The Cabre Hotel or the oldest house in Marseille
The oldest house in Marseille? It is estimated to have been built around 1535 and one thing is for sure, it is the oldest house in the city still standing. You can observe this witness of Marseille's history in the 2nd arrondissement, at the corner of Grande Rue and rue de la Bonneterie.
Construction of the house of the Alderman of Cabre
Built for Consul Louis de Cabre, a merchant and alderman from Marseille, it naturally bears his name. This building contrasts radically with the surrounding buildings. And for good reason! Its mix of Gothic style and Renaissance art immediately strikes the pedestrian. The mention "1535" refers to the year in which De Cabre was appointed Consul. His effigy and his wife's are represented on the front of the house with a statue of Santiago, in homage to Louis' father, Jacques de Cabre.
It originally had a coat of arms on its façade with fleurs-de-lis, a royal symbol. But during the French Revolution, the opponents of the monarchy destroyed them.
The other originality of the Cabre Hotel is that it strangely survives the events of 1943. During the occupation, the Germans had taken it upon themselves to raze the "criminal district" of Le Panier which they considered to be a "cloaca" of uncontrollable sedition. The operation of January 3rd, 1943 aimed to reshape the district whose alleys were considered dangerous. In fact, the population was rounded up and evacuated to concentration camps, and the neighborhood was methodically searched before the houses were dynamited. The Old Port was completely closed, dozens of controls were carried out, 2000 Marseilles residents deported and 1500 buildings destroyed. Hitler's orders were strict, it was necessary to "raze the Old Port". Fortunately, the destroyed perimeter was less than the one initially set by the Germans. Demolition began on February 1st and continued until the 19th of the month, sparing only a few of the many buildings of historic value. Hôtel Cabre and Maison Diamantée are among the few buildings that are still standing.
An impressive trip
This monument in Marseille was once again threatened in 1954, as part of a redevelopment plan for the City Hall neighborhood. The project involved the demolition of the Cabre Hotel, which was in the middle of the layout of the Grande Rue, which was to be widened. Two other options were then considered to preserve the house. One planned to dismantle it stone by stone and reassemble it in a more appropriate location. But it was the second solution that was finally chosen, namely its pure and simple displacement over a distance of 15 meters, with a small rotation at 90°. Rehabilitation work was also carried out at the same time to restore the facade, which had been severely damaged by the 1943 blasting. Finally, the 670-ton monument was moved on a chassis thanks to a rail system and a hydraulic pump powered by a motor of only 4 HP!
Did you know that despite the building's relocation, the inscription "Rue Bonneterie" can still be read on the facade now located on Grande Rue!
Today, you can still admire this vestige of Marseille's history if you walk around the Old Port district.
To visit Marseille differently, have you thought about renting a segway or renting a bike? The Petit Train de Marseille will also allow you to discover the city in a different way, to the delight of children!
Also remember to go to the ticket office to buy your tickets for the monuments in order to avoid long queues.