Every day at midday a cannon explodes in Nice. It always takes visitors by surprise especially those who are close by on the castle hill or parts of the old town. You can easily spot the locals, however, as they don’t bat an eyelid.
As for the reason for this you may be forgiven for imagining it has military origins, celebrating a victory or warning of attack but no, it’s much more quirky that that. Back in 1861 a British gentleman named Sir Thomas Coventry-More settled in the old town of Nice. He had a wife who enjoyed her morning strolls along the Promenade des Anglais and had a tendency to get back late to prepare lunch. Sir Thomas was having none of this tardiness so he found a rather ingenious way to summon her back – a cannon blast.
Having had his plan approved by the Mayor he provided the cannon at his own expense and installed it on the lower terrace of the château. Every day just before midday Sir Thomas would raise a colourful globe on a mast from his home which would be the sign for a municipal employee to set off the cannon. I assume his wandering wife then rushed back home to get lunch ready pretty damn quick!
When the Coventry-Mores left Nice the locals missed the daily detonation and on 19 November 1876 a law “lou canoun de Miejour” was passed making the blast official thereby keeping up this peculiarly niçois tradition to this day.
Nowadays it’s no longer a cannon but surprisingly it’s not automated either. Every day a large firework is manually set off in the same place as the original cannon and has been lit by the same man, Philippe Arnello, since 1992. During this time he has only missed it once due to a traffic jam but he has been known to set it off an hour early on April Fool’s Day! *** Update 2019: since the dreadful terrorist attack in 2016 the cannon no longer sounds on the 14th July out of respect for the victims who lost their lives. And it appears Mr Arnello is retiring after 27 years of service so the post of cannon blaster has been advertised in the local press. I can’t find any information as to whether the position has been filled but I will keep you posted!
— Nice-Matin (@Nice_Matin) August 10, 2018
Have you heard the Nice cannon, or do you know of any similar quirky traditions?
Here’s a PIN for later!