Updated: Oct 1
Marseilles soaps are internationally recognised as some of the best soaps in the world, but what makes them so good?
Well, it’s all about the “trinity” – three basic elements that must come together in order to produce these highly valued skincare products. But what are they? Well, it all starts with a perfect location and climate, and it then takes master artisan craftsmen more than two weeks using centuries old traditional methods, to combine the rich natural organic regional produce of Provence to produce some of the most sought after soaps in the world.
But to discover more about them, we must first journey back to where it all began...
Marseille, a bustling port city in the South of France has long been a crossroads of Mediterranean trade and commerce. Dominating the skyline is the Basilique Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde, a Romanesque Byzantine church which overlooks this cosmopolitan Phocaéan city first founded by the Greeks in around 600 B.C.
It’s a place of tranquil squares and stepped alleys, bustling 19th-century avenues and street markets, colourful maze like streets and at its heart - the picturesque Old Port (Vieux-Port), for centuries a hub of activity where fishmongers sell their fresh daily catch along the boat-lined quaysides, and it’s here, in France’s oldest city that French artisan craftsmen have used a traditional process for over 600 years, to manufacture a soap better known as Savon de Marseille.
The Mistral, a cold, dry wind originating in the Rhône Valley which occurs mostly in winter and spring, acts like nature’s vacuum cleaner bringing crystal clear skies in its wake, and in the summer the Sirocco, a hot, sand-bearing wind from the Sahara makes this the sunniest and driest city in France.
Marseille sits on the coast of Provence, a region of south-eastern France bordering Italy and the Mediterranean sea which is well known for its diverse landscapes. To the east, and stretching as far as Cassis, are the Calanques, Southern France’s version of the Norwegian fjords - staggering limestone cliffs that spill into turquoise coves. To the west are the Côte Bleue, the Golfe du Lion and the Camargue region, famed for its wild white horses, a vast plain comprising large brine lagoons or étangs, cut off from the sea by sandbars and encircled by reed-covered marshes.
The heart of Provence lies in the scattered hills that bind the sea to the Southern Alps, and it’s here that we find cultivated lands rich in produce and comprising rolling vineyards, olive groves, pine forests and lavender fields.
Further north, in the warm temperate air of the Alpes-Maritimes department, sit romantic and picturesque medieval mountain villages with their outdoor terraces and steep, cobbled, winding streets like Grasse - long recognised as the world capital of perfume.
But it's only in Marseille that all these elements come together. In the perfect climate, using centuries old traditional methods, artisan craftsmen combine alkaline ash from sea-asparagus and marine plants of the Camargue, locally pressed olive oil, and the rich organic natural produce of Provence with the world famous fragrances of Grasse, to make some of the best soaps in the world.
And that’s why Marseille Soap is so good.