Postcards from Southern France: Masséna Square in Nice

The Masséna Square is right in the centre of Nice and is one of the largest squares in the city. It is a genuine Mediterranean plaza, which sums-up the cultural identity of the city. The Square unifies the Old and the nowadays Nice into a coherent entity. It is fully pedestrian. Only a tram crosses the square, connecting the two parts of Nice.

Masséna Square in Nice

Masséna Square in Nice

Impressive red neoclassical buildings surround the square, leaving room enough to the “Fontaine du Soleil”, the Sun Fountain, with a statue of Apollo in the centre. Apollo is surrounded by five other statues inspired by the Greek mythology. They seem to guard the fountain. They are Earth, Mars, Venus, Saturn and Mercury.

The Fontaine du Soleil, Apollo statue, surrounded by Earth, Mars, Venus, Saturn and Mercury

The Fontaine du Soleil, Apollo statue, surrounded by Earth, Mars, Venus, Saturn and Mercury

The red colour of the building goes well with the blue of the sky and with the green of the palms and pines.

The Masséna Square from another angle

The Masséna Square from another angle

We were impressed with a monumental piece of art, a group of seven statues that get noticed mostly during the night as they are illuminated. Jaume Plensa, a Catalan artist, authored the statue group.

According to the explanations in place, the seven statues symbolise the seven continents. As the monument name is “Conversation à Nice”, then it must also have a strong communication message.

The seven statue group and a tram crossing the square

The seven statue group and a tram crossing the square

While the statues are illuminated at night, the colours change progressively, so everything around gets into the show mood.

Tourists in Masséna Square

Tourists in Masséna Square

We were also told that the statue lights are well synchronised, so that each sequence of the light changes according to the light spectrum, which is composed of red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet.

That was the occasion of recalling the physics lesson on the light spectrum. The teacher gave us a key abbreviation of the colours, which works only in Romanian. It is ROGVAIV and is composed of the first colour letters as they are placed in the spectrum. I am not aware of any English abbreviation version, which would sound ROYGBV.

One of the beautiful red neoclassical buildings in the Masséna Square

One of the beautiful red neoclassical buildings in the Masséna Square

The Masséna Square was built in 18 years, from 1832 to 1850. Because of its central location, in the heart of the city, it is the perfect venue for large events such as the National Day, Christmas Market and Nice’s Carnival.

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