L'Hôtel-Dieu de Marseille was a hospital built just above the Vieux Port in the 12th Century. It underwent several renovations in the 18thC with the introduction of wrought iron works which are still visible today. A statue of Jacques Daviel, the eye surgeon who was the first to perform crystalline lens removal in cataract operation at this facility in 1745 stands in front of hospital.
The building was added to the Inventory of National Heritage Sites in 1963 and the hospital was fully operational until November 2006.
The property which is currently owned by the city of Marseilles has been leased to Intercontinental Hotels. Refurbishment works began recently so that the new 4 star luxury hotel, featuring 180 rooms and 14 suites, would be ready in time for 2013 when Marseilles becomes European Capital of Culture. This 130 million euro project financed by AXA has run into few glitches.
Archaeological digs in mid February of this year unveiled Roman ruins dating back more than 2000 years. Dozens of ruins had already been unveiled at the Vieux Port as attests the Musée des Docks Romains which houses enormous dolia which are oval shaped clay containers used by the Romans to store up to 2000 litres of wine, olive oil and other food related products. These clay containers which can be as tall as 6 feet were buried in the earth with only the top exposed. This technique provided temperature control which meant products could be stored longer. Further finds were to be expected but the quality and the quantity of artefacts including a mosaic floor were perhaps beyond the expectation of the researches at INRAP (Institut national de recherches archéologiques préventives) who are leading the dig.
Stay tuned to find out if hotel renovation deadlines can be met in light of these impressive finds.