Last modified: 2010-09-25 by ivan sache
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Flag of Nice - Image by Arnaud Leroy & Ivan Sache, 17 April 2010
The municipality of Nice (348,721 inhabitants in 2007; 7,192 ha) is the capital of the French Riviera (Côte d'Azur) and of the former County of Nice. One of the most beautiful towns in France, Nissa la bella was built between the Bay of Angels and a series of small hills. The beach road known as Promenade des Anglais (1824) recalls that English aristocrats, who started to overwinter in Nice as soon as in the 18th century (as an example, the chemist Henry Cavendish [1731-1810], the son of Lord Cavendish, Duke of Devonshire, was born in Nice), boosted the early development of the town. The name of Côte d'Azur was coined in 1888 by the poet Stéphen Liégeard in 1888.
The world-famous Nice Carnival, organized every year in February,
dates back (a least) to 1294, when Count of Provence Charles II spent
"the joyous days of carnival" in the town. For the next centuries,
balls were organized by different social categories (nobles,
craftsmen, merchants, workers, fishers) in dedicated areas of the
town, each with a strict dressing code (including masks). A means of
release against the power, the carnival often degenerated into obscene
and violent acts, getting out of the control exerted by the church.
In the 18th century, the Nice carnival was revamped by the aristocrats; the most prestigious balls were organized by the town's governor and notables, while open-air balls were still organized on Sundays for the lower classes. In 1830, the notables of the town processed in their barouches to welcome the Sardinian sovereigns, Charles Felix and Maria-Christina; ending with a flower and candy battle, this first corso fleuri became in the next years the main event of the carnival, with the introduction of paper confetti.
The fall of the Second Empire in 1870 nearly suppressed winter tourism of Nice. In 1873, a Festival Committee was set up to resurrect the event. The corso fleuri was transformed into a procession of floral floats "driven" by people wearing "big heads" made of pasteboard. The Nice Carnival became archetypal and served as a model for the carnivals of Rio, New Orleans, Quebec and Viareggio.
The most famous child of Nice is Marshal André Masséna (1758-1817), nicknamed by Napoléon I "The Victory's Cherished Child" and made Duke of Rivoli and Prince of Essling by the Emperor. Established in Antibes
as a grocer, Masséna joined in 1791 the National Guard; in spring
1794, he commanded the volunteers who eventually expelled the allied
troops from the County of Nice. Masséna then took part to all the
great victories of Bonaparte (Loano, 1795; Rivoli, 1797; Zurich, 1799)
and Napoléon I (Austerlitz, 1805; Essling and Wagram, 1809). Appointed
commander of the Portugal Army in 1811, Masséna was defeated by the
English and disgraced by the emperor; he ended his career as Military
Governor of Marseilles.
A great tactician, Masséna has remained (in)famous for his rapacity, especially during the occupation of Rome and Switzerland. However, considering him as a precursor of the incorporation to France in 1860 and a local hero, the town of Nice gave his name to the biggest square of the town and to the lycée (secondary school) he has founded as an imperial college in 1812.
Another main square of Nice is named after another famous child of the town, Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807-1882), one of the leaders of the Risorgimento movement, which led to the unification and independence of Italy. During his adventurous life, the "Hero of the Two Worlds" hardly stayed in Nice; he was very disappointed by the incorporation of Nice to France in 1860, which caused his resignation from the Parliament of Turin in April 1860.
The specific daylight of Nice has attracted several artists, so that
Nice is one of the cradles of 20th-century painting in France. Henri
Matisse (1869-1954) and Marc Chagall (1887-1985) each have a museum in
Nice. The modern plasticians Pierre Gastaud (1920-2009), Yves Klein
(1928-1962), Arman (1928-2005), Robert Malaval (1927-1980), Raymond
Moretti (1931-2005), Patrick Saytour (b. 1935), Ernest-Pignon-Ernest
(b. 1942), as well as the talentist cartoonist Joan Sfar (b. 1971)
were born in Nice.
Several of these artists, together with other not born in Nice, are often grouped in the "Nice School", made of members of the three movements "New Realism" (Arman, Martial Raysse, Yves Klein and César), "Fluxus" (George Brecht, Filliou, Erebo, Marcel Alocco, Serge III and Ben), and "Supports/Surface" (Louis Cane, Claude Viallat, Daniel Dezeuze and Noël Dolla).
