1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Nice (France)
NICE, a city of France, the chief town of the department of the Alpes Maritimes, and previous to 1860 the capital of the county of Nice (Nizza) in the kingdom of Sardinia, 739 m. by rail from Paris. Pop. (1901) 127,027, of whom 105,109 were permanent residents; in winter-time there is a large influx of visitors. It occupies a fine position at the mouth of the Paillon (Paglione), a stream (often dried up in summer) which, after a course of 20 m., enters the northern end of the Baie des Anges. A steep isolated limestone hill, 308 ft. in height, running back for some distance from the shore, forms the historical nucleus of the town. Formerly crowned by a castle, which, previous to its destruction by the duke of Berwick in 1706, was one of the strongest fortresses on the coast, it is now laid out as a public pleasure-ground, and planted with aloe, cactus, agave and palm. Towards its south-west corner stands a tower (Tour Bellanda or Clérissy) dating, it is said, from the 5th century. The old town stretches along the western base of the hill; the “ town of the 18th century ” occupies the ground farther West, which slopes gently towards the Paillon; and away to the north-east and north and west beyond the stream lie the ever-growing quarters of the modern city. To the east of the hill, and thus out of sight of the more fashionable districts, the commercial quarter surrounds the port. The whole frontage of Nice is composed of fine embankments: the Quai des Ponchettes, constructed in 1770 round the base of the castle hill, is continued westward by the Quai du Midi to the public gardens and the municipal casino, whence the Promenade des Anglais (so called because it was begun in 1822–1824 at the cost of the English colony), a boulevard 85 ft. wide, extends for more than a mile to the mouth of the Magnan, and in 1904 was prolonged to the Var. A pier projecting into the sea from the promenade contains a “crystal palace.” The course of the Paillon also is embanked on both sides, and at one part the Place Masséna, one of the largest public squares in the city, and the principal resort of foreign visitors, and the Avenue Masséna (leading thence to the Promenade des Anglais) have been laid out across the stream. Besides a Roman Catholic cathedral—Ste Réparate, dating from 1650—Nice possesses two Russian churches, two synagogues and an Anglican chapel. Architecturally the most remarkable church is Notre Dame du Voeu, a modern Gothic building with two towers 213 ft. high, erected by the town in 1835 to commemorate its preservation from cholera. The secular buildings include the town hall, the prefecture, the theatres, the hospitals, the lycée (founded by the Jesuits in the 17th century), the natural history museum, the library (especially rich in theology), and, at some distance from the town, the astronomical and meteorological observatory on Mont Gros (1220 ft.). The industrial establishments comprise perfumery factories, distilleries, oil-works, furniture and woodwork factories, confectionery works, soap-works, tanneries and a national tobacco factory employing several hundred persons. Besides the vine, the trees principally cultivated in the neighbourhood are the olive, the orange, the mulberry and the carob; and the staple exports are oil, agricultural produce, fruits and flowers.
Nice now joins on the north-east the ancient episcopal town of Cimiez, in which are situated the largest and most elegantly appointed hotels. Reckoning from east to west the town is surrounded by a girdle of beautiful towns—Carabacel, St Etienne, St Philippe and Les Beaumettes. On the east of the port lie Montboron, Riquier and St Roch, the last partly occupied by barracks. The entrances to the port of Nice and the outer pier have been improved; that of the outer port is 300 ft. wide, and that of the inner 220 ft. The area of the port is about IS acres, the length of quayage available 3380 ft., the depth of water 20 ft., its trade, mostly coastal, being shared principally between French and Italian vessels, the arrivals being about 1235 vessels of some 300,000 tons annually. Nice is an episcopal see (first mentioned at the end of the 4th century) which since 1860 is in the ecclesiastical province of Aix en Provence. It is the headquarters of a military division forming part of the corps d'armée of Marseilles. Protected towards the north by hills which rise stage behind stage to the main ridge of the Alps, Nice is celebrated for the mildness of its climate. The mean temperature is 60° Fahr., that of winter being 49°, of spring 56°, of summer 72° and of autumn 63°. For a few nights in winter the mercury sinks below freezing point, but snow is practically unknown, falling, on an average, only half a day in the year. The highest reading of the thermometer is rarely above 90°. There are sixty-seven days with rain in the course of the year; but it usually falls in heavy showers which soon leave the sky clear again, though the whole annual amount exceeds 32 in. Fine days and rainy days are almost equally distributed throughout the different seasons. The winds are very variable, sometimes changing several times a day. Apart from the ordinary land and sea breezes, the most frequent is the east wind, which is especially formidable during autumn. The south-west wind (called Libeccio, or wind of Lybia) is moist and warm; the north-east (or Gregaou, Greek), which is happily rare, brings storms of hail and even snow in winter. The mistral (from the north-west) and the tramontane (from the north) are generally stopped by the mountains; but when they do reach the city they raise intolerable dust-storms. For two thousand years the climate of Nice has been considered favourable in chest complaints. Those who are requiring rest, and those suffering from gout, asthma, catarrhs, rachitic affections, scrofula, stone, also experience benefit; but the reverse is the case when heart disease, nervous disorders or ophthalmic are concerned. Autumn is the best season; in spring the sudden changes of temperature demand great care. Means of passing the time pleasantly are fairly abundant. The city is at its liveliest during the carnival festivities, in which, as at Rome, battles are waged with sweetmeats and flowers.
