Medieval village perched at 650 metres altitude on a hill overlooking the Paillon Valley, an hour and a half from the sea, Coaraze figures among the most beautiful villages of France. In the centre of a mountainous cirque and surrounded by mimosas, pines, chestnut and olive trees on terraced lands, the some 780 inhabitants enjoy an abundance of sunshine.
A sun-drenched village.... and a supernatural one, if you believe the legends. Just takes its name: Coaraze or Castellum Cuade Rase, which means “cut tail”. It's said that the villagers once succeeded in catching the Devil by glueing his tail; to free himself, Satan had no choice but to sacrifice his appendage!
The village of Coaraze in the Alpes maritimes
Visiting Coaraze, you will be tempted let your imagination fly. The village winds around itself. The narrow and serpentine streets lead the visitor into another time dimension. The whole panoply of medieval architecture can be found here: cobblestone streets, arched passageways and flowering squares, vaults, lintels and small gates giving you a glimpse of the valley, fountains and Renaissance frescoes... with a good handful of artists' studios. Going back in time, the visitor will nonetheless always know the time of day: sundials created by modern artists - Cocteau, Valentin, Ben, Mona Christie, Doukine, Ponce de Leon, Henri Goetz – adorn the town hall, the school and the church square at the top of the village.
The Saint-Jean Baptiste Church, built on that square in the 14th century and altered many times, presents beautiful examples of the baroque art that flourished in the region in the 18th century.
Also to visit: the Notre-Dame des Sept Douleurs Chapel, called the Blue Chapel since 1962 when the painter Angelo Ponce de Léoné created a décor in a luminous blue representing scenes from the life of Christ.
And one kilometre from the entrance to the village along the old road to Nice, the St Sébastien Chapel, built in 1530, presents 16th century frescoes recounting the life of Saint Sebastien, who was often invoked in times of plague.
For hardy walkers, a hike of a few hours through some magnificent landscapes leads to the ruins of Rocca Sparvièra (also accessible from the hamlet of Engarvin). With 350 inhabitants in its heyday, the place is now a ghost town, fallen victim to a curse it's said. One Christmas Eve in the Middle Ages, the Queen Jeanne, having taken refuge in the castle there, is said to have found her dead children served on a platter, murdered by her enemies. Devastated, she cursed the place, crying “Bloody rock, malevolent rock, a day will come when on your ruins no cock nor hen will crow”. As a matter of fact, the plague and earthquakes, amongst other things, emptied the site of its inhabitants.