The Cours Belsunce - Cours Saint-Louis crossroads is the city’s “zero point” from which all the distances between Marseille and France’s other cities are measured.
Marseille decided to open its Cours, the locals’ favourite road in the 17th century. The Cours was later named Belsunce in memory of the Marseille bishop who won fame during the Great Plague of 1720.
On the left side stands the Arc de Triomphe on Place d’Aix which was built in 1825 by the architect Michel-Robert Penchaud
On the right hand side lies Cours Saint-Louis with its 18 cast iron florist pavilions of which only one remains; from 1847 to 1968 their colourful stalls delighted passersby and The Alcazar’s performers were always sure to buy a lucky rose before taking to the stage. On the right you’ll see the Fontaine Castellane on the Porte d’Aix-Obélisque road, one of the longest perspectives in Europe.
Théâtre de l’Alcazar on 44 Cours Belsunce made way for the new BMVR (regional public library) in 2004. But in 1636 it was home to the Institut des Prêtres du Saint-Sacrement under the patronage of Saint Hommebon. The priests fled after the French Revolution and an inn opened in its place: Auberge Neuve.
In 1857 the café concert opened in the heart of Marseille when port trade was at its peak. For over a century, the Alcazar embodied the Marseille theatre scene from the Roaring Twenties’ operettas to the blossoming show business in the 50s and 60s. Stars such as Fernandel, Tino Rossi, Maurice Chevalier, Yves Montand, Georges Brassens and Johnny Hallyday performed here. In 1966 it closed down and the library was opened by President Jacques Chirac in 2004.
The BMVR, designed by architects Adrien Fainsilber and Didier Rougeon, covers 18,000m² and has almost a million documents (books, periodicals, videos, CDs). The Alcazar also has precious resources (Medieval manuscripts, a collection of early printed books). It regularly hosts exhibitions and cultural events.