Nice’s Cathedral the Most Russian Spot in France
There are so many fun things to do in Nice—you can walk along the Promenade des Anglais, enjoy the view from one of those famous blue chairs, and dig into a salade niçoise at a café in the Old Town. Now here’s one to add to your list: visit the most Russian spot in France, the Saint Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral.
This magnificent structure was built in 1912 in memory of Nicholas Alexandrovich, the one-time heir to the Russian throne who died in Nice of meningitis. It was designed in the classic Old Russian style, with five beautiful onion domes. Seeing the cathedral you think you’ve somehow stumbled into Moscow. Today the cathedral is a National Monument of France and one of the most visited sites of the French Riviera.
The French Connection
Russians have long admired France. Peter the Great visited Versailles and for many years French was the language of the Russian court. Beginning in the mid-1800s, the Riviera became a favourite destination of the Russian nobility, and in the early 20th century Tsar Alexander II funded the construction of the cathedral to meet the needs of a growing Russian community. It became the first Russian Orthodox cathedral (as opposed to just a church) outside of Russia and is today the largest Orthodox cathedral in western Europe.
When the Communists took power in Russia in 1917 and began persecuting religion, control of the cathedral shifted to a new diocese in Paris that was not associated with Moscow. This changed in 2013, after a long legal battle when ownership was returned to the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian government.
Return to Glory
The Church began the restoration of the cathedral, which had fallen into disrepair, and after two years it was returned to its former glory. Today you can admire its rich decorations, with many paintings, frescos, panels of icons and other intricate details. It continues to serve the Russian community of the region, numbering about 50,000 and is open to tourists as well.
Here’s a short video (in French) that will give you an idea of what the cathedral looks like, both inside and outside.
Visiting hours: Weekdays 10-6, Saturday 10-5, Sunday 12-5
Limited access during the celebration of Sacraments, daily 12-2
Saint Nicolas Catherdral (website)
Cathedral: Saint Nicholas Cathedral website
Aerial Shot: @ COTE D’AZUR FRANCE/Pierre BEHAR
Postcard: Saint Nicholas Cathedral website