Cassis

Cassis

[ka-sees; Fr. ka-sees]

Cassis (kasis) is a commune situated east of Marseille in the administrative department of the Bouches-du-Rhône in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region in southern France. It is a popular tourist destination, famous for its cliffs (falaises) and the sheltered inlets called calanques. The wines of Cassis are white and rosé, and not to be confused with crème de cassis, a specialty of Burgundy which takes its name from black currants (cassis), not the commune.

Geography

The town is situated on the Mediterranean coast, about 20 km (12.4 mi) east of Marseille. Cap Canaille (394 metres, 1203 feet), between Cassis and La Ciotat ("the civitas") is one of the highest maritime bluffs in Europe, a sailor's landmark for millennia.

History

The site where Cassis now sits was first occupied between 500 and 600 BC by the Ligures, who constructed a fortified habitation at the top of the Baou Redon. These people lived by fishing, hunting, and by farming.

The link with Massilia (Marseille), a city founded by the Phoceans,(Greek: Φώκαια) , means that the current site of Cassis could have been inhabited by the ancient Greeks, though no proof has yet been found.

During the Roman times, Cassis was part of the maritime route made by the Emperor Antoninus Pius. At this time, the port advanced right up to Baragnon. It was a small village, established mainly around the Arena and Corton beaches. The principal livelihood was fishing and maritime trade with North Africa and the Middle-East. Several archaeological discoveries attest to this.

From the 5th to the 10th century, invasions by the barbarians led the population to seek refuge in the castrum, a fortified city that, in 1223, became the property of the Seigneurie des Baux de Provence.

In the 15th century, Cassis was ceded to the Counts of Provence, then King René gave the town to the Bishops of Marseille, who ruled the town until the Revolution of 1789.

In the 18th century, Cassis started to develop outside the ramparts of the fortified city and around the port. After the Restoration, new industries developed here, including the drying of cod, the manufacture of olive oil and clothing, coral work, wine-making and the exploitation of local stone (cement, limestone). Indeed, the Stone of Cassis, which was quarried here since antiquity made the town famous. The masonry for the quays of the large Mediterranean ports (Alexandria, Algiers, Piraeus, Marseille, Port Said) originated from Cassis, as well as the base of the Statue of Liberty in New York City. Today, the stone is used for more domestic purposes: pile (the Provençal word for a sink), swimming pool etc.

In the 20th century, as these industries began to disappear, the workforce turned to tourism and wine making. Cassis was one of the first three vineyards to profit from the appellation d'origine contrôlée (label of controlled origin) introduced in 1936.

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External links

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