Topped by a monumental gilded bronze statue of the Virgin and Child-- added in 1870-- Marseille's distinctive basilica dominates the city from its highest point of 154 meters (505 feet). It was formerly used as a look-out post and important city fortification (François I had a fort built here in 1524). The hill on which it stands (Colline de la Garde) became a popular place of worship and pilgrimage with the building of this Romano-Byzantine-style basilica. Dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the church was built on the site of the first chapel erected here in 1214. Today's basilica, designed by Espérandieu, formed part of major building work undertaken during the Second Empire and was consecrated in 1864.
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