The Place des Prêcheurs was created in the 15th-century and served as the center of social life in Aix-en-Provence prior to the completion of the Cours Mirabeau in 1651. The Église de la Madeleine looms large over the place, having been a fixture here for more than three hundred years. It was long considered the most beautiful church in the Bouches du Rhône, and is where the famous artist Paul Cézanne was baptized. Over the centuries, it’s benefited from several modernization projects including a new façade in 1860 by architect Henri Revoil, but was officially closed to the public in 2006 due to instability and has remained so ever since. The baroque Fontaine des Prêcheurs (visible in foreground at right, above) was added in 1758 by sculptor Jean Pancrace Chastel.
Place de Prêcheurs – A Dark History
The history of the Place des Prêcheurs as a gathering place includes a darker past as the site for public executions in the early 1600’s. The methods were often gruesome, ranging from your run-of-the-mill hangings to the condemned being burned alive, decapitated, having limbs severed, and even being tied to a wheel to break their joints until death. Restoration of the Église de la Madeleine resumed a few years ago and was then extended outward to return the large place from an aging parking lot to a pedestrian-only activity zone (sans executions hopefully). The entire area was cordoned off by fencing as the crews excavated the grounds in preparation for the construction of the stonework. It’s one of three places that were renovated, with work completed in 2019.
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