Entry is 3 euros.
- Culture vultures
- First-time travellers
Tsar quality: Russian magnificence in the middle of Nice.
The British rich and noble established Nice as winter holiday HQ for the swells – but the Russians weren’t too far behind. In 1856 Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, widow of Tsar Nicolas I, moved in to the city. Her well-heeled fellow countrymen followed her in - and established quite a community. It was to serve this community that the cathedral, the biggest and finest Russian Orthodox church outside Russia, went up in the early-20th century. An extraordinary monument of bricks, marble, ceramics and onion domes, it looks as if it’s been dug out of St Petersburg and shipped south.
Hands off our cathedral
Within, it’s rich with icons, panelling and frescos. It is quite staggeringly splendid. It is also the source of some controversy. In recent times, the state-backed Orthodox authorities in Moscow have been claiming ownership of the cathedral. This is not at all to the taste of the long-established Russian people in Nice – many of whose families first fled there after the Revolution. They reckon the cathedral essentially belongs to them. Even less to their taste is the new generation of nouveaux riches Russians now showing up on the Côte-d’Azur and sprinkling their post-Communist wealth about with (sometimes quite staggering) abandon. This does not impress the more discreet, older Russian community.
They, in fact, tend to see the two developments as twin prongs of the same threat. And they’re fighting. But losing. In early 2010, a French court decreed that ownership of the cathedral was indeed in the hands of the Moscow-based Orthodox authorities. Nice’s Russian community has, however, appealed.
So the message here is: look at the cathedral. Be awestruck. But don’t attempt to join in any discussions.
Entry is 3 euros.