Built in the 17th century, the Fort Saint Jean was completely restored for the opening of the MuCEM. Open to the public for the first time in its history, this historic monument is today a magnet for the public, offering many different attractions, from exhibitions and shows to historical and botanical walks.
The Fort Saint Jean, covering 15,000 m2 and open to all, enables visitors to enjoy an exceptional site.
This historic monument looks like a small village, with the Tour du Roi René and the Tour du Fanal rising at either end, its chapel, its fountain, its café and its maze of courtyards, squares and streets. As they wander around, visitors pass through arcades, vaulted halls and raised gardens where they can enjoy panoramic viewpoints of Marseille and the Mediterranean. The Fort Saint Jean is particularly suited to gentle exploration on foot, offering numerous cultural delights.
The Place d’Armes.
Located at the end of the footbridge from the J4, the Place d’Armes is an open-air agora where people meet up to relax and enjoy a picnic. In the summer, shows, film screenings and discussions from the MuCEM’s artistic and cultural programme are held here.
The historical trail.
The rooms of the Galerie des Officiers and the hall of the Corps de Garde feature immersive audio-visual presentations that trace the history of the site step by step from 49 BC to the present day. The trail continues in the outdoor spaces, along the walkway atop the battlements, from where you can view Marseille and ponder its 26 centuries of history.
The Jardin des Migrations.
The outdoor spaces include the ‘Garden of Migrations’ (12,000 m2), which offers a landscaped walk evoking, in 15 tableaux, the history of migrations and of Mediterranean plants.
In addition to exploring the Fort Saint Jean, visitors can also discover the various exhibitions presented in the rooms converted for the purpose.
The Galerie d’Actualité.
he ‘Topical Gallery’ presents the latest developments relating to the MuCEM’s collections (donations, acquisitions, restorations) in the form of thematic ‘exhibition dossiers’.
The Georges-Henri Rivière building.
The ‘GHR’, on the Place d’Armes, is a 320-m2 temporary exhibition space devoted to contemporary art.
Nestling at the entrance to the Cour de la Commande, the chapel of the Order of Malta (12th century) has 10-metre-high ceilings and is used to display contemporary works of art and installations.
Finally, the Fort Saint Jean is also home to a professional training space, the Institut Méditerranéen des Métiers du Patrimoine (I2MP), in the copper-clad building in the Cour de la Commanderie.
Two footbridges between past and present
‘Located at the intersection of the MuCEM’s two footbridges, the Fort Saint Jean forms a junction between the city and the museum’
The Fort Saint Jean is a military complex that is integral to the history of Marseille. Although the foundations date back to the late 12th century, the fort was built on the site of the former commandery of Saint John of Jerusalem in the 17th century, when Louis XIV decided to reinforce the city’s defences. It functioned as a military building for more than three centuries. During the Second World War, it was used by the Germans as a munitions depot and was seriously damaged by an accidental explosion in 1944.
The Fort Saint Jean was listed as a historic monument in 1964, before being placed under the administrative supervision of the Ministère de la Culture in 1964. The DRASSM (Département des Recherches Archéologiques Subaquatiques et Sous-Marines) had its headquarters there from 1970 to 2005. In anticipation of the opening of the MuCEM, the fort was restored under the supervision of François Botton, Chief Architect of Historic Monuments.
The fort is linked to the J4 by a 115-metre-long footbridge. A second footbridge, 70 metres long, extends from the fort to the square in front of the church of Saint Laurent, in the Panier neighbourhood, thereby ensuring continuity between the oldest part of the city and the complex of new cultural facilities on the coast road. Located at the intersection of the MuCEM’s two footbridges, the Fort Saint Jean forms a junction between the city and the museum, between history and its contemporary setting.