Côte d'Azur Deluxe n°2012-1 printemps
Côte d'Azur Deluxe n°2012-1 printemps
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  • Parution : n°2012-1 de printemps

  • Périodicité : trimestriel

  • Editeur : ASB Publishing S.a.r.l.

  • Format : (230 x 297) mm

  • Nombre de pages : 148

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  • Dans ce numéro : les Russes et la Côte d'Azur.

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18 I cÔte d’azur deluxe I inside –> It was the Russians who took the first rank in the cosmopolitan society of Nice with the arrival of the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. She arrived one year after the death of her husband, Emperor Nicolas I, and her stays here between 1856 and 1860 contributed greatly to launching Nice as a winter resort. The city did not yet have a railway link, and the visitors had to come to France by road or by sea. The natural harbour of Villefranche is close by and situated between Nice and Saint Jean Cap Ferrat, however, provided an ideal anchorage for the visiting vessels. It was at this harbour that the Frigate « Kingdom of Sardinia » arrived in which the Empress Alexandra had travelled. The road to Nice was in a bad condition, it was little better than a poor country lane. The Empress Alexandra Feodorovna financed the building of a modern carriage road that was completed in 1856. This bore the name Boulevard de l’Impératrice de Russie for more than a century. The Russian colony became large and important enough to send a delegation to the Empress requesting her patronage for the building of an Orthodox church. This Russian church in the rue Longchamp was dedicated in January 1860. The Empress Alexandra inspired a remarkable infatuation in the people of Nice. On the eveof the annexation of Nice by France, she setup her household in the Villa Bermond, a sumptuous domain in the Sainte–Hélène district of the city. By this time sick and weak she left Nice after the Russian Easter celebrations of 1860 never to return to the city again. It was thanks to her, however, that a tradition was established : all subsequent Russian Imperial Families became regular guests on the Côte d’Azur until 1917. A Russian colony, rich and elegant, followed in their train, and this dazzling community was never again to leave Nice. The Emperor Alexander III frequently visited the Côte d’Azur, it was not unusual to see him strolling on the streets and on the sea front. He was an enthusiastic visitor to the potteries in Vallauris, returning with a carriage packed full of purchases. The Emperor died prematurely at the age of forty nine in 1894. He was succeeded by his eldest son, Nicolas II. He was to be the last of the Russian tsars. How Olga became a typical girl’s name in Nice While the majority of the imperial family were loyal guests at the Côte d’Azur, some of them have had a more prominent place than others in the memory of the people of Nice. The Grand Duchess Helena Pavlovna, sister-in-law of Emperor Nicolas I, for example « invented » the fashion for sea bathing. She was the first person to have pine bathing cabins constructed on the beach. The Grand Duchess Olga, the daughter of Nicolas I was also accustomedto spending the season on the Côte d’Azur. She did much charitable work and became very popular as a result. A great tribute to her memory is the fact than many local girls were given the first name Olga, a name which had scarcely been known previously in Nice. The size of the Russian colony increased continuously : it included rich tourists who were drawn by the presence of their Imperial Family, but also by consumptives who were attracted by the mild and healthy climate of the coast. Sumptuous mansions In his book « Les promenades de Nice », Emile Negrin describes the two lavish properties occupied by the imperial court as they were in 1867 : « The Bermond estate comprises 40 hectares, four villas, cascades of water, fountains, a bed of exotic plants, whole fields of Parma violets, entire hillsides of olives, 250,000 orange trees, a farm, 10,000 fruit trees... The villa is dominated by an enormous lakeupon which swans and ducks swim, and into which a medieval-style round tower plunges. The water that feeds this flows out through a gallery of ornamental ruins. Ivy covers the separate wall sections. To the right of the villa are the greenhouses where the banana trees bear their fruit. A number of cashmere goats are kept in pens behind the building. Not far from these is an aviary loud with the chirping of a hundred or so exotic birds ; winged jewels that sing each morning in praise of the mild climate ». Saint Nicolas the Miracle Worker, the only Russian Orthodox cathedral beyond the frontiers of the Russian Empire before 1917. By 1896 the Russian colony had grown to such an extent that the Orthodox church in the rue Longchamp was too small to serve its needs. Nicolas II authorised the construction of a new building on his property, the first stone was laid in 1903. Work continued at a slow pace (held back by the Russo-Japanese War) ; and it took nine and a half years before it was finally completed. The Emperor, however, took a decisive stand to press ahead with the construction work, and he made a gift of 700,000 gold francs to ensure completion. This project, designed by the architect M.T. Preobrajensky, used much local material which would be in harmony with the natural landscape of the Côte d’Azur. The bricks which decorate the façade are from Germany, the marble is French, the pink granite Italian, the glazed tiles are Florentine but the stone is from the quarries of la Turbie, on the heights above Nice and Monaco. The decoration, however, scrupulously respects the rules of Orthodox iconography. The decorative objects are almost all gifts from members of the congregation : they represent a synthesis of many different styles of Russian religious art and the building in its entirety and its decoration is a veritable museum. It is the only church of its kind in Europe to have been erected outside Russia. It is a historic treasure and a marvel of architecture, and furthermore the last gift of the Photo : CTR Riviera Côte d’Azur/Anas BROCHIERO
Imperial Family to Nice ; a mere five years after its consecration the czarist regime was swept away by the current of history. It was to remain a place of hope and of exile for all those Russians who had lost their homeland, and who returned to Nice after 1917. After countless adventurous episodes over many years the Cathedral was finally returned to the rightful owners as the property of the Russian Federation. It is the most frequently visited of all monuments in Nice today. (There are of course, other Orthodox churches in existence on the Côte d’Azur – although on a more modest scale – for example in Menton, Cannes or San Remo.) A second circle of Russian guests - less aristocratic than the household of the emperors - cohabited side-by-side with the Imperial court. This consisted of such brilliant people as the writers Gogol, Chekhov, the painter Marie Bashkirtseff, the composer Tchaikovsky … regular visitors who were captivated by the charmof Nice and the Riviera. The Russians of days gone by have retained their place in the hearts of the people of Nice ; their former presence here has left an indelible heritage. Sumptuous mansions, many of them now in new roles as museums, the Cathedral of Saint Nicolas, the footprints left by the writers and artists… This history of a continuing love has not faded, since the Russians have returned again in even greater numbers to the Côte d’Azur since the 1990s. Finally it would only be a small step if the history I 19 Promenade des Anglais were to change hands from the English so to speak … with a re-naming as the Promenade des Russes in honour of the Russian guests. We have a specialist here in Nice for our common history and for all that links the Côte d’Azur with Russia : Alex Benvenuto. He is the author of numerous successful books on the Riviera the County of Nice, he has also published a study of the relations with the Russians « La Côte d’Azur des Russes » - the Russians on the Côte d’Azur, which has been translated into Russian. He is also the author of a book on traditional Nice cuisine with an excellent collection of recipes, which has also been translated into Russian. These books are all published by Editions Serres, and are available for purchase in Internet.



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