Every year, celebrations are held in Monaco to mark the miraculous arrival of a saint called Devota (or Sainte Dévote as she is known in French) to the coasts of the tiny principality in the year 303 following her death.
It is said that Saint Devota, who was born and lived in Corsica, chose to set aside her life in service to God at a young age. When the leader of her household, senator Eutychius, was cornered by Barbarus during the Diocletian persecution for harboring Christians, Eutychius refused to hand Devota over to the Romans. However, Devota was eventually captured and tortured for her faith before being martyred at Mariana in Corsica.
Although it was ordered that her body be burned, fellow Christians saved her remains and put them on a ship bound for Africa in hopes that she would get a decent burial. A storm, however, disrupted their plans, diverting the ship from its course where it would eventually land on the coast of modern-day Monaco. By 1070, a chapel had been built near the spot where the boat came ashore while Devota became patron saint of Monaco. Now, every January 27, her feast day is marked with ceremonies in Monaco.
Prince Albert II and wife Princess Charlene of Monaco were in attendance at this year’s celebrations on Saturday evening and Sunday morning. Young Prince Jacques, their four year old son and heir to the throne, was also in attendance.
On Sunday, January 27, the royal family attended mass at the cathedral of Monaco before appearing on the balcony of the palace to watch the procession which traditionally takes place on the feast day.
Prince Jacques also participated in the burning of the boat ceremony which takes place on the eve of the feast of St Devota. This practice is in remembrance of the ship that carried the martyred saint across troubled waters to her final resting place.