Designed by Marseillais architect Pierre Puget and constructed between 1671 and 1749, the 3-storey, arcaded courtyard of the Centre de la Vieille Charité wraps around Provence's most imposing Baroque church. Initially built as a charity shelter for the town's poor but it was more like a prison: 17th century France was tough. Chasse-gueux (beggar-hunters) were paid to round up the poor and put them into almshouses which were effectively workhouses. In 1736, the Centre housed 850, by 1760 it was 1059 but by 1781 it was less acceptable to imprison people just for being poor and the number dropped to 250.
Spared during the French Revolution and used as an asylum, the Centre then became a barracks, a soldiers' rest home and, later, low-cost housing for people who lost their homes during WWII, the stunning arched pink-stone courtyard of the Centre de la Vieille Charite now houses Marseille's beautiful Musee d'Archeologie Mediterraneenne and Musee d'Arts Africains, Oceaniens & Amerindiens. The latter houses a diverse and often striking collection, including masks from the Americas, Africa and the Pacific.
Catch the underground train to Joliette.