One of the oldest traditions in Monaco, in honour of the Principality’s Patron Saint, will take place on Tuesday 26 and Wednesday 27 January. Since 1874, the staunchly Catholic Principality has marked the feast day of Saint Dévote with ceremonies including a traditional mass in the Monegasque language and a procession including the members of the royal family.
The Saint Dévote traditions have infused the national culture for generations in areas as diverse as religion, folklore, history, literature, arts, painting, music, numismatics and philately.
It all springs from the captivating “Legend of Saint Dévote”, which has special ties with the area. According to this legend, Devota (Dévote), was a Corsican Christian and part the household of senator Eutychiu. The young virgin had decided to dedicate herself fully to the service of God but was martyred by the prefect, Barbarus, during the Diocletian persecution in 303 AD.
When Barbarus arrived with his fleet and learned that the senator was protecting a Christian in his house, he demanded that she be given up and forced to perform the necessary sacrifice to the imperial cult. Eutychius refused, so Barbarus had him poisoned. Devota was imprisoned and tortured before being stoned to death at Mariana. After her death, the governor of the province ordered for her body to be burnt to stop its veneration.
However, it was stolen by Christians and placed on a boat bound for Africa, in order to receive Christian burial there. A storm blew up and threatened to throw the boat off-course. But a dove appeared and guided the boat to ‘Les Gaumates’ (today part of Monaco), where a chapel dedicated to Saint George stood. She was buried there on 27 January.
A chapel was built in her memory, which still stands today. Traditionally, flowers are said to bloom before their season on January 27, the feast day of Saint Dévote.
In the 17th Century, under Honoré II, Saint Dévote became patron saint of Monaco and the tradition of gathering the royal family and dignitaries for the procession and boat-burning has continued every year since 1874.
10:30am- a special service at Sainte Devote Church and a blessing of the sea.
6:00pm- a symbolic boat will arrive at Port Hercule in front of the Yacht Club de Monaco. A flock of doves will be released to mark the departure of the procession.
6.30pm- the symbolic boat will arrive at Vallon des Gaumates where the procession will momentarily halt in order for the blessing of relics.
6:45pm- the procession then moves to avenue President J. F. Kennedy
7:00pm- procession will have arrived at the Sainte Devote Church for a reception of the Blessed Sacrament led by His Excellency Monsignor Bernard Barsi, Archbishop of Monaco, in the presence of Prince Albert II of Monaco and his family. The boat will then be set on fire by Prince Albert II in the courtyard in front of the church.
The day concludes with a firework display accompanied by music at Quai Rainier III, presented by “Flash Art Monaco Entertainment”.
9:45am- Relics will be received at the church by members of the clergy and of the Vénérable Archiconfrérie de la Miséricorde brotherhood.
10:00am- a mass at the Cathedral led by Monsignor Michel Di Falco John Léandri, Bishop of Gap and Embrun.
11.15am- there will be a Solemn Procession of the Relics into the town centre, and a blessing of the city and the sea by the Archbishop of Monaco.