Tuesday, September 29, 2015


I've wanted to see the Matisse Chapel in Vence ever since first reading about it, probably 20 years ago.  And today I saw it.  We had planned to go yesterday, but the bus line to Vence was on strike.  French strikes differ from American strikes in that they can last only a day or two and be very restricted, such as, in this case, to just one bus line.  Anyway, today the strike was over and we hopped on the bus. Vence is a very small town north of Nice, located at the edge of the Alps.  As the crow flies it's very close to Nice, but the narrow winding roads meant that the bus trip took more than an hour.

The chapel has very restricted hours, so first we explored the old town and had lunch.  Just inside the city wall is the fountain which is relatively new, having been there only since the 19th century.

The cathedral in Vence is small, but very attractive.  It was built between the 12th and 15th centuries on the site of a former Roman temple dedicated to Mars.  The stones on each side of the door are remnants from that temple.  There are cherubs over the door and naive wooden statues inside the church.  These statues were made by furniture makers and carpenters rather than wood carvers, and that is why they are considered naive art.  Somehow they managed to survive the destruction of religious images that accompanied the French revolution.

What I liked most about the cathedral was the mosaic by Marc Chagall showing Moses in the bulrushes.  It's located behind the baptismal font.

We had lunch at an Italian restaurant in the old town.  I had fritto misto (mixed fried seafood), which was delicious, in spite of the heads and antennas I was forced to deal with.  Note the tiny whole sardines.

It was served on a slice of wood and included salad and fried zucchini.  Bill had a seafood salad.

The walk to the Matisse Chapel was up a very steep road, but we made it without any cardiac events.    The chapel was simple and beautiful.  The colors Matisse used for the stained glass are blue, green, and yellow.  Unfortunately, photography is prohibited, so my picture is a photograph of a postcard I bought in the gift shop.  It shows the stained glass window behind the altar.  I highly recommend a visit to Vence, and particularly this chapel to anyone who goes to the Côte d'Azur.  This has been the highlight of my trip so far.


  1. weve never been either
    he designed not just the windows but also the garments worn by priests as well i think? you see this in the museum in nice

  2. You're right, Michael. He designed the vestments and maybe also the altar cloths. We saw examples of the vestments displayed near the gift shop, and the altar cloth had a Matisse look to it.