The Rock of Vitrolles

Natural and historical site

duration of the visit
15 min
view point
church

Vitrolles is a typical Marseille suburb. On the motorway you pass the place unnoticed, you might catch a glimpse of it when you land at the airport in Marignane further the south. However, the city lies on the edge of a limestone plateau, which is traversed by small canyons. The historic village is built around a rock detached from this plateau.

You can see the small chapel from everywhere and the panorama from above is breathtaking.

Photo all rights reserved © by Alex Medwedeff. Photo taken 2021 during our field research for Provence-Guide.Net.
No reproduction is permitted without the written consent of the author. (id5734)
sites photo

The red rock in Virtolles

Description

The chapel can be reached via stairs carved into the limestone. Around the year 1000, the first modest predecessor building was built. Today's Romanesque chapel shows Spanish influences. The rectangular shape hides a nave with apses hidden in very thick walls. To the right of the current side door is a bricked-up opening with an Andalusian horseshoe arch. Expanded in 1636, the chapel received its current bell tower in 1861, the adjoining hermitage was destroyed in 1898.

Inside is a Madonna and Child. There are also various dresses that are used in religious celebrations such as August 14th.

The Association Amis de Notre-Dame de Vie takes care of the chapel and organizes guided tours. Information at the Town Hall on Avenue Camille Pelletan, see the information point on the map.

Photo all rights reserved © by Alex Medwedeff. Photo taken 2021 during our field research for Provence-Guide.Net.
No reproduction is permitted without the written consent of the author. (id5735)
sites photo

Stair build into the rock

The castle tower on the left measures 4 x 4,30 meters at the base, the walls are over a meter thick. Like the original chapel, it dates from the 10th or 11th century and was part of a somewhat larger fortification. A garrison was housed here until the 17th century and a temporary prison until the 19th century. The tower was higher and the upper floor had openings and crenellations, which can still be seen on the Vitrolles coat of arms. The term Saracen Tower comes from the Romantics of the early 20th century.

Access by public transport

The nearest train station is Rognac north of Vitrolles. There are many regional bus lines that stop at the large Pierre Plantée roundabout. At Platform 8, to the east, local bus number 18 goes to the Vieux Village stop at the entrance to the cemetery nearby. Information under lepilote.com (only french).

Access by car

Coming from the north, we pass through Salon-en-Provence, take the A7 and exit at Berre-l'Étang. Continue until the junction with the D113 and follow the signs for Vitrolles. Now at the second roundabout direction Vitrolles Village. We pass under the railway and the motorway and go straight on at the next two oblong roundabouts. When the rock is in sight, turn left at the T-junction and then up right again.

Coming from the south and south-east, we take the A7 towards Marignane Airport, but then continue towards Vitrolles and take the Vitrolles Center exit. Now at the first roundabout take the first exit and at the next large roundabout take the last exit towards Vitrolles Village. Continue straight on at the next three roundabouts, taking the first exit at the fourth and fifth roundabouts. The rock is then in sight, straight ahead at the next roundabout and left at the T-junction, finally right at the next junction.

Parking site

Arrived at the top, there is a small, free car park by the cemetery on the left-hand side.

Access by short walk

Starting from the cemetery, we either take the small path that goes up to the left of the gate of number 3 Chemin du Trou du Loup, or the few steps a little closer to the crossroads. We arrive on the Montée du Rocher, which winds up counterclockwise to the right. We reach the old cemetery and the further path rises to the left of the enclosing wall. Finally we go over stairs carved into the rock. After a forged iron gate you reach the rock plateau with the medieval tower on the left and the chapel at the highest point on the right.

Photo all rights reserved © by André M. Winter. Photo taken 2021 during our field research for Provence-Guide.Net.
No reproduction is permitted without the written consent of the author. (id5736)
sites photo

Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Vie

For the way back we go down to the old cemetery and turn left to walk through the rows of the open-air theater. Bottom left back to the starting point or right for a small tour of the old town of Vitrolles.

Photo all rights reserved © by Alex Medwedeff. Photo taken 2021 during our field research for Provence-Guide.Net.
No reproduction is permitted without the written consent of the author. (id5737)
sites photo

View at Berre l'Étang lagoon

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Photo all rights reserved © by André M. Winter. Photo taken 2021 during our field research for Provence-Guide.Net.
No reproduction is permitted without the written consent of the author. (id5738)
sites photo

View at Marignane

Photo all rights reserved © by André M. Winter. Photo taken 2021 during our field research for Provence-Guide.Net.
No reproduction is permitted without the written consent of the author. (id5739)
sites photo

The Virolles fort

Photo all rights reserved © by Alex Medwedeff. Photo taken 2021 during our field research for Provence-Guide.Net.
No reproduction is permitted without the written consent of the author. (id5740)
sites photo

Limestone plateau east of Vitrolles

Photo all rights reserved © by André M. Winter. Photo taken 2021 during our field research for Provence-Guide.Net.
No reproduction is permitted without the written consent of the author. (id5741)
sites photo

The cemetery of Vitrolles

Photo all rights reserved © by Alex Medwedeff. Photo taken 2021 during our field research for Provence-Guide.Net.
No reproduction is permitted without the written consent of the author. (id5742)
sites photo

The Virolles fort seen from the old village centre

Photo all rights reserved © by André M. Winter. Photo taken 2021 during our field research for Provence-Guide.Net.
No reproduction is permitted without the written consent of the author. (id5733)
sites photo

Vitrolles rock and the chapel Notre-Dame-de-Vie

Note

The information about this site was collected with the greatest care in 2021. Nevertheless, all information is provided without guarantee. Should you find any errors, please contact the author of this site, thank you!

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