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The Abbey of Saint-Victor in Marseille: a living history of Christianity


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The Abbey of Saint-Victor in Marseille: a living history of Christianity


In the II century A.D. on the site of modern Marseille there was a settlement of Massalia. The Christian religion was banned, so Christians hid their commitment to the church. During a pagan holiday, the emperor ordered all Roman soldiers to participate in the ritual of sacrifice, and several Christians, among them the future saint-great martyr Victor, refused to worship the pagan gods. Viktor was tortured for a long time, and when he still refused to obey, his head was cut off. Together with those who remained faithful to their God, Victor was buried in Massalia. They were later canonized as Massali martyrs, and Saint Victor is considered the patron saint of sailors.

Abbey of Saint-Victor: history without tourist crowds

Thanks to the Roman emperor Constantine, Christians from the IV century ceased to be persecuted: churches and monasteries began to appear, theology (the theory of religion) developed. In the 5th century A.D. At the burial site of the Massali martyrs, the prominent Christian theologian John Cassian founded 2 monasteries in honor of St. Victor: male and female.

In the 9th century, the rich trading city was raided by the Saracens. The Saracens soon left, but the city was destroyed, as were both monasteries. In the 10th century, the monastery was restored, and a new one was built on the site of the ruins of the church of St.Victor. The monastery received its imposing serf-like appearance in the middle of the 14th century under the rector de Grimoire, who would later become Pope Urban V (from among the Avignon popes). Guillaume de Grimoire partially rebuilt the church, which could no longer accommodate everyone, and erected a powerful fortification wall.

At the end of the 18th century, Marseille supported the French Revolution, which did not spare churches and monasteries, turning them into stables, prisons and barracks. The monastery survived (although it was plundered) and returned to worship, becoming the seat of the Marseille bishops. Already in the middle of the 19th century, the Abbey of Saint-Victor was recognized as a national historic monument.

The monastery is active, services are held here, pilgrims come. The Church of St. Victor bears the stamp of the early Middle Ages and differs from other Marseilles churches in the severity and asceticism of the interior: no stained glass windows, no mosaics, no gold. The interior of the church is made up of powerful stone columns and vaults. Therefore, tourists do not particularly stay here and immediately rush to the crypt of the church, to the museum of early Christian art.

The crypt of the church of St. Victor: vaults of the 5th century, the relics of saints, marble tombstones of the 4th-5th centuries

The Abbey of Saint-Victor is famous for the numerous relics of saints - not only Catholics come here to pray. Here the relics are stored:

  • the most holy Victor
  • the founder of the monastery John Cassian, author of more than 50 books on the topic of Christianity
  • relics of the emperor Constantine, who stopped the persecution of Christians
  • holy great martyrs.

The authorities of the Catholic Archdiocese allowed Orthodox priests to hold services at the holy relics.

The crypt is the vaulted cellar of the church under the altar, which served as the burial place for the most revered priests and the storage of especially valuable Christian relics. Now in the crypt of Saint-Victor, in addition to the relics, there are early Christian tombstones transferred to the abbey from the museum of the castle of Borely, the altar marble tabletop of the first church of St. Victor V century, black statue of the Virgin Mary of the XII century. On the day of the Meeting of the Lord (February 2), the black Madonna is taken to the temple, where green candles are lit on this day - a symbol of purity. More than 60,000 believers come to the Meeting for the solemn Mass.

The marble tombstones of the 4th-5th centuries transferred from the castle belong to Christian burials, but bear the stamp of the Roman Empire and ancient traditions. They are decorated with skillfully carved bas-reliefs depicting people in Roman togas, patterned carvings. The collection of early Christian art is considered one of the largest in France.

The ubiquitous tourists on social networks warn that the entrance to the crypt is inexpensive - 2 €, but it is better to have a coin with you, because some could not get into the museum due to the lack of change from the minister.

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