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 featuring the members of the royal family.
The Saint Dévote traditions have permeated 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 fascinating "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 devote 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 harboring a Christian in his house, he demanded that she be given up and compelled to perform the requisite 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 prevent 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.
This year the ceremonies will begin with a special service at 10.30am at Sainte Devote Church and a blessing of the sea.
Then at 6pm 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.
At 6.30pm the symbolic boat will arrive at Vallon des Gaumates where the procession will temporarily halt in order for the blessing of relics.
The procession then moves to avenue President J. F. Kennedy at 6.45pm.
By 7pm it 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".
The following day:
Relics will be received at the church by members of the clergy and of the Vénérable Archiconfrérie de la Miséricorde brotherhood just before the 10am mass at the Cathedral led by Monsignor Michel Di Falco John Léandri, Bishop of Gap and Embrun.
At 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.
Originally published: Riviera Times,