In advance of a landscaping project realized by Euroméditerranée on the esplanade of the Marseille Cathedral (also known as "The Major"), a preventive excavation is being conducted by an Inrap team until the end of November 2008.

Last modified
26 January 2017

This site is located at the western extension of a large excavation realized in 2000 during the digging of the Tunnel of the Major. This sector, which is very important in the history of Marseille, was already known through past discoveries.

The birth of Christianity in Marseille

La naissance de la chrétienté à Marseille
In 1852, during the construction of the New Marseille Cathedral (Nouvelle Major), buildings of the ancient church and the Early Christian baptistery of the 5th century were revealed. 
Destroyed in the 19th century, these remains are now known only through plans and drawings of the decorations published in 1905 by F. Roustan.

Today, a beautiful, 5th century mosaic, preserved over 15 m2, has just been uncovered. It could belong to the Episcopal Palace. This discovery is very similar to the decorated floors discovered in 1994, which have been conserved in situ inside the Old Marseille Cathedral (Vieille Major).

Tombs under the esplanade

A parish cemetery in activity from the 12th century to the Modern era is now being excavated. The majority of the bodies were buried in oriented graves. Several mass graves, in which the dead were deposited with no particular organization, date to the 18th century. They attest to an epidemic crisis whose origin remains to be determined (the plague of 1720, cholera?). 

The excavation will likely continue with the exploration of earlier Greek and Roman urban occupations. According to data collected during preceding excavations, the quarter would have been established during the 5th and 4th centuries BC.​
Developer : Euroméditerranée
Archaeological Research  : Françoise Paone, Inrap
Curation : Service de recherches archéologiques (Drac paca)
Contact(s) :

Catherine Dureuil
Cultural development and communication Inrap,
direction interrégional méditerranée 
+33 (0)6 87 01 62 86
catherine.dureuil [at]

Mahaut Tyrrell
Media communication 
Inrap, media partnerships and relations department 
+33 (0)1 40 08 80 24 
mahaut.tyrrell [at]