If you’re looking for a unique and historic attraction in Marseille, make sure to add the Church of Saint Laurent to your must-see list. This 12th-century gem is one of the city’s oldest buildings and offers a fascinating glimpse into Marseille’s rich past.

A Fortress Turned Church

The Church of Saint Laurent was originally built within the walls of an old fortress, making it a truly unique structure. Constructed using pink limestone, this Provençal Romanesque church has stood the test of time, surviving even the bombs of World War II that destroyed much of the surrounding area.

A Place of Worship for Mariners and Immigrants

Throughout its history, the church served as a parish for sailors and immigrants, particularly those from Naples. Its simple yet striking appearance, reminiscent of a sandcastle, has welcomed worshippers for centuries.

Surviving the Trials of Time

The Church of Saint Laurent has endured its fair share of challenges over the years. During the construction of Fort Saint Jean, the church was partially demolished. Later, during the French Revolution, it was repurposed as a military warehouse. Despite these trials, the church has persevered and remains a testament to Marseille’s resilience.

Exterior Features

Stone Buttresses

The church’s exterior is characterized by its sturdy stone buttresses, which have helped maintain its structural integrity for hundreds of years.

Octagonal Bell Tower

One of the most striking features of the church is its 13th-century octagonal bell tower. This tower is accompanied by an external stairwell tower, adding to its unique charm.

Interior Highlights

As you step inside the Church of Saint Laurent, you’ll be greeted by a light and airy space, thanks to the use of light-colored stone throughout.

Triple-Nave Layout

The church features a triple-nave layout, with square columns supporting visible stone arches. The minimal decoration allows the beauty of the architecture to shine through.

Modern Stained Glass Windows

While much of the church’s interior is steeped in history, the geometric-design stained glass windows offer a beautiful modern touch.

Copper Baptismal Font

Be sure to take a moment to admire the church’s copper baptismal font, a stunning piece that has likely played a role in countless baptisms over the years.

19th-Century Pipe Organ

Music lovers will appreciate the church’s 19th-century pipe organ. Take a closer look, and you might even spot faces adorning the pipes!

Paintings and Statues

Throughout the church, you’ll find a selection of paintings and statues, including:

  • A wooden statue of Notre-Dame de Massalia
  • Several gilded statues, such as a Madonna and Child, Saint Laurent, and a wall-mounted Pietà

Chapel of Saint Catherine

Running along the north wall of the church is the Chapel of Saint Catherine. This 17th-century addition was built by the Brotherhood of the White Penitents, adding another layer of history to the church.

Outdoor Attractions

Le Dresseur d’Oursons Statue

Just outside the church entrance, in the plaza, you’ll find a bronze statue called “Le Dresseur d’Oursons” (The Bear Cubs Trainer). Created by French sculptor Louis Botinelly in 1911, this charming statue adds a playful touch to the church’s surroundings.

Stunning Views

From the edge of the plaza, you can enjoy breathtaking views of the port and Fort Saint-Jean below. It’s the perfect spot to take a moment and appreciate the beauty of Marseille.

Visitor Information

Getting There

The Church of Saint Laurent is conveniently located at Esplanade de la Tourette, just a short walk across the footbridge from Fort Saint-Jean. Its central location makes it easy to incorporate into your Marseille itinerary.


One of the best things about visiting the Church of Saint Laurent is that it’s completely free to enter. This means you can explore this historic gem without worrying about admission costs.

A Must-See in Marseille

Whether you’re a history buff, an architecture enthusiast, or simply looking for a unique attraction to visit during your time in Marseille, the Church of Saint Laurent is a must-see. Its fascinating history, stunning architecture, and beautiful artwork make it a true gem in the heart of the city.

So, when you’re planning your trip to Marseille, be sure to set aside some time to explore the Church of Saint Laurent. You won’t be disappointed!

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