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Historic Russian Cathedral in Nice, France, Opens After Restoration

The reconstruction of the cathedral, which first opened in 1912, was financed by the Russian government

The famous St. Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral in Nice, France, will open its doors to the public today, as the two-year-long restoration works have been completed. A consecration ceremony will be held today. It was timed to coincide with the Baptism of Jesus. The restoration works were financed by the Russian Government under an order from Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

The St. Nicholas Cathedral, which was founded over a century ago, has a long and complicated history.

Construction on the cathedral began in 1903 and completed in 1912 - funded partially be Emperor Nicholas II, who donated 700,000 Francs from his personal funds. The cathedral was built on the site where his uncle, Tsesarevich and Grand Duke Nicholas Alexandrovich (son of Emperor Alexander II) had died at the Villa Bermond in April 1865. The land on which the church was built had been purchased by Alexander II shortly after his son’s death. St. Nicholas Cathedral, the largest Russian Orthodox Cathedral outside Russia, was consecrated on 17 December (O.S. 4 December) 1912.  

Just two years ago, France’s Court of Cassation confirmed Russia’s rights to the St. Nicholas Cathedral. The legal proceedings took over six years. The building was in a critical condition. There was also a need for finishing the frescoes and decoration works. 

Earlier, the French court admitted twice that Russia was the “sole and rightful owner” of the St. Nicholas Cathedral. However, those decisions were disputed by the AKOR Association. Its members claimed that the cathedral was built using the funds of the French Emperor instead of the Russian government. 

According to lawyer Alain Confino, Russia’s rights to the cathedral were definitively proved in court. Lawyers had to spend hours working on archives to prove the legal continuity of Russia’s rights and inform French experts of the history of the Russian Orthodox Church. 

As reported by the Information Service of the Russkiy Mir Foundation, many rich and influential Russians lived in Nice a hundred years ago. The existing Orthodox cathedral was too small for all parishioners, which prompted the community to build a larger church. The project was financed by the Russian Emperor, the local community and Russian elite. The five-domed cathedral was built using local materials, with the building blending in the Mediterranean landscape. 

The cathedral, built as per the design of architect Mikhail Preobrazhensky, is considered one of the most beautiful Russian cathedrals abroad. It is also on the list of France’s historical monuments.