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The Principality of Monaco: a small but strong supporter of the Catholic Faith

Prince Albert and Princess Charlene of Monaco

Religion, and specifically the Roman Catholic faith, plays a crucial role in the life of the small Mediterranean nation known as the Principality of Monaco. Unlike many other countries, in this small country on the southern coast of France, Roman Catholicism is a State Religion. 

For over a millennia, the Principality was controlled by the descendants of a family from Genoa, Italy, which explains the origins of the Roman Catholic faith’s arrival in Monaco. 

Nowadays, religious and institutional life are inextricably linked, and, unlike other monarchies, there doesn’t seem to be any intentions of trying to separate the two. 

The most important link between the two pillars is of course the Principality’s ruler, who has to be born and raised in the Roman Catholic Church in order to gain access to the line of succession. 

But this influence goes even deeper, and is embedded in succession rules as well. One of the core principles of the Roman Catholic Church and Faith is marriage, which is why any child born out of wedlock or who would renounce their Catholic faith would automatically loose their place in the succession line. 

Any spouse that comes into the Monaco Princely Family via marriage does not have to convert to the Roman Catholic Faith first; however, most choose to, especially because the children would have to be brought up in the Catholic faith. 

Most recently, Princess Charlene made this choice in 2011, prior to marrying Prince Albert; their children, twins Prince Jacques and Princess Gabriella, were christened into the Church, and it is expected that they will receive their First Holy Communion around the age of 9 and their Confirmation around the age of 13, according to Roman Catholic rules. 

Monaco sees a strong influence of the Catholic faith in their daily life as well, with religious festivities being observed alongside civilian ones. The biggest one is the celebration of Sainte Devote, the patron Saint of the Principality, whose festival day falls on the 27th of January. 

Every Catholic-majority country has a patron Saint, which is celebrated differently, according to the story of their life in Church records. For Sainte Devote, she was born in Corsica, then part of Italy, during Emperor Diocletian’s persecutions of Christians. She was denounced as a Christian and the Emperor ordered to burn her body; instead, it was carried away to be buried according to Christian rituals. 

Initially directed towards Africa, the ship carrying the woman’s body was derailed by bad weather into Les Gaumates (a part of the area of Monaco known today as La Condamine); the next day, her body was discovered laying next to a spontaneously-grown flower bush. A chapel, who was previously dedicated to St George, was now reconverted into Sainte Devote, which is still visible today. 

For this, the main event of the Sainte Devote celebrations in Monaco is the burning of a wooden boat in the square in front of the homonym church in the evening of the 26th. On the 27th of January, which is a National Holiday in the Principality, morning Mass in the Cathedral is always attended by members of the Princely Family, followed by receptions at night. 

It is therefore safe to assume that the bond that ties the Principality of Monaco, its family and the Catholic faith is strong, and has deep roots planted in the history of the church and the country.