The old town centre was built between the end of the 15th century and the end of the 19th century. Today, the heart of the town is home to an extremely rich architectural heritage. As you wander through the town centre, the buildings reveal a whole range of remarkable architectural features such as the house fronts, doors, ornamental moldings and decorations…
The town squares
The architectural heritage is full of famous squares that are all evidences of the local history. Place de la Liberté created in 1796 is home to the monument dedicated to Human and Civil Rights. Place Esquiros was once home to the Gate of Cassis which led out of the town into the neighboring city. Place Evariste Gras used to be home to the indoor market, before housing the cinema complex and the town library. Place Sadi Carnot has become a favorite and popular meeting spot. Place du 8 Mai 1945 and its amphitheater tiers open up towards the bay. Place Gautier, Place Guibert, Place Zola and Square Bouissou complete the tour of town squares.
The chapels are some of the pearls of La Ciotat’s architectural heritage. Built in 1618, Blue Penitents Chapel has been listed as a historical monument since 1992 and is an example of counter-reformist architecture, just like Black Penitents Chapel, that dates back to 1630. Perched above the upper part of the city, Our Lady of the Guard Chapel is entirely decorated with old images of sailors and fishermen.
Our Lady of the Assumption Church on the Old Port area was built in 1603. Other chapels add up to the journey: White Penitents Chapel, Minimes Chapel, Early Work Chapel, Holy Cross Chapel, Saint John Chapel, as well as Capucins Monastry.
At the end of the old port stands La Ciotat’s Museum that dates back to 1864. The Bérouard pier, built in 1551, would be the point of entry to the port. It also would be used as a prison and, with its “lantern tower”, it also served as a lighthouse.
Erected in 1889, the Eden Theatre is the world’s oldest, still existing, cinema venue. This is where the first movies by the Lumières Brothers have been played in front of an audience. The city of La Ciotat bought the venue in 1992 and in 1996 it was listed as a historical monument. The Eden Theatre has recently been fully renovated and the doors opened again to the public on October the 5th 2013.
The former monastry and school of the Oratorians is an architectural ensemble of great sobriety. Sold in batches, the college was successively converted into a refinery, a monastry, a school, a factory, etc. before being purchased by the town in 1987. The only remaining part of the old hospital, which was created in 1598, is the beautiful wrought iron gate that dates back to the 17th century. It was entirely rebuilt in 1720. It’s now become a municipal building and was finally closed in 1973 when the new hospital complex was built. Inaugurated in 1883, the Town Theatre was built upon the foundations of the third chapel of the White Penitents. Converted into a cinema, it has become a multi-purpose town’s venue. The “Hotel Grimaldi-Régusse” is a one-off building and is the last preserved evidence of the mannerist architecture of the 17th century in the Bouches-du- Rhône area. For two centuries, it had remained a middle-class dwelling in a Baroque style. Sadly, this building went through a decaying period until it got purchased by the city.