August 28, 2012
St Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral, Nice – Proof of Russia’s unremitting love-affair with the Cote d’Azur
1 St Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral, Nice
2 St Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral, Nice
3 St Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral, Nice
The Cote d’Azur has long been a favourite place to escape to for the world’s elite. Whilst aristocracy, movie stars and the super-rich from across the world, have found comfort, luxury and indulgence watching the yachts sparkle upon the Med, Russians, for decades, have been especially present on the French Riviera.
Whilst the British aristocracy were the first to sought solitude and pleasure by holidaying on the Cote d’Azur in the first half of the 19th century, the penchant to travel to this glamorous stretch of French coastline was quickly followed by Russians, a habit that was predominantly popularised by Tsar Alexander II, Emperor of the Russian Empire until he was assassinated in 1881, who reached Nice by train in 1864 – Henceforth the seemingly inexorable love-affair between Russia and the Cote d’Azur was born.
In fact Tsar Alexander II fell so head over heels in love with the Cote d’Azur and Nice that the Russian Tsar funded the construction work for the St Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral in Nice.
This unusual looking cathedral, comprising of several proud onion domes, which even today is still the largest Orthodox cathedral in Western Europe, was opened in 1912. The church was intended to serve as a place of worship for the increasingly growing Russian community that had settled in the city of Nice towards the end of the 19th century.
In 2005 a six-year legal dispute about who owned the Russian Orthodox Cathedral began between the Russian federal government and the French authorities.
In 2011 it was announced that a decision had been made to turn the cathedral over to the Moscow Patriarchate. Although the battle of who rightly owns this iconic building in Nice is not entirely over as an appeal is ongoing before the highest civil court in France to overturn the decision for the Russian state to own the cathedral.