The Virgin project of Nice: the statue that never came to be
Did you know that the city of Nice almost had a 49 foot (15 metre) tall statue of the Virgin Mary standing atop the Colline du Château?
In the 1980s, the idea of the “Virgin on the hill” came to the Abbey Royal of Nice, who may have been inspired by the huge “Christ the Redeemer” statue that stands watch over the city of Rio de Janeiro.
The colossal Virgin Mary would be placed on the top of the Colline du Château (Castle Hill – where no castle actually exists) and would be facing out toward the sea. She would welcome those who approached Nice by boat much like the Statue of Liberty does in New York. Nice’s statue would be called Notre Dame de la Baie des Anges (Notre Dame of the Bay of Angels).
The abbey went to see the mayor, Jacques Médecin, who agreed that it was a brilliant idea. However, because of the French laws separating church and state, the giant virgin couldn’t be built with state or city funds. If she was to be, the people of Nice would have to fork out the money. The two men had high hopes of public support and thought the project could start in November 1983 and be finished by February 1988.
Preliminary drawings were done, and the local newspaper published them along with an invitation to the public to give their views. The people responded with their comments, both positive and negative. They thought the face of the Virgin was charming and they liked the idea that people could go up into the statue and look out over the sea, much like in the Statue of Liberty.
But then, the newspaper published the view from the back, the part of the statue that much of the city would be seeing. People were not happy to see an exterior elevator shaft running up the folds in the back of the Virgin’s skirt. And, even worse, it entered the statue at a point which caused many readers to question whether she was really a virgin…
After five years of debate, the plan was abandoned and the Niçois contented themselves with their original, tried and true heroine, Catherine Ségurane, who had gained fame by chasing off the Turkish army using pretty much the same part of her anatomy.