The Stock Exchange building
The Stock Exchange building
The Marseille Chamber of Commerce, the oldest in France, was founded in 1599 and four deputies were appointed to defend the interests of commerce, and consequently that of the port. It was initially established on the ground floor of the Palais Communal and then, at a later date, in the City Hall.
The Chamber of Commerce became more and more powerful and at the beginning of the 19th Century a decision was taken to have a building constructed that was worthy of the city's commercial power. While this was under construction, the Chamber of Commerce was housed in a temporary building in what is now the Place Général de Gaulle. 24 building projects were put forward but the one that was eventually accepted in 1852 was that of the architect Pascal Coste. The building was opened in 1860 during Napoléon III's visit to Marseille.
The Chamber of Commerce required a building that was on a large scale but that did not hinder the traders who were used to negotiating their deals in the open air. Coste therefore proposed a layout that enabled all the various departments to be organised around a single trading floor large enough to accommodate 2,500 traders. The brokers' offices were located on the outside under the porches that provided additional areas where the traders could saunter or discuss at will.
The outer walls reflect the various functions of the building: behind the main façade decorated with huge Corinthian columns lie the administrative offices, the reception hall that opens onto the Canebière, and the trading floor and windows overlooking the port. An enormous marble stairway links the rooms. The side façades form a series of arcades in a less ornate style simply interspersed with Corinthian pillars. This arcade houses the remaining commercial departments which are served by a secondary staircase.
The Marseille Chamber of Commerce and Industry still plays a vital part in the city's business transactions. It generally provides assistance in financing, professional training and in international commercial relations. It also manages the international Marseille-Provence airport.
The Chamber of Commerce houses the Marine Museum that traces the history of commerce in Marseille from the earliest times. It also holds temporary exhibitions and houses a library that is open to the public.
The Greek and roman remains garden
In 1912, the area behind the Bourse was demolished to free the land for the ambitious town planning projects that were under way. After serving a variety of purposes, a number of projects succeeded one another before the building work for a definitive project was eventually begun in 1977. This consisted in constructing a shopping centre, the Mediterranean Trade Center and the History Museum. Opposite the museum is a garden in which lie a collection of Greek and Roman remains that were discovered in 1967 during extensive post-war excavations. All the plants included in the garden result from an extensive study into the flora with which the Greeks were familiar and each plant been chosen for its symbolic virtues.
The port buildings that have been preserved date from the end of the 1st Century but these were doubtless preceded by earlier dwellings on this port jetty known as "the port's horn". The area was prone to silting and it was abandoned from late Antiquity onwards. A wreck dating from the 3rd Century A.D. was discovered here; it has been dried out and can now be seen in the History Museum. This port complex is generally agreed to be the oldest preserved example of its kind in the Mediterranean and it re-establishes Marseille as an antique metropolis and as France's first city-state.
A number of relics may also still be seen today: remains of the ancient road, the pool used to store fresh water from the Lacydon, the supporting pillars of the city gates and a surrounding wall, the construction of which was financed by an ancient Greek doctor named Crina. (listed as a National Heritage Site in 1972)