One of the first places we visited in Nice was the Russian Orthodox Cathedral and with our impeccable timing we arrived at ten past five to discover it closed at 5pm. Oh well, we could still see it through the fence.
The church's full name is the Saint Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral. It is the largest Russian Orthodox cathedral in Western Europe. It was opened in 1912.
The Russian nobility began visiting Nice in the mid-19th century. When the railway to Nice was completed in 1864, Tsar Alexander II visited Nice by train. He loved the town and its pleasant climate. An association between Nice and Russia had begun.
It is not allowed to take photos inside the Russian Cathedral
But the community had made quite an effort and produced an interactiv iconostasis!
Click any (nearly any...) icon, and you will get a very good quality image with an explanation - in French. No English, and, what made me really baffled - no Russian!
Besides, you can buy postcards from the cathedral's 'souvenir boutique'.
Just mind the rules - there is a whole lot of them :)))
For Holy Gates images - they, same as these, belong to the parish - click here
The Holy Gates, also the Tsar Gates – Christ is regarded the Heavenly Tsar - are the most important part of the interior of any Orthodox church, leading to the altar where laymen are not allowed.
Traditionally the upper images represent Holy Annunciation, and the remaining four are taken by evangelists.
The icons on the same level as the Holy Gates constitute the ‘local row’ – that is, the patron saints of the parish.
The closest to the Holy Gates on the right is always Jesus Christ the Savoiur, the next one presents the saint whose name the church is consecrated to – here St. Nicholas.
The closest to the Holy Gates on the left is Virgin Mary, here it’s ‘Eleusa’ type, or ‘Tenderness’, where the infant Jesus Christ is nestled against her cheek. The next icon is St. Alexandra – sort of symmetrical to St.Nicholas.
It’s quite remarkable that all three Orthodox churches in Nice are St. Nicholas churches, they were commissioned by Russian empresses named Alexandra – one was the widow of Nicholas I, and the other - some 60 years later - was married to Nicholas II. To make historian go completely crazy, the cathedral is sort of a memorial to
prince Nicholas without any number – he died here in Nice, too young for the throne.
Considered # 1, because:
1) It’s the biggest Russian church in Europe – outside Russia
2) It is indeed so spectacular that it was adopted by the French government as its own historic and cultural monument
3) There are two more Russian churches in Nice, and nearly every town in the French and Italian Riviera has one of its own
Back to business - as per last autumn, can't say about now
Consult the guidelines (photo # 3) - you'll find a lot of things you are not supposed to do. Good news, though - 3 euro fee waived
Good news: entrance fee waived
Not so good news (for some): proper attire, decent behavior required
The guard at the door – see the man in all black, including eye-glasses? - will see to it that you abide by the rules. He doesn’t seem to speak Russian, but French and English are OK; on very friendly footing with modern gadgets – helped a lady with google-mapping the Orthodox cemetery (but not with its office hours, so I had to put in my 5 eurocents)
Basically the rules are:
• No taking pictures/shooting video inside – but you can buy a postcard from kerchiefed young girls at the improvised shopping-stand
• No loud speaking
• No shorts or strapped tee-shirts – the church provides sort of a pareo for a skirt and a shawl to cover your hair and naked shoulders (if any). The one I used was Burberry-themed, I guess they buy them in bulk at the Ventimiglia Friday market. But only ladies are thus privileged, gentlemen in shorts are promptly turned back, Scots’ kilts do not work here!
See photo # 3 for the hours and more details
You know this sad story of the young Russian prince (tzarevitch) Nicholas who came to Nice only to die in spring 1865 of a mysterious decease in the arms of his heart-broken family?
His mother the Empress never got over it, while his father Alexander II the Liberator soon found consolation with a fine lady, who incidentally settled down here in Nice, too. I can show you her grave if I ever have time to write about the Russian cemetery in Caucade. And his fiancée eventually became the wife of his brother, Alexander III the Peacemaker and the mother of the last Russian tzar Nicholas II – the tiny lane where the cathedral stands was named after him. But that happened much later.
Meanwhile Alexander II bought the plot, pulled down the unfortunate Villa Bermond and ordered the Chapel. Four years later it was built to match byzantine churches , or so they thought. This ponderous style was very popular in Russia at the time, the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow being the most spectacular example.
When – and if – they will finally get through with restoration works, we may be able to see the black marble tombstone – exactly where the tzarevitch’s was. So far the entrance is shut by heavy iron doors, the steps are uneven, and the whole place has a very sorrowful air indeed.
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Picture Group #1
This was a very interesting site to see.
The Russian Orthadox Church in Nice
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May 1st - September 30th:
9 am to 12 noon / 2:30 pm - 6 pm
October 1st - October 31st :
9:15 am to 12 noon / 2:30 pm - 5:30 pm
November 1st - February 15th:
9:30 am to 12 noon / 2:30 pm - 5:00 pm
February 16th - April 30th
9:15 am to 12 noon / 2:30 pm - 5:30 pm
Built by Tsar Nicolas in 1912 in a small suburb a half mile west of Nice Ville railway station, the Cathedral offers an impressive architectural sight, and houses treasures of icons, woodwork, and frescos. It was the first church to be designated a Russian Orthodox Cathedral outside Russia, and is a reminder of the long established pre-revolutionary Russian presence on the Riviera at the end of the 19th century, when the Russian fleet used to drop anchor in the deep-water harbour of Villefranche, and the Russian royal family would bury their elderly relatives in the cemetery above Menton.
Occasionally you see groups of local Russian-speakers picnicing in the shadow of the church, but mostly Nice's Russians arrive on frequent direct flights from Moscow. At the airport, if you see lines of prosperous businessmen with surgically-enhanced icy- blondes on their arms, check the flight schedules for Aeroflot. (The most wealthy Russians of course arrive not by plane but in their superyachts, but that is another story)
The cathedral charges a stiff entry fee, as it is not covered by municipal museums free entry policy. If you take a camera with you be very discrete (disable flash!) and be wary of the security staff. Their main purpose in life seems to be preventing anyone taking pictures, rather than stealing pictures. I guess it gives them some sense of purpose but in this digital age its not the way to go. A lot of people on holiday won't even know where they have been until they get back home and download their photos.
The cathedral was built under the patronage of Tsar Nicolas II. With its five coloured onion-domed cupolas, it's a stunning example of Russian Orthodox architecture. Inside is stunning too, there are intricate carvings & frescoes.
The cathedral is open daily for a few hours. Be warned, a dress code for visitors applies.
There is no need to travel all the way to Russia to take in it's architecture when you can get a small sample of it in the middle of Nice. Built by a rich Russian duke, the cathedral sticks out in comparison to the more modern buildings of Nice. And while it may look like something out of Walt Disney's imagination it was built far before that guy was born!
We read that this Cathedral is one of the most beautiful Russian Cathedrals outside Russia.
Having seen some other orthodox cathedrals in Russia, I must say that this one is definitely beautiful.
It is located in a nice green area of the city, and you cannot see the building untill you're actually in front of it. Its "hidden location" makes it even more isolated from the rest of the city and the Western life style. An oasis!
The façade is in excellent conditions, while the back of the cathedral is a little bit damaged, but still wonderful.
We were lucky to be there while a service was being celebrated: the service is held in Russian, and it is attended by a large Russian community.
The interior is even more impressive than the exterior.
This cathedral display stage of history when Russian aristocrats visited this city and was need for Russian Orthodox Church there. I live in country where Russian Orthodox Church is one of the main churches and so I can aver that Russian Orthodox Church in Nice is really impressive and have true charisma.
There you can by some souvenirs and illustrated material about history of Russian Orthodox Cathedral.