Russia Reclaims Historic Church in France

The St Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral, Nice (Cathédrale Orthodoxe Saint-Nicolas de Nice)

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The long battle for ownership of Nice’s iconic Russian Orthodox Church may have come to an end. An Aix-en-Provence court has upheld an earlier ruling that the keys be handed to officials from Moscow, or locals will face a 6,000 euro a day fine.

The architecturally impressive building has been at the centre of a dispute between the Nice Russian Orthodox Cultural Association (ACOR) and the Russian government for more than six years now. Since the end of ACOR’s 99-year lease in 2008, Moscow has been trying to reclaim the rights to the church, as it has done in several similar cases throughout Europe.

The cathedral was built in 1912 during the reign of Tsar Nicholas II. It was established on the land that Nicholas’ grandfather Alexander II had purchased 50 years earlier. The church, with its gold and green turreted cupolas, is considered one of the finest treasures on Nice's heritage trail and reputed to be the most beautiful outside of Russia. It was once a place of worship for those who flocked to the Côte d’Azur during the Soviet era, and now attracts around 85,000 visitors a year.

In court, ACOR argued that despite the expiration of the lease, it effectively inherited the cathedral when Russia’s royal family, including Nicholas II, was executed during the revolution. However, the court ruled that since the church and the land were funded using state money, the Russian government could legally take it back.

The church will celebrate its centenary on 17th December 2012.

Source & Copyright: The Riviera Times
2 December, 2011