with MM Brady
From assemblies of legislatures that convene under them to zoological collections housed by them, domes signal unusual venues round the world. France has many, including Le Dôme restaurant, an Art Déco masterpiece on the Left Bank in Paris, Le Dôme Théâtre in Albertville and the ultramodern Le Dôme entertainment centre in Marseille.
Though of lesser fame, Le Dôme in Port Vendres sets itself apart from its namesakes by having the most curious of dome histories.
Designed in the late 18th century by royal architect Charles de Wailly as one of the grand buildings contiguous with Place de l’Obélisque at the harbour, the neoclassical Le Dôme originally was meant to be a hotel for foreigners. It must have done poorly at that, as in 1835, five years after Port Vendres became the principal port for dispatching soldiers and supplies to the French colony in Algeria, Le Dôme was given to the Army as a flat for the military governor of the adjoining barracks. It fulfilled that role for some hundred years.
Partly destroyed during the Second World War, Le Dôme was restored afterwards as an art and culture centre. The restoration was visionary, as today Le Dôme offers a pallet of exhibitions, concerts and other cultural events, peaking in summer. Inside, the chalk-white walls impart an aura of veneration to works displayed, and the lower-level garden facing l’Obélisque affords a splendid view of the harbour as well as superb acoustics for concerts held there.
At the garden level there’s a small, permanent gallery dedicated to the works of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, the famed early 20th century architect, designer and artist. The location is fitting, as in 1923, the scenes in and around Port Vendres prompted him to devote himself entirely to painting.
Opening hours throughout the year are 2:30 to 7:00 pm, or longer for special events. For the schedule of upcoming events, contact the Port Vendres Office de tourisme Tel 0468820754 or the Mairie Tel 04 68820103