The Basilica Notre-Dame is an emblem of the “French buildings” in Nice, after 1860 (as before 1860, Nice was not French). Its recent important restoration has given the church its previous splendor, like at the Belle Epoque.
A complex project !
In the second middle of 19th century, the Diocese of Nice, directed by Bishop Jean-Pierre SOLA, must take in consideration the urban development of the city and also the demand of the “foreign colony” especially rich persons who come to spend winters in Nice.
In 1962, he decides that a church must be built in this new district, the right side of Paillon river. At this place, there were only 2 churches, orthodox and anglican. And the catholic community must go to the small Saint-Etienne church, not easily accessible, with a majority of farmers, or to the very small Chapel of Hospice de la Charité.
But the Mayor, François MALAUSSENA, refuses the proposal of Mgr SOLA, he prefers to improve transport and communication infrastructures (railway in 1863 and station in 1864).
So Mgr Sola must find other financing. He asks Father Alexandre LAVIGNE to help him, he is well-known in Paris, he “is the right person”. Mgr Sola gives him the title of “curate in charge of the foreign colony” and in 1862 Alexandre Lavigne starts a great subscription to get money for building the church. The foreign colony is enthusiastic and organizes charity-sales and collects money. Many financial gifts and donations arrive from France.
Father Lavigne himself goes to England and receives money from the rich families used to spend winters in Nice.
The style of the church is “neo-gothic” like the Abbey-church Saint-Serge in Angers. At this time, it was necessary to give a French style to the buildings of Nice and to modernize the city.
The goal is to satisfy the demands of the generous donors and to take in consideration the urban development of Nice.
The project seems to be “over-sized” but the building rapidly progresses and in 1865 the foreign colony admires the central aisle and 8 lateral chapels.
Not completely built, the church is “blessed” on 3 may 1868 by Mgr Sola during a mass.
But the work is slowing-down : a lack of money due to the 1870 war and to the death of Mgr Sola in 1874 leaving important debts.
In 1876 the City of Nice becomes the owner of the church and brings the necessary funds. In 1879 Notre-Dame de l’Assomption is achieved on the Avenue de la Gare, now called Avenue Jean Médecin. Later on the City of Nice decides to transform the presbytère into a school.
During the earthquake in 1887 the church is slightly damaged.
Notre-Dame de l’Assomption is “consecrated » in march 1925 and receives the title of “Minor Basilica” in april 1978.
A huge building !
With its 3 porches, its rose-window, its twin-bay, Notre-Dame in Nice looks like Notre-Dame in Paris. There are 2 statues of the Virgin Mary, one at the top of the church, the other in the front of the rose-window, 2 towers 31 metres high stand in the sky. No sculptures in the frontage due to a lack of money. In 1944 the sculptor GALLO places the statue of Notre-Dame de la Libération on the central portal. The style of the choir is similar to Saint-Serge Abbey church, the 3 aisles of same height, 12 lateral chapels and 7 apse-chapels.
This harmonius building is one of the most beautiful “neo-gothic” church in the area.
The stained-glass windows in the choir, made in 1868, show the Coronation of the Virgin, with Saint-Joseph, Saint Joachim, Saint Paul, Saint Raphaël, Saint Gabriel, the Patriarches and the Apostles. The stained-glass windows of the chapels are “gifts” from generous persons at the end of 19th century.
The apse-chapel was previously devoted to the Sacré-Coeur, but now it is devoted to the Virgin Mary, with her statue placed in 1960.
The paintings are dated 19th century : a MURILLO copy represents the Holy Family.
Clement GOYENECHE was in charge of all the wook-works, restored in 1956 and Louis VIALE of the iron-works.
We find in the South tower the Great Bell (1020 kg) made by DUBRUSSON-GALLOIS.
To-day, Notre-Dame de l’Assomption is not only a catholic church in the town-center but also a cultural place for concerts and recitals which take place all along the year.
High quality Stained-Glass Windows
made by three talented glass-makers :
MARECHAL : in the choir apses, the most important stained-glass windows with splendid bright colors. Probably Marechal has made the rose-window (same bright colors) showing Alpha- Omega with all around the 12 Apostles. Now hidden by the organ, the rose-window usually reflects the light directly towards the central aisle, creating a magnificent light.
BENOIT BROTHERS : in the upper part of the windows all along the central aisle, in a contemporary style and placed in 1956 to replace simple glasses.
Recently all the stained-glass windows have been restored by two glass-makers, Florence LAUGIER et Jean-Pierre BELLION. The workshop of Florence Laugier was founded in 1863 by Joseph FASSI, previously located in villa Vittoria-Magnan and now rue Boissy d’Anglas.
The important recent restoration of Notre-Dame brings a new dynamism to the district.
The Basilica is a part of our historical and touristical heritage in NICE, we are proud of this heritage.
The main Dates of “Basilica Notre-Dame”
The church “Notre-Dame” is dedicated to the Virgin Mary of Assumption, in memory of the 1st Cathedral in Nice, at the Castel hill, consecrated “St Mary of Assumption”.
The Jesuit Alexandre LAVIGNE, a friend of Louis Veuillot, wanted this church. Mgr Jean-Pierre SOLA (1857-1877) named him “curate in charge of the foreigners” in Nice.
Alexandre Lavigne presented the church as “a sentry at the boundary of the city, close to the railway-station, in order to speak to the travellers’ soul and to protect the city”. Nowadays, the Basilica is at the town-center.
– the foundation stone is laid : 12 march 1864
-the blessing of the church by Mgr Jean-Pierre SOLA : 3 may 1864
-the church becomes the Parish of “Musiciens-Lépante-Gare” districts : 8 april 1876
-the church is consecrated by Mgr Louis-Marie RICARD : 12 march 1925
-on the demand of Mgr Jean MOUISSET, pope Paul VI grants the church the title of “Minor Basilica”, like the great sanctuaries, on 16 april 1978. Cardinal François MARTY presides the ceremony, with Mgr Jean Mouisset Nice-bishop, and Mgr Edmond Abelé Monaco-Bishop.