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This Popular French City Has the Cimiez Monastery, the Matisse Museum, and Many Other Historical Collections

Nice seen from Cimiez

Nice, one of France’s most famous cities, spreads at the foot of the Colline de Cimiez.

Perched on the hillsides, about 2 km from the city center, Cimiez, therefore, boasts prime views of Nice and the Mediterranean.

This is where the Romans built their city in 14BC.

The well preserved and extensive vestiges are now part of a beautiful public garden abundantly planted with olive trees, Le Jardin des Arènes de Cimiez.

The archaeological site of Cemenelum

Some of the archaeological museum’s windows (that are not fake!) overlook the site of Cemenelum.

Roman arenas in Cimiez

Cemenelum was the capital of the ancient Roman province of Alpes Maritimes and a garrison city for Roman troops positioned in the area.

The archaeological museum, therefore, exhibits a wealth of artifacts recovered from the various excavations in the conducted in the antic city.

This includes amphorae, marble statues, jewelry, and household items.

After the visit to the museum, you can stroll among the ruins of the arenas and three sets of Roman baths.

Matisse Museum

Cimiez was developed through the centuries with exceptional buildings and properties.

Matisse Museum in Cimiez

The most famous of these is the colourful 17th-century mansion that was converted to house the Matisse Museum*.

The museum exhibits a vast collection of Henri Matisse’s artworks.

This includes of course a wealth of paintings, but also sculptures, print-makings, cut papers, stenciling and fabric paintings, ceramics, and even stained glass!

Several of the building’s windows are painted in trompe l’oeil, a style quite representative of 17th-century art.

Monastère Notre-Dame de Cimiez

You’ll find the Monastère Notre-Dame-de-Cimiez at the far end of the park.

Benedictine monks founded the monastery in the 9th century; the Franciscans took over in 1546 and built the existing monastery, which include the Neo-Byzantine style Notre-dame de l’Assomption Church, the cloister, cemetery and gardens.

Monastery in Cimiez

Cimiez Monastery has been active since and was classified Historical in 1993; the cemetery and gardens in 1994.

The church contains a wealth of religious art, which includes a Pietà, a Baroque wooden altarpiece, and a superb seraphic Cross.

The cloister today serves as a venue for musical events, but also for Sunday Masses during the summer season.

The Italian-style gardens spread over 9,550m2.

They replace the monks’ orchard and vegetable garden but have preserved the original layout with the well and ancient pergolas crumbling under climbing roses.

From there, you’ll get a superb view of Nice and the sea.

Finally, you’ll find the tombs of Henri Matisse and Raoul Dufy in the cemetery.

Seraphic Cross of Cimiez

It’s impossible not to fall in love with the magnificent white marble Cross on Place du Monastère de Cimiez.

Seraphic Cross of Cimiez

Its twisted-column supports a trefoil-shaped cross.

One side represents a crucified seraphim (hence his name), the other the Virgin.

These two themes represent a vision of Saint Francis of Assisi, the founder of the Franciscan order.

This Cross, however, is a replica.

The original Cross was carved in 1477 and stood in the monastery cemetery.

A local inhabitant, however, hid the Cross during the French Revolution to save it from destruction.

In 1804 the Cross was placed on Place du Monastère de Cimiez, but was vandalized in 1979 and moved to one of the monastery church’s side chapels.

The current replica has since replaced it on the square.

The original Croix séraphique de Cimiez was classified Historical Monument in 1904.

Hôtel Regina

Hotel Regina in Cimiez

Another major landmark of Cimiez, the lavish Belle Epoque Hôtel Regina, lies just outside the park.

Queen Victoria enjoyed sojourning in the hotel and Henri Matisse lived and worked there!

Finally, you’ll find the Musée National Marc Chagall** on Avenue du Docteur Menard, a short walk away from the park.

Reprinted with permission from

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