Nice, France, May 19, 2011
The Patriarchate of Moscow claimed the cathedral should be returned to the Russian state, the successor to the tsarist regime. However, the Russian Orthodox Association of Nice (ACOR) opposed the claim, arguing the cathedral belongs to the Orthodox Church of Constantinople.
The church was originally the property of Tsar Nicholas II, however, it was given to the archbishop of St. Petersburg with a 99-year lease, which expired on December 31, 2007.
In 2007, the Cote d'Azur region, which includes Nice at its center, declared the contents of the church part of the national patrimony which meant no part of it could be removed from France without the permission of the Ministry of Culture.
St. Nicholas Cathedral, the largest Russian Orthodox Cathedral outside Russia, was built in 1912 in Nice and opened by Tsar Nicolas II, who also funded the construction, in the same place where his uncle Prince Nicolai Alexandrovich died in 1865. The cathedral is rich with icons, woodwork, and frescos.
It was established for the large Russian community that lived in the French Riviera and in Nice at the beginning of the 20th century. The cathedral is a popular tourist attraction with up to 200,000 people visiting it annually.