The villa Kérylos, overlooking the La Baie des Fourmis at Beaulieu-sur-Mer, is a tribute to Greek architecture. Built in the 20th century, it is a true reconstruction of a Greek house in Delos built between the 2nd and 1st century BC. It is a dream come true for Theodore Reinach, an archeologist specializing in the Hellenistic period. He will use the villa as a vacation resort for his family vacation until his death in 1928. The building was bequeathed to the Institut de France, of which Reinach was a member, and classified as a historical monument in 1966.
Kérylos means “common tern”, in Greek mythology, this poetic bird announced a happy omen.
A (re)discovery of ancient Greek culture
The design and construction of the villa took place between 1902 and 1908. More than a reproduction of a villa from the Hellenistic period, it is a true reinvention of Ancient Greece, an invitation to travel.
This monument is the result of a collaboration between the archeologist Theodore Reinnach and Emmanuel Pontremoli, an architect who won the Grand Prix de Rome in 1890. More than plagiarism, the idea was to create an original work combining ancient luxury and modern comfort, typical of the houses of the Belle Époque. The Villa Kérylos is more than an architecture reminiscent of Ancient Greece, it is a true universe of which the furniture, crockery, fabrics, and decorations are an integral part. It is a true homage to a civilization with an essentially human face.
The materials used for the construction of the Villa Kérylos were carefully chosen: antique stuccoes, Carrara marbles and exotic woods for the furniture. In the different rooms, the mosaics and frescoes depict classical gods and heroes and tell of important moments in the Greek imagination. Every detail of the villa’s decoration has been designed to recreate the atmosphere of a luxurious antique villa.
Presentation of the interior of the villa
The villa is organized, as it was at the time, around an inner courtyard lined with 12 Carrara marble columns. In the vestibule overlooking the peristyle, there are frescoes representing peace and war. On the floor, the mosaic represents a rooster, a hen and their chicks, symbol of the family. At the back of the entrance there is also a statue of Solon, a statesman who lived in the 6th century B.C. known to have established democracy in Athens.
To the left of the vestibule, the room of the thermal baths is dedicated to the naiads, the divinities of the rivers and springs. To the right the central courtyard opens and is surrounded by colonnades. The walls tell the epics of the different protagonists:
- The dispute of the lyre between Apollo, the god of the sun and protector of the arts, and Hermes, the messenger of the gods and protector of travelers,
- The death of Talos, a bronze giant,
- The return of Apollo to the sanctuary of Delphi, a place dedicated to his worship,
- The return of Hephaestus, the god of fire, forging and volcanoes, to Olympus,
- Pelops, who gave his name to the Peloponnese, and Hippodamia, whose hand he won in a chariot race,
- And finally, the preparations for the sacrifice of the bull during a poetry competition at the festivals Dionysus in Athens.
These scenes are sometimes the reproduction of iconography present on vases from the Hellenistic period.
In the library, located in the northeast of the courtyard, oak cabinets contain a collection of art and archeology books, as well as various objects. The bronze lamps, placed on the tables, are copies of those exhibited in the Archeological Museum of Naples. Theodore Reinach read and worked standing, as in ancient times. The desks they used are still in the library of the Villa Kerylos.
In the amphityros that leads to the next floor, there is a cast of a statue representing Athena, the goddess of wisdom, military strategy, craftsmen, artists, and schoolteachers. In the Triklinos, leather beds are placed to the height of the tables and they allowed people to eat meals while lying down. The dining room is decorated with a frieze depicting Sileni and four statues representing Apollo, Narcissus and two fauns.
The Andron was the men’s living room. A mosaic representing Theseus flooring the Minotaur and the marble altar that was once used to make offerings can be admired there. The Oikos is the last room on the first floor. This room honors the Greek theater with its illustrations of musical instruments and masks.
Upstairs is the room where Theodore Reinach’s wife slept. The motifs of peacocks and swans (the attributes of Hera, wife of Zeus and goddess of marriage and femininity) gave the room its name: Ornithes, meaning birds. The adjoining bathroom is called the Ampelos, the vine, in reference to these murals depicting the grape harvest and Eros, the god of love and desire, riding mythical animals.
In this succession of rooms, there is also a resting room whose mosaics tell the story of Triptolemus, a hero of ancient Greece charged with travelling the world to sow wheat. Then comes the bathroom and the bedroom of Theodore Reinach. The bed in the latter was made after a model found in Pompeii.
The view from the garden is magnificent. It stretches as far as the Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat peninsula and offers a privileged view of the beautiful residences that surround it. The vegetation that has been planted has also been thought out in order to blend in perfectly with the Villa Kérylos. Olive trees, vines, pomegranate trees, and oleanders blossom under the sun of the French Riviera and complete the decor of this Greek residence.
Prepare your visit
The Villa Kérylos can be visited all year round. However, the schedule varies according to the seasons:
- From January to April: from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
- From May to August: from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
- From September to December: from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
- Closed on January 1, May 1, November 1 and 11, December 25
A visit document is available at the reception desk in French, English, Italian and Chinese. Audio guides are also available for hire.
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