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Le Quartier Mazarin in Aix-en-Provence
Often referred to as Aix-en-Provence’s equivalent to Le Marais in Paris, this area was built on a previous marshland just outside the old walls of the city. It quickly became home to the upper classes and a very desirable address to assume in the city.
L’HISTOIRE DU QUARTIER
The history of this area dates back as far as 1646, when Michel Mazarin, the Archbishop of Aix-en-Provence was commissioned by King Louis XIV to build and expand outside of the original city walls, over the marshland to the south of the city boundary. With a great vision for the area, Mazarin sold off parcels of land to the rich and affluent, creating an exclusive area for the gentry of the region.
WHAT TO SEE AND DO IN THE AREA
Mazarin was in fact born in Italy and as such, many of the buildings in Le Quartier Mazarin were inspired by the Italian Renaissance. The streets of the area are extremely straight and regimented, forming a grid to the south of the Cours Mirabeau, the rue d’Italie and the avenue Victor Hugo. From north to south of the quartier you will find the rue du 4 septembre, intersected by the rue Cardinale, which takes its namesake from Mazarin himself (he was in fact made a Cardinal in 1647).
In the very heart of the area, where the aforementioned roads cross, sits the place des Quatres Dauphines, one of the most extravagant fountains to be built in the city. The Fontaine des Quatres Dauphines was engineered by Jean-Claude Rambot in 1667 and was the very first fountain to be built in Aix-en-Provence as a singular structure, as opposed to being a simple expansion on a wall. In the north-eastern corner of the square you will also find the Hôtel des Boisgelin, one of the most beautiful and elaborate hôtel des particuliers in the region.
Further up on the rue Cardinale sits the Church of Saint Jean de Malte, the very first Gothic church to be built in Provence, dating back to the 12th century. This church existed prior to Mazarin’s development of the area and once sat amidst the fields outside of the walls of the city, but was later incorporated into the building up of the area. Nearby, you will also find the Musée Granet, which contains a number of artworks from the 14th to 20th centuries, including a small range of work by the renowned painter, Cézanne.
Another attraction to note in the Quartier Mazarin is the Caumont Centre d’Art, opened in 2015 which is housed in the stylish Hôtel de Caumont, where you will find large, landscaped gardens and restored 18th century rooms.