The Principality is a dynamic place to live and work in, but what of its history and culture, and how did any Monaco tradition first come into being?
How Monaco Was Created
For many centuries Monaco belonged to France, but in 1215 the Genoese, of which the Grimaldi family was prominent, started building a fortress where the Prince’s Palace stands today. In 1297, disguised as a Franciscan monk, Francois Grimaldi seized this fortress, an act reflected in Monaco’s coat of arms, where two monks brandish swords. This, essentially, was how Monaco was created.
In 1949, Prince Rainier III ascended the throne, bringing stability and economic prosperity, while his wife, former actress Grace Kelly, promoted charitable foundations and the arts. These are legacies which Prince Albert II and his family continue today.
Monaco’s annual calendar is rich with cultural events, from January’s Monte-Carlo International Circus Festival to April’s glamorous Rose Ball. June welcomes the prestigious Ballet of Monte-Carlo, while summer highlights include the Monte-Carlo International Fireworks Festival and the Monaco Red Cross Gala.
The patron saint of Monaco is Saint Dévote, who was martyred in fourth century Corsica. As her body was sailed away for a Christian burial, a storm blew up, and a dove flew out of her mouth. It guided the boat to Monaco, where she was buried. On her feast day, January 27th, a cathedral mass is celebrated, followed by a torchlight procession to Port Hercule, where a boat is burned on a pyre over a firework display.
Every Good Friday sees the solemn Procession of the Dead Christ, which starts in the Place du Palais and ends at the cathedral.
Saint John’s Day is celebrated on June 23rd and 24th with religious services and traditional music and dance over a batafoegu, or bonfire, in the Place du Palais and Monte Carlo’s Place des Moulins.
The martyr Saint Roman’s feast day is celebrated on August 9th with a mass and a morning concert, ending with a feast which includes the Monaco speciality Barbajuans, a type of deep-fried ravioli stuffed with chard and cheese.
A popular Monaco tradition, the July carnival involves a colourful parade of floats, followed by a Grand Ball in the Place de la Mairie, a square in the Old Town.
Monaco’s national holiday, the Fête du Prince, was traditionally celebrated on the patron saint’s day of the reigning Prince, but to honour his late father, Prince Albert chose to stay with November 19th, St. Rainier of Arezzo’s day.
The night before, there is a fireworks display in Port Hercule, and on the 19th, Monaco and its people dress in the red and white colours of the national flag. The Princely Family attend a cathedral mass, then watch a parade of Monaco’s police, fire department and guards. Festivities conclude with an opera gala.
For anyone looking at property for sale in Monaco-Ville, it’s reassuring to know that this forward-thinking part of the world retains a deep respect for its history, culture and for Monaco tradition.