The beautiful Bay of Angels Nice

Written by on February 6, 2014 in Provence-Alpes

bay of angels nice

This magnificent bay which fronts Nice is famous for its glamorous good looks but where did it get its romantic name from asks Margo Lestz. Stretching from Nice, with the Promenade des Anglais and Quai des USA to Cap d’Antibes, the shore borders the towns of Nice, Saint-Laurent-du-Var, Cagnes-sur-Mer, Villeneuve-Loubet and Antibes.  Margo discovers that there are in fact three different explanations for the label “The Bay of Angels”…

Adam and Eve in the Bay of Angels Nice

Many rich and famous tourists visit Nice every year, but according to a legend, the first visitors were actually Adam and Eve – yes, the ones from the Bible.

As the story goes, after they were kicked out of Paradise for being naughty, they were standing outside the locked gates looking at their new hostile surroundings.  Everywhere was barren and inhospitable. They had no idea where to go or what to do. Then they heard the sound of rustling wings, looked up to see a band of angels flying overhead motioning to them.  The angels flew across the waters and hovered over a certain spot – they were showing the couple a glorious bay, in front of a land that was as lush and beautiful as the Eden they could no longer enter. That place was on the French Riviera and according to the legend that is how the lovely bay which fronts Nice got its name, the “Baie des Anges” (Bay of Angels).

Controversially,  Menton, a city just down the coast from Nice, also claims this legend, with one addition.  Apparently when Eve left the Garden of Eden she took a lemon with her.  She was looking for a place worthy of the lovely fruit and when she saw Menton she left the lemon there.  Menton is known for its lemons and has a wonderful lemon festival every year.

Where did they live?  Well, I can’t say for sure if Adam and Eve settled in Menton or in Nice, but my theory is this: First, they visited Menton, thought it was beautiful, left the lemon and then saw that Nice was even more beautiful and made it their home.

bay of angels nice

Why do I think this?  Well, for one thing, their house is still standing in the Old Town of Nice.  It has a magnificent carved frieze depicting the first couple sporting their fig leaves.  They each have some sort of club and it looks like they might be having a domestic quarrel.  It is called “La Maison d‘Adam et Eve” (Adam and Eve’s house) and is at No. 8, rue de la Poissonnerie where the street meets Cours Saleya.  This house is dated 1584 (ok, so maybe the first couple didn’t really live there). Some say that this club-toting couple represents the original owners of the house who were known for their arguments.  Whatever it is meant to symbolise, it is a lovely bit of decoration and easy to miss if you are not looking for it.

Bay of Angels and Sainte Réparate

bay of angels niceIf the first legend is a bit too far-fetched for you, how about this one: It has to do with a 15 year old Christian girl from Caesarea, Israel who was a victim of Roman persecution in the year 250.

Killed by the Romans… They tried to burn her at the stake but it started to rain and put out the fire. Then they forced her to drink boiling tar but that didn’t do the job either.  Finally they cut off her head and put her body in a little boat which they set adrift on the Mediterranean Sea. The angels guided the boat into the same bay where they had guided Adam and Eve all those years before.  The bones of Sainte Réparate are in the cathedral in the Old Town which bears her name in Place Rossetti.

But wait a minute…according to the Cathedral history, her bones arrived in 1060. So, was the poor girl adrift at sea for 800 years?  I don’t know, but this is another theory for why the bay is called the “Baie des Anges” (Bay of Angles).

The Bay of Angels and a fish story

bay of angels niceAt one time the bay had many angel sharks in it. But don’t worry, the angel shark is a relatively harmless shark with fins shaped like wings and they are no longer found in these waters. When the fishermen saw these winged sea creatures they must have thought they resembled angels.  There you have it, the third possible explanation for the name, “Baie des Anges” (Bay of Angels).

Margo Lestz lives in Nice, France where she likes to bask in the sunshine, study the French language and blog as thecuriousrambler. Margo says “Life is never boring and I learn something new every day… and there are always surprises”.

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