On April 24, 1865, grand duke Nicolas Alexandrovitch of Russia, heir of the throne died in Nice, after a horse accident, at the age of 20. He lived in one of the villas of Antoine Félix Bermond's property on the hill of Saint Philippe. After his death, czar Alexandre bought the villa, to which the name of the young man was given. The imperial family, marked by pain, wanted to preserve the place where the tsarevich had expired. The place became sacred and the building which measured 40 metres long with two floors above a ground floor was dedicated to destruction. The disappearance of the building was maybe a symbolic way to erase the pain and only keep the recollection of the beloved departed. In the place of the big house, a building of relatively modest dimensions should be built in a bosky bower, as a place of memory. Alexandre II refused the projects answering the competition launched for a commemorative chapel and asked Russian architect David Ivanovitch Grimm to build a building inspired by the church he has just built in Kherson. Grimm, professor at the Academy of Fine Arts of Saint Petersburg, author of a thesis on the proportion of churches, was a specialist for this kind of buildings. He elaborated at the same time the plans of the castle of Valrose* on the hill of Brancolar, in crimean style, for the baron Van Derwies. One also owes him the funeral chapel of general engineer K.V. Tchevkine in the cemetery of Caucade.

On March 2, 1867, the laying of the first stone of the chapel took place. One year later, on March 26, 1868 the inauguration of the monument in memory of the deceased took place in presence of the new grand duke heir. A. de Skariatine, who was in charge of the work, presented him the workers and the artists who had contributed to the construction.

The monument is of Byzantine style ( Constantin period). It is 20 metres high and occupies a surface of 70 m2. The base is cubic, surmounted by a hexagon, itself surmounted by a dome pierced with windows and at the top of which is set a white marble Greek cross. The dome is painted in the colours of azure. The inside is decorated with pictures. In the heart of the nef, a burial black slab indicates the exact place occupied by the bed in which the tzarévitch died. Writings taken from the holy books run on friezes. Mosaics, marbles, frescoes with golden arabesques make the richness of the decoration.

When, at the beginning of the XX-th century, the building of an orthodox cathedral was decided , it ws chosen to make it near this building full of history for the Russian community.

Véronique THUIN

 

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