History.—Nice (Nicaea) was founded about two thousand years ago by the Phocaeans of Marseilles, and received its name in honour of a victory (νίκη) over the neighbouring Ligurians. It soon became one of the busiest trading stations on the Ligurian coast; but as a city it had an important rival in the town of Cemenelum, which continued to exist till the time of the Lombard invasions, and has left its ruins at Cimiez, 2½ m. to the north. In the 7th century Nice joined the Genoese league formed by the towns of Liguria. In 729 it repulsed the Saracens; but in 859 and 880 they pillaged and burned it, and for the most of the 10th century remained masters of the surrounding country. During the middle ages Nice had its share in the wars and disasters of Italy. As an ally of Pisa it was the enemy of Genoa, and both the king of France and the emperor endeavoured to subjugate it; but in spite of all it maintained its municipal liberties. In the course of the 13th and 14th centuries it fell more than once into the hands of the counts of Provence; and at length in 1388 it placed itself under the protection of the counts of Savoy. The maritime strength of Nice now rapidly increased till it was able to cope with the Barbary pirates; the fortifications were largely extended and the roads to the city improved. During the struggle between Francis I. and Charles V. great damage was caused by the passage of the armies invading Provence; pestilence and famine raged in the city for several years. It was in Nice that the two monarchs in 1538 concluded, through the mediation of Paul III., a truce of ten years; and a marble cross set up to commemorate the arrival of the pope still gives its name, Croix de Marbre, to part of the town. In 1543 Nice was attacked by the united forces of Francis I. and Barbarossa; and, though the inhabitants, with admirable courage, repulsed the assault which succeeded the terrible bombardment, they were ultimately compelled to surrender, and Barbarossa was allowed to pillage the city and to carry off 2500 captives. Pestilence appeared again in 1550 and 1580. In 1600 Nice was taken by the duke of Guise. By opening the ports of the count ship to all nations, and proclaiming full freedom of trade, Charles Emmanuel in 1626 gave a great stimulus to the commerce of the city, whose noble families took part in its mercantile enterprises. Captured by Catinat in 1691, Nice was restored to Savoy in 1696; but it was again besieged by the French in 1705, and in the following year its citadel and ramparts were demolished. The treaty of Utrecht in 1713 once more gave the city back to Savoy; and in the peaceful years which followed the “ new town ” was built. From 1744 till the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748) the French and Spaniards were again in possession. In 1775 the king of Sardinia destroyed all that remained of the ancient liberties of the commune. Conquered in 1792 by the armies of the French Republic, the county of Nice continued to be part of France till 1814; but after that date it reverted to Sardinia. By a treaty concluded in 1860 between the Sardinian king and Napoleon III. it was again transferred to France, and the cession was ratified by over 25,000 electors out of a total of 30,700.
See L. Durante, Histoire de Nice (3 vols., Turin, 1823–1824); J. N. Fervel, Histoire de Nice et des Alpes Maritimes depuis 21 siècles (Paris, 1862); E. Tisserand, Histoire civile et religieuse de la cité de Nice (2 vols., Nice, 1862); Cartulaire de l'ancienne cathédrale de Nice (Turin, 1888).