. In the centre of the courtyard is a harmonious chapel, a round church, crowned by an ellipsoidal dome and fronted by a portico in the classical style with Corinthian columns. This Baroque chapel ranks as one of Puget's most original designs.
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