Heritage to discover in the Alpes

The pyramid of Falicon and the grotto of the ratapignata are among the most enigmatic monuments of the Côte d’Azur over which the mystery continues to hover. This historical site classified as part of the Côte d’Azur heritage is a privileged place for tourists, hiking enthusiasts or those eager for the supernatural.

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the village of Falcon dominates the heights of Nice, between Aspremont, Saint-André-de-la-Roche and Tourrette-Levens. Perched between 103 and 850 meters above sea level, it stands facing the Bald Mountain.

This small town on the Riviera is home to mysterious remains, a cave whose access is marked by a pyramidal building now in ruins.

Discovered by an Italian lawyer at 19e century

The origins of this cave called ratapignata (“bat” in Nice) and the pyramid that overlooks it are the subject of multiple theories and feed many fantasies.

The cavity owes its name to the colony of bats that it shelters. It was discovered in 1803 by an Italian lawyer, Domenico Rossettipassionate about archeology and writing on vacation on the Côte d’Azur.

Subjugated by the cave, in particular by its concretions limestone, he is inspired by write a three-part poem consisting of 1,300 lines.

When we found ourselves in the great hall, we were all amazed by the beauty of the columns, the superb vault, the magnificent walls.

Domenico Rossetti, Italian lawyer and author

His work ” The Grotta di Monte Calvo » was published in Turin in 1804. However, we do not find in its prose any mention of the existence of the pyramid nor of the staircase which is in the cave. If the Sienese lawyer does not mention the pyramid in his poem, he nevertheless seems to point the finger at the building on the frontispiece accompanying his work.

Located 430 meters above sea level on the hillside, the building was originally to measure about 6 meters on a side at the base by 9 meters in height. The particularity of the cave is to house a masonry staircase and a stalagmitic column on which we can represent the features of a face.

Falicon’s pyramid is today one of the fifteen french pyramids official.

Mysterious and controversial origins

Since the discovery of the site by Domenico Rossetti in 1803, numerous works have been published on the mysterious origins of the site relaying more or less probable and esoteric theories.

  • A Gallo-Roman sanctuary?

Many considered it to be a temple dedicated to Mithras following the installation of the Romans in the region during the conquest of Provence between 122 and 118 before Jesus Christ. There remains today many vestiges of the presence of the Roman colony Cemenelum current Cimiez.

Mithraism, or the cult of Mithras, appeared during the 2e century BC. The rituals that took place in the Mithraeum,reserved for men, were intended to promote the luck of warriors.

A link would have been established between the seven steps of the staircase – today six – and the seven grades of Mithra’s initiation. The biophysicist Henry Broch publishes “The mysterious pyramid of Falicon” in 1976 where this hypothesis is evoked.

  • A Templar origin?

An old legend that circulates in Falicon tells that Knights of the Holy Order would have hidden a treasure in the cave. The Templars would have been aware of an underground allowing access to the room of the abyss where they would have buried their booty. This hypothesis is also developed in the work of Broch.

If the hypothesis of the cult of Mithras was favored for a long time, that of a place devoted to Freemason rituals also has many followers. In the 19th century, theEgyptomania is in vogue in France. Napoleon Bonaparte has just returned from his Egypt campaign in which many Freemasons participated.

If theEgypt has fascinated Europe for centuriesit experienced a considerable resurgence of interest following the Napoleonic expedition.

For the researcher Pierre Beny, the association of the cave and the pyramid would be a Freemason symbol. The first would symbolize death and the second rebirth. With Catherine Ungar and Yann Duvivier, he is co-author of a prolific book on the subject. This book titled “The pyramid of Falicon and the cave of ratapignata”, published in 2008, brings together a very large number of texts and photos on these two monuments.

Heritage classification of French Historic Monuments

In 1926, a group of researchers tried to have the pyramid listed as a historical monument in vain. It was only in 2007, following a survey by the Institute of Prehistory and Archeology Alpes Méditerranée that the site has been classified as Heritage of French Historical Monuments.

The institute defends the thesis that the pyramid was simply built between 1803 and 1812 – perhaps even by Domenico himself helped by his companions – simply to indicate the entrance to the cave in order to attract tourists.

A 5 kilometer hike

For Sunday walkers as well as for experienced hikers, this pleasant walk allows you to discover the pyramid in ruins and the cave which overlook the heights of Nice.

Generally very appreciated for the magnificent panorama it offers as much as for its historical interest and its mysterious origins, this hike is to be preferred in winter because of the heat in summer.

Useful information

Venue : Departure at the end of the Chemin de Châteaurenard with the possibility of parking on site.

Elevation : 200 meters

Distance : 5.2 kilometers

Duration : 2h (1h35 walking time excluding stops)

Map : “Nice-Menton” TOP 25 n°3742 OT

It is essential to have a minimum of experience in potholing and to wear specific equipment to visit the cave.

The town hall of Falicon was alerted to the dangerousness of the site by the Martel Speleology Club, IPAAM and theARCHEAM . The services of County Council 06 were thus seized with the aim of modifying the path leading to the cave.

As such, a guided tour by speleologists in the presence of the mayor of the village took place on August 22, 2022 with a double objective.

On the one hand, clearly assess the potential dangers and risks incurred by walkers. On the other hand, establishing precisely the multiple degradations – waste, tags, engraved signs- committed by many unscrupulous walkers.

Also, with a concern for the preservation of the site and in order to guarantee the safety of visitors, the Town Hall of Falicon will soon bring together the institutional and associative parties concerned with the intention of proposing recommendations in this direction.

A depollution operation will soon be organised.

This visit to the cave can be dangerous for uninformed cavers. The site also suffers the ravages of time and damage from unscrupulous visitors, so the town hall of Falicon decided to take action.

Despite its registration as a Historic Monument, the damage increases over the years and could lead quite quickly to the total destruction of the building. While waiting for future decisions, we ask all visitors to respect the site and to take all measures that can guarantee their safety.

Alain Andrea, deputy mayor of Falicon, Delegate for Culture, Heritage, twinning actions and management of the municipal domain.

More than two centuries after the publication of Domenico Rossetti’s poem, the pyramid of Bald Mountain and the cave of the rapignatas continue to attract tourists, treasure hunters and curious esotericists.

Today, this historical site is in danger, victim of the influx of disrespectful walkers who sometimes put themselves in danger by visiting the cave without adequate equipment.

Heritage to discover in the Alpes-Maritimes: the Falicon pyramid and the ratapignata cave