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Visiting Beausoleil, France, and its St Joseph's church: a town founded in 1904

Updated on July 7, 2011
Flag of France
Flag of France | Source
The bell-tower of St Joseph's church, Beausoleil
The bell-tower of St Joseph's church, Beausoleil | Source
Camille Blanc around 1915
Camille Blanc around 1915 | Source
Map location of Alpes-Maritimes department, France
Map location of Alpes-Maritimes department, France | Source

International competition or complementarity?

When this parish church was built, its architect felt he was in competition with the neighbouring parish and wanted to build the tower higher than the neighbouring church's tower.

Well, maybe parish rivalry isn't so uncommon. Except that the neighbouring parish provided an international dimension to the perceived rivalry.

Even though the neighbouring Saint-Charles church and Saint-Joseph's church are separated by only a few hundred metres, France ends somewhere in between: at a demarcation line where the Principality of Monaco begins.

So what occurred when Saint-Joseph's church architect made his plans for a huge tower, 70 metres in height, which would literally tower above Monte Carlo and its own parish church?

It didn't happen. Financial difficulties arose, and the tower ended up as far more (at least, vertically) 'conventional'. The church building was commenced in 1913, but because of the intervention of World War One its inauguration did not occur until 1923; building work was not completed until 1930 (1).

The architect was Paul Lajoie, also a municipal councillor from 1912 until 1919. Executed in Neo-Romanesque style, one of its noted features is a cathedral-like, monumental entrance. It is built with La Turbie stone, as is Monaco's Cathedral.

Formerly called Monte Carlo Supérieur (Upper Monte Carlo), what is now Beausoleil in France's Alpes-Martimes department was an unincorporated settlement in La Turbie municipality. The town was founded in 1904, and was very much the creation of its first, and longserving mayor, Camille Blanc (1847-1927), who served in that capacity until 1925. It is said that Blanc, who in later life suffered from paralysis, experienced increasing strain in meeting the multiple obligations and scrutiny of his management role in Monaco, where he also managed the state-sponsored Casino at Monte Carlo, as had his father before him, François Blanc. It is accurate to state that his reputation in Monaco had waned at the end of his life, particularly given that he acquiesced in Prince Louis II's preference that he not visit Monaco. Conversely, Blanc's role as Beausoleil's mayor, which had begun almost as an appendage to his business role in Monaco, may now be regarded as his most lasting legacy. The striking town hall in rue de la République has gardens and a sculpted monument which were prepared in honour of founding mayor Camille Blanc.

Note

(1) Interestingly, to local, parish congregations in the immediate area of France around Monaco, the pastoral letter from Monaco's Archbishop, rather from any French bishop, is read.

Also worth seeing

In Beausoleil itself, the former Riviera Palace hotel, representative of the Belle Epoque, and built between 1898 and 1903 by architect Georges Chédanne, now an historic monument.

Visitor attractions of neighbouring Monaco (distance from Beausoleil town hall to the Prince's Palace square, Monaco: 3.2 kilometres) are too numerous to summarize adequately, but in Monaco Town, the Prince's Palace, the Napoleon Museum, and the Oceanographic Museum are major sights; in Fontvieille, the coin and stamp museum and the Naval Museum are well worth seeing.

...

How to get there: Delta Airlines flies direct from New York to Nice, France (Aéroport Nice Côte d'Azur ), where car rental is available. There are regular bus links from Nice airport to Beausoleil/Monaco. For North American visitors making the London, England area their tour base, airlines flying to Nice include easyJet, from London Luton Airport. Be advised that some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. For up to date information, please check with the airline or your travel agent.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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