An eminent Sanaryan …

Marius MICHEL, Comte Michel de Pierredon, known as Michel Pacha born on 16 July 1819 in Sanary sur Mer, at the time, known as Saint-Nazaire, and died on 6 January 1907, in La Seyne sur Mer, was a French sailor and business man, with an exceptional destiny.

His main work was the modernisation of lighthouses and beacons of a large part of the Ottoman Empire’s coast.

He was also a great bulider and patron of the arts. Son of Jean-Antoine Michel, marin captain of the Royal Navy and grandson of sailors, his father hoped that he would become an officer and that Marius would prepare for entry to the Brest Naval School, which King Louis-Pḧilippe I had just made official.

To this end, he enrolled Marius in a catholic boarding school in Marseille, but withdrew him from the school before the end of its schooling when a cholera epidemic struck the city, at the end of 1834. prevented from taking the entrance exam for the Naval School, Marius Michel joined the French Navy at the age of 16 as a ship’s boy, and then became an oven boy on a warship.

In 1843, appointed captain in the long-distance shipping trade, he joined the merchant navy and was posted as an officer on the Levant line of the Messageries nationales ( which became the Compagnie des messageries maritimes in 1871), which was part of the  lines operated under contract with the State for the postal service un links with colonial countries or territories.

Having sailed a lot, he know the Mediteranean bassin perfectly and regularly transport troops and equipment during the war between Russia and the Ottoman Empire in Crimea, suported by England and France. During this conflict, he met the General Gustave Olivier Lannes de Montebello, to whom he explained his concern to improve navigation in the Mediteranean. On 1st August 1855, following the projects he had successfully submitted, he was appointed Vice Admiral by Emperor Napoleon III and Director General of the Lighthouses and Beacons of the Ottoman Empire, by  Sultan Abdulmecid I. He commisioned a French company one to built hundred and eleven lighthouses on the coasts, straits and islands of the Black Sea isles,  the Aegean Sea and the eastern Mediteranean (at that time, the Turkish coaats extended from the present-day Albania to present-day Libia included). He obtained a percentage of the navigation rights in these waters from the Sultan.

Marius Michel was mayor of Sanary from 1865 to 1871 …

… Then from 1892 to 1894, and a generous donor to the communes of Sanary and La Seyne sur Mer . In 1879, he obtained the concession of the quays of the gates of Istanbul ; he receive a percentage on each merchandise of the ships touching this port, thus accumulating a colossal fortune for the time. From then on then, the honours follow.

The  Sultan Abdulhamid II conferred on him the honorary title of Pasha in 1879 ; in France, he was made “Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur” by the Republic in 1880. In 1882, his son Alfred was engaged  to a young lady of the Maison de Briey.

To avoid a mismatch, the family of the bride uses its influence and of its parentality with the bishop of Saint-Dié ( Camille Albert de Briey) to obtain from Pope Léon XIII the title of hereditary count (Roman count) for the future Michel de Pierredon. Subsequently, Marius Michel was elevated to the dignity of Beylerbey by the Sultan in 1893, before being awarded  the “Grand Cordon de l’Ordre du Médjidié ” in 1895, then that the “Ordre de l’Osmanié” in 1899. In addition, Marius Michel was the administrator of the Victor Hugo’s estate from 1851 to 1870, while the poet was living in exile in Belgium and then in the Channel Islands.

*Commandant of all the Commandants

To go further…

Consult the brochure
“Actes du colloque Michel Pacha” – 2007 (French)

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