Palais du Pharo et sculpture de Bernar Venet
Jewel of the Emile Duclaux Park

The Palais du Pharo

A witness to the medical history of Marseille

The Pharo, a remarquable  architectural site, is also the historical witness of a promising medical past between the 19th and the 20th centuries.

Its origin

The Palais du Pharo is an elegant “imperial residence” offered by the city to Napoleon III. Its name, derived from “farot”, is that of the mound which separated it from the open sea and on which a lookout dominated, mentioned on maps from the 14th century.

The city offered the land to allow the future host to have a residence on the waterfront, which was built by ‘Lefuel’. It was this architect, who drew his inspiration from the styles and forms of the past, who also later completed the ‘Louvre’ and the ‘Nouvelles Tuileries’.

Finally, the emperor never stayed at the Pharo. After his death in 1873, his wife, ‘Empress Eugenie’, granted the palace to the city.

Marseille’s medical history

In 1904, it was transformed into a specialised establishment : the Pharo School. Its full name was first the Colonial Troops Health Service Application School, then it evolved into the Institute of Tropical Medecine of the Army Health Service. Until 2013, when it was finally closed, and for more than 100 years, the Pharo welcomed 8,000 doctors, pharmacists, and civilian or military technicians called upon to practice medecine in the overseas territories. It was even the only military institute in Europe specialising in the field of tropical medecine.

When street names pay tribute

Among all the street names, Louis Pasteur has an international reputation. Undoubtedly, this name was used to designate the avenue that leads to the Pharo. But this is not the case for the other arteries that serve the immediate surroundings of the palace. And yet all of them refer to people who have marked  science and medecine. Let’s start with Emile Duclaux park.

Emile Duclaux  

Physicist, biologist and chemist, he succeeded Louis Pasteur in 1895 at the head of the institute of the same name, located near the Pharo. 

Did you know?

The New Hotel of Marseille has preserved the façade of the building that once housed the Pasteur Institute, the first anti-rabies institute in the provinces after the capital, Paris.

Professor Charles Livon 

He was the director of the Pharo School. In 1930 the establishment became a faculty of medecine which was transferred to the Timone Hospital in 1958.

Colonel Eugène Jamot 

A military doctor who decided to practice field medicine in order to take the entrance exam to the Pharo School. With his teams, he succeeded in fighting sleeping sickness in Africa at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Dr. Paul Louis Simond 

Biologist, marine physician, epidemic specialist. He was responsible for discovering the role of the rat flea in the transmission of the plague to humans. Between 1906 and 1910 he was a teacher at the Pharo School.

The Palais du Pharo today

Since 2015, the two emblematic buildings at the entrance to the Emile Duclaux garden have housed the majority of the central departments of the AMU’s central directorales, namely Aix-Marseille University.

The former imperial residence is now a 7000m2 international congress center for congresses, conventions and symposiums.

The park, the central space of the site, consists of a large well-maintained lawn decorated since 2013 with 84 monumental arches, ” Désordre”, which are the work of the sculptor Bernar Venet.

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