Ivan Sache, 17 April 2010
The flag of Nice, hoisted over the town hall and in different places
of the town - for instance, at the international airport Nice-Côte
d'Azur, is white with the greater coat of arms of the town.
The shield D'argent à l'aigle couronnée de gueules au vol abaissé, empiétant une montagne de trois coupeaux de sable issant d'une mer d'azur mouvant de la pointe et ondée d'argent ("Argent, an eagle displayed gules crowned or standing on three rocks vert rising from water barry wavy azure and argent") is surmonted by a count's crown topped by nine jewels argent and surrounded by two palms vert tied per saltire by a scroll gules charged with the writing sable "NICÆ CIVITAS" (Town of Nice).
The municipal website gives a detailed account of the history of the arms of Nice.
The oldest known representation of the arms of Nice is found on a parchment (1431; Municipal Archives AA9), by which Count of Savoy Amadeus VIII confirmed the municipal statutes and privileges of Nice. On this document, the arms of Savoy ("Gules a cross argent") are flanked by two shields with the arms of Nice, "Argent an eagle displayed gules on ...". The Liber Primus Privilegiorum (1502; Municipal Archives AA11), shows similar arms, the eagle standing on three rocks and waves blue (originally, maybe, green).
On the frontpage of Statuti e ordini... (1578; Municipal Archives AA 22/02), the eagle is crowned and the shield surrounded by an oval ring charged with "NICÆ CIVITAS". The eagle is no longer crowned, but the shield is surmonted by a count's crown in Pierre Gioffredo's Nicæ Civitas... (1658). A coat of arms similar to the modern one appears on the cover of Statuti della Citta di Nizza (1784; Municipal Archives AA 22/08). On all these early sources, the eagle, represented in profile, does not really look like an eagle.
The municipal arms were suppressed during the French Revolution. The
Imperial Decree of 6 June 1811 (Municipal Archives D218) granted brand
new arms to the town, D'argent au lion-léopardé de gueules, surmonté d'un soleil du même, sur une terrasse de sinople, accosté de deux arbres du même, à dextre un olivier, à senestre, un oranger fruité
d'or; au chef de bonnes villes de premier ordre, qui est de gueules
aux trois abeilles d'or ("Argent a leopard gules surmonted by a sun of
the same on a base vert flanked by two tress of the same dexter an
olive tree sinister an orange tree fructed or, in chief gules three
bees or"). These arms do not seem to have ever been used. After the
fall of the First Empire and the reincorporation of Nice to Sardinia,
the old arms were reestablished; quite ironically, the eagle was
modelled on the Imperial eagle.
In the 20th century, the local painter Gustave Adolphe Mossa (1883-1971) redesigned the coat of arms in the Italian barocco style, Mossa's design being considered as official (but never officialized!) by the municipal administration. The lack of official description of the arms led to several variants. The arms shown on the flag appear to be a simplification of Mossa's rendition (with the scroll red instead of white).
According to Laurent Ripart (in Dictionnaire historique et
biographique du Comté de Nice, 2002), the arms of Nice represent the territorial claim on Nice by the Count of Savoy. The eagle represents
the Counts of Savoy via its heraldic colours (red and white) and the
Imperial eagle; when he entered Nice in 1388, Count Amedeus VII used
an eagle banner and presented himself as the "Imperial Vicar", since
he had no other, dynastic reason to incorporate Nice to Savoy. Some
historians say, without evidence, that the red colour of the eagle
recalls Amedeus VII's nickname, "The Red Count".
The three hills are often said to represent the three "main" hills surrounding Nice, for instance Mt. Gros, Mt. Alban and Mt. Chauve. Ripart believes that they rather represent the territory claimed by the Count of Savoy, on which the eagle stands.
Finally, Ripart mentions a former "banner of the arms of the town of Nice", prescribed in a letter dated 1326 (Municipal Archives; EE 015/07) for hoisting on the galleys of the Count of Provence stationed in Nice, but unfortunately not described; predating the incorporation of Nice to Savoy, this banner, probably, did not feature the eagle.
Ivan Sache, 17 April 2010