Monastery Notre-Dame de Cimiez

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Monastery Notre-Dame de Cimiez

If you feel like venturing away from the sea and strolling in the hills behind Nice, don’t hesitate to take a trip to colline de Cimiez, or Cimiez hill, to visit the magnificent monastery of Notre-Dame de Cimiez.

Monastery Notre-Dame de Cimiez
This old monastery with church and museum, is a great place to visit – ©

Monastery Notre-Dame de Cimiez

Located in the hills surrounding the city of Nice, the monastery of Notre-Dame de Cimiez is undoubtedly the most emblematic site of the Cimiez area.

It is one of the oldest monasteries in Nice and was built by Benedictine monks from Saint Pons Monastery in the 1400s. Today, it includes several interesting buildings: church of Our Lady of the Assumption, the monastery, the Franciscan Museum and one of Nice’s oldest gardens.

The Benedictine monks ceded the monastery to the Franciscans in 1546, and, in the 17th and 18th centuries, it experienced an era of prosperity accompanied by great cultural and religious influence, before becoming a simple parish church in 1803.

After the Revolution, the army turned the monastery into a barracks and then into a military hospital.

After that, it resumes its original vocation during the Sardinian Restoration, again becoming a parish church under the leadership of the monks. In the 19th century, the current façades in the neo-Gothic style were added.

This old monastery, with its church and museum, is a great place to visit, especially to get away from the usual beaches and hectic city life of the French Riviera. The Order has been here for hundreds of years and provides a unique perspective on their and Nice’s history.

Church of Notre-Dame de l’Assomption de Cimiez

The building dates from the 15th century and is colorful and has a very special style. The building is really beautiful and that alone is worth a visit.

Main entrance to the church at Cimiez monastery
Main entrance to the church at Cimiez monastery – ©

When you enter the church, your eyes immediately fall on the interesting paintings as well as the baroque altarpiece, which, with an excellent know-how craftsmanship, is carved in wood.

The surface of the vaults is decorated, among others, by Hercules Trachel (1820-1872), representing the Assumption of the Virgin and depicting the apotheosis of Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Claire of Assisi.

The vaulted ceilings of the church are beautifully decorated with paintings by Hercules Trachel.
The vaulted ceilings of the church are beautifully decorated with paintings by Hercules Trachel. – ©

In the church you can also admire three large paintings by Louis Bréa (1450-1523): his oldest preserved work, a Pietà (1475), as well as The Crucifixion (1512) and The Descent from the Cross.

The painting "The Crucifixion" by Louis Bréa from 1572
The painting “The Crucifixion” by Louis Bréa from 1572

Franciscan Museum

The museum was inaugurated on 2 July 1980 and made an important contribution to the parish’s storytelling and cultural life in Nice. Ever since its opening, the museum has annually attracted more than 9,000 visitors of all nationalities.

The Franciscan Museum with its showcases along the cloisters
The Franciscan Museum with its showcases along the cloisters – ©

The museum provides an insight into the life and history of the Franciscans from the 1200s until today. The monastery has been converted into a historical monument, and the premises today house interesting frescoes and other works of art.

Monastery of Notre-Dame de Cimiez

The oldest part of the monastery dates from the late 1400s, and, in 1993, was classified as a historical monument.

A former vegetable garden has now been converted into a small cozy yard and planted with flowers and other fragrant plants.

The small courtyard of the monastery
The small courtyard of the monastery – ©

The monastery garden – one of the oldest in Nice

This Italian-inspired garden was once used as a vegetable garden and orchard by the Franciscan monks who grew vines, fruit trees, and medicinal plants.

The garden is today planted with orange, lemon and tangerine trees, a lawn and flower beds along the paths, along with olive trees and cypress trees.

One of the monastery garden's beautifully landscaped garden sculptures
One of the monastery garden’s beautifully landscaped garden sculptures – ©

The garden still has the original layout with a central well and large pergolas with beautiful and scented climbing roses.

At the far end of the Jardin de Cimiez, there is a small terrace with fountains and ponds. Here you meet spectacular panoramic views of the Paillon valley all the way down to the sea.

The monastery garden, Jardin du monastère de Cimiez, prioritizes the ecological maintenance of this carefully tended green space. No chemical products are used for pest control, but only biological agents.

The monastery Notre-Dame de Cimiez is an obvious place to have a picnic if the weather is nice.  

In the adjacent cemetery, cimetière de Cimiez, Henri Matisse, Roger Martin du Gard and Raoul Dufy are  buried.

Also visit the two fantastic museums of Henri Matisse and Marc Chagall, located just a few hundred meters from the monastery.

By Tommy Sverre – 2023

See opening hours at the website: Monastére de Cimiez

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