Marseille is France's largest city on the Mediterranean coast and largest commercial port. Marseille is the capital of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region, as well as the capital of the Bouches-du-Rhône department. Its inhabitants are called Marseillais. It is the second largest city in France after Paris and the centre of the third largest metropolitan area in France after Paris and Lyon. To the east, starting in the small fishing village of Callelongue on the outskirts of Marseille and stretching as far as Cassis, are the Calanques, a rugged coastal area interspersed with small fjords. Further east still are the Sainte-Baume, a mountain ridge rising from a forest of deciduous trees, the town of Toulon and the French Riviera. To the north of Marseille, beyond the low Garlaban and Etoile mountain ranges, is Mont Sainte Victoire. To the west of Marseille is the former artists' colony of l'Estaque; further west are the Côte Bleue, the Gulf of Lion and the Camargue region in the Rhône delta. The airport lies to the north west of the city at Marignane on the Étang de Berre.
Notre-Dame de la Garde is a basilica located in Marseille, France. This ornate Neo-Byzantine church is situated at the highest natural point in Marseille, a limestone outcrop on the south side of the Old Port. As well as being a major local landmark, it is the site of a popular annual pilgrimage every Assumption Day (August 15). Local inhabitants commonly refer to it as la bonne mère ("the good mother". A minor basilica of the Catholic church, it is situated on a limestone peak, on the walls and foundations of an old fort. Built by architect Henri-Jacques Espérandieu in the Neo-Byzantine style, the basilica was consecrated on 5 June 1864. It replaced a church of the same name built in 1214 and reconstructed in the 15th century. The basilica was built on the foundations of a 16th-century fort constructed by Francis I of France to resist the 1536 siege of the city by the Emperor Charles V. The basilica is made up of two parts: a lower church, or crypt, dug out of the rock and in the Romanesque style, and an upper church of Neo-Byzantine style decorated with mosaics. A square bell-tower of 41m is surmounted by a belfry of 12.5m which itself supports a monumental, 11.2m tall statue of the Madonna and Child made out of copper gilded with gold leaf. The stone used for the construction of the basilica, in particular the green limestone originating in the area surrounding Florence, was discovered to be sensitive to atmospheric corrosion. An extensive restoration took place from 2001 to 2008. This included work on the mosaics, damaged by candle smoke, and also by the impact of bullets during the Liberation of France at the end of World War II. In Marseille, Notre-Dame de la Garde is traditionally regarded by the population as the guardian and the protectress of the city.
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