Pie VII's hard exile and his memorable visit in Nice
A column! Oh, not a simple one! It celebrates visit of pope Pius VII in Nice, in August 1809 and February 1814.
An exiled pope
What about his first visit? Pius was exiled: Napoleon I’s soldiers kidnapped him on July 6th 1809, in his Rome’s palace. From there, they brought him to Fontainebleau, near Paris, via Provence. Incognito... more or less!
Because before his arrival in Nice, a fellow recognized him. Excited, he ran and announced the event everywhere in Provence. So, they could organize a great celebration in his honour! When finally the pope arrived in the city, the crowd was huge.
But he was tired by his long travel: he had to stay 3 days in Nice, they prepared him a room at the hotel de la Préfecture. On the next morning, pope appeared on his balcony to bless the crowd. There, lines of fishermen boats waited for his blessing! They also set off fireworks near the sea.
On February 9th, people from Nice heard the pope was about to come, one more time! A huge, huge crowd started to rush in Nice. And the pope arrived! One more time, it was a real explosion of lights and joy... Moved to tears by this greeting, the pope thanked the city and sent his own portrait to the mayor.
The white marble column was raised here in 1822, at the place where the pope was triumphantly carried by the crowd to the cathedral. We can see on it pope family’s coat of arms, the Chiaramonti. But we also have 4 Latin inscriptions echoing the pope's journey and arrival in Nice.