Lascaris Palace Nice French Riviera Place Lascaris

One of the most beautiful buildings in Nice is the Lascaris Palace located in the Place Lascaris. It is sumptuously grand and splendidly aristocratic. The name Lascaris has very old roots, but it is its association with the Byzantine empire that most distinguishes it, which came about with the marriage of one of the sons of an old noble family, the Vintimille who were nobles in an area of modern Provence but fell under the rule of Genoa in the XIIIth Century, with the daughter of the Lascaris imperial line of Eastern Byzantine empire in the XIIIth Century. Some of the family served as Grand Masters of the Order of Malta in the XVIIth Century.

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The palace was built in 1648 for Jean-Baptiste Lascaris-Vintimille who was the marechal to the Dukes of Savoy. This title referred to someone who was the military commander of a country and reported directly to the ruler. It was a great honour to be one and it resulted in great power and wealth most likely used to build what you see before you now.

Following the conquest of Nice by Napoleon in 1796, it was sold to the new revolutionary government. Like most aristocratic buildings in the new post-Ancien regime world, it would have likely been used as offices or warehouse. It was sadly divided into apartments during the XIXth Century, but thankfully the city of Nice bought the palace from the national government in 1943 and restored it to something of its previous grandeur and lustre. It reopened to the public in 1965 as a museum.

Inside you are greeted with a feast for the eyes. Look especially on the magnificent staircase that was a characteristic of XVIIth and XVIIIth Genovan architecture. Most of the art pieces date from the latter period. The facade is in the Baroque style and garlands of flowers cover its pilasters. Pausing at the entrance hall, you will notice that it is decorated with the Lascaris family coat of arms. The public rooms whose edarchways are covered by frescoes are quite imposing and give proof of their noble heritage. The most richly decorated floor is where the family stayed as every part of it was carefully made and no room is lacking in colour and expressiveness.

The two main attractions are the staircase and the Flemish tapestries. The former leading to the main rooms is vaulted and has massive stone balustrades as well as many niches that contain statues of Ancient Roman gods, while the latter are typical of the style of Rubens. But, do not miss the brilliant trompe-l'oeil fresco depicting the fall of Phaeton, who was the mortal son of Helios, the Ancient Greek god of the sun, and dared to ride the sun chariot for one day but having failed to master the steeds, he was struck by a thunderbolt sent by Zeus. The museum has exhibits on regional art and popular traditions, and also maintains a pharmacy built in 1738.

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