Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Franciscan Church and Monastery of Nice-Cimiez

The hustle and bustle of city life can sometimes come with the unique challenge of trying to find an idyllic retreat for solitude and sanctuary.

Well here, almost as though it is still a secret and certainly off the regular tourist path is the Franciscan Church and Monastery of Nice-Cimiez next to the Musee Matisse and the Archeological Museum of Nice-Cimiez.

By simply strolling down the paths amongst the olive trees through the Jardin des Arènes de Cimiez outside of the Musee Matisse, within a few minutes you will be approaching the grand, neo-Byzantine style Franciscan Church.

The Monastery of Cimiez and Franciscan Church have been used by Franciscan monks since the 16th century and is where some of the friars still live to this day.  The grounds also include the cemetery to the left of the church where notables such as Henri Matisse and Raoul Dufy are buried.

Entering the church itself feels like you are being transported back into time, it's slightly dark and mysterious, steeped in history with services still available on Sundays, the church is also open daily from 9am-6pm.

The convent part to the right of the church houses the Franciscan museum containing a 350-item collection consisting of documents and works of sacred art retracing the history of life on the grounds.

And next to the convent are the tranquil gardens just past the large wrought iron gates.  Here paths will eventually lead you to expansive views of the city of Nice surrounded by mountains and looking out to the Mediterranean Sea.

The first time I approached the gardens I wasn’t sure if people were allowed on to the grounds, they seemed to be almost sacred.  Seeing that it was ok, I walked through the opening at the gate instantly feeling a sense of serenity and curiosity about the gardens; I wanted to learn more and also got the inclination that it was ok to take my time here. 

Although you are surrounded by the city of Nice, the area is very quiet and naturally you will feel a calmness here, you get a chance to sit down and breathe.

The gardens are simple yet intricate and there is something about the layout that just makes you want to stop and take a closer look at this peaceful haven.

Anytime I have visited here the garden has been extremely well maintained and reflects the changing of the seasons.  For some reason on my visits it has never been packed with tourists, or perhaps I have just been getting lucky in that regard.

If you are finding you just need a break, perhaps a place to read, even reflect, I suggest making your way to the Franciscan Church and Monastery of Nice-Cimiez.