Chapelle de la Misericorde Nice Italian Baroque Art

Misericorde means graciousness in English, and not misery as could be popularly thought. Baroque art covers a lot of Nice due to the proximity of Italian artistic influences, because much of this area including the city of Nice was at one time under the control of Italian cities or neighbouring powers, such as Genoa and the County of Savoy that dates back to 1388 and became the Duchy of Savoy in 1416. Located in the Cours Saleya, the chapel is considered to be a masterpiece of Italian Baroque art.

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Most of the architectural treasures of Nice are located in the old town. If you walk along the Promenade des Anglais to Quai des Etats-Unis, you will walk into this chapel. The difference between a chapel and a church or cathedral comes down to the size of the building. The former is quite small and reserved, while the latter is grand but still retains an element of sobriety.

Catholic brotherhoods have houses, monasteries and churches all over France. The chapel was belongs to the Brotherhood of Black Penitents. One of the principal institutions of Catholicism is its religious brotherhoods. They are distinguished by the colour of the robe used for processions. There are possibly a hundred of them. The Black Penitents date back to 1488 and the term Misericordia refers to the beheading of St. John, so their duty is to accompany criminals who are condemned to death and provide religious services. A man called Pompee Catilina founded this particular group in Nice in 1586. By the beginning of the XVIIIth Century, they also took care of immigrants in the hospice next door.

The original building was an old oratory belonging to the Theatins Fathers known as the Chapel Saint-Gaetan begun in 1674. Due to financial constraints, construction was only begun in 1740 and finished in 1786 under a plan by Bernardo Vittone. The Brotherhood of Black Penitents acquired the building in 1828.

The building is quite a sight, both inside and outside. It has been characterized as a piece-montee or wedding cake as its domes and cupolas seem layered. Some major tenets of Italian Baroque art were the use of light and the impression of movement; both of which are on display here.

The interior is divinely decorated befitting its nature. You will come across frescoes, gilt and crystal chandeliers, although the centre is the two altarpieces, one by Miralhet in 1429 and the other by Brea in 1485. Do not miss the XVIIth paintings and many trompe l'oeil illusions, which we leave to you to discover.

Once inside, please climb the stairs to get spectacular views of Nice and the Baie des Anges. The area around the chapel is a lovely Provence market. Take a moment and buy something for home!


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