All Monegasques are so grateful to their dear Patron Saint who came from far away by sea to charm the Princely rock with her divine grace. According to the tradition that goes on since 1870 onwards, Saint Devota celebrations have been put in the forefront of a two-day urban ceremony that brings one of the most authentic feelings in Monaco. That privileged spirit of belonging to that Community was well celebrated by Louis Notari’s hymn “The Legend of Saint Devota”, published in 1927.
A feeling still very alive as shown in the traditional burning of the boat on the 26th January 2020, outside Saint Devota’s Chapel, and during the morning Solemn Mass and blessing rituals on the 27th January 2020, in Monaco Ville. The presence of many citizens and international visitors is a clear demonstration of the strong message that this ancient martyr can give. This year, in particular, joy and peace were the inspiring elements of the two-day anniversary with an early spring touch.
A young Christian lady born in Corse in the old times of late Roman Empire and condemned to suffer until death for her belief. A figure who relives forever thanks to the support of her loyal believers who secretly placed her lifeless body on a boat toward a new unrevealed destiny that would be marking the Principality until nowadays. A legendary story that pushed, in the seventeenth century, Honoré II, Prince of Monaco, to create an annual event in her honour. Since then, her devotion has been influencing the Monegasque daily life in every aspect, far beyond the religious meaning. Saint Devota has become then a point of reference of local folklore well represented in art, literature, painting, music, numismatics and philately.
On Sunday late afternoon, the 26th January 2020, a large audience attended outside Saint Devota’s Chapel the quintessential burning of the red-and-white symbolic boat covered with olive branches, in the presence of the Sovereign Prince, Princess Charlène of Monaco, little Prince Jacques and Princess Gabriella. Right after, a blaze of fireworks ‘danced’ amazingly to bright the whole area of Port Hercule. On Monday the 27th January 2020, Patron Saint day, the Solemn Mass at the Cathedral was presided by the Archbishop of Monaco in front of the Princely Family and the utmost religious, institutional and diplomatic missions. Within this occasion, the Archbishop of Monaco greeted with emotion the Sovereign Prince for his trust in him and Monaco and its citizens.
“I have never felt alone during my entire stay in Monaco, constantly supported by prayers, personal engagement and friendship”, he pointed out. A distinctive procession then, holding Saint Devota’s relics and accompanied by the Princely historical security guard, the Carabiniers du Prince, approached the Prince’s Palace to pay homage with ritual blessings the Sovereign Prince and His family.
But what makes Saint Devota so special and so popular? HelloMonaco asked H.E. Bernard Barsi (B.B.), Archbishop of Monaco, within an exclusive interview before the event.
HelloMonaco: His Excellency, what does this holy celebration represent for you and the Monegasques?
B.B.: Saint Devota is rooted in the hearts of both Monegasques and residents, believers or non-believers, that shows an affection that is beyond the religious attitude. In a tiny Country, the respect for cultural traditions helps to increase its sense of identity. Saint Devota encourages it greatly. She is the patron of Monaco, of the Princely Family and of the Monegasque Diocese. Since my arrival, twenty years ago, I have been experiencing the fervour towards the Saint. The Prince Sovereign and the Princess decided to pay tribute to her in their wedding day and in any major event, entrusting her assistance for everything to go well. It is really a strong belief shared by many and supported outside Monaco through the bonds of friendship with the sister city of Lucciana in Course, encouraged by the Municipality of Monaco after the pilgrimage of Prince Rainier III in 2003.
HelloMonaco: What is the most moving moment?
B.B.: The most important time of the two-day celebration is the pontifical mass on Monday the 27th attended by the Princely Family and the following procession. By Saint Devota’s relics we always bless the Prince’s Palace and those who live inside, the whole town, all citizens, the Sea and the fishermen. This year, that solemn mass has a special meaning for me since I will say goodbye to the Monegasque Diocese after serving as Archbishop of Monaco for twenty years. That will be very moving for me since I am very close to many people that have made my stay so enjoyable.
HelloMonaco: What message does Saint Devota convey to us, in the present times?
B.B.: We have always to consider Saint Devota as an example of courage, hope and perseverance. Nothing went as planned but honouring her Faith is something that remains in the hearts of all generations that are following as an evidence of Christ’s love.
HelloMonaco: Which memory will stay alive in your heart, after your remarkable episcopate? What do you wish for the future of the Principality?
B.B.: I have experienced some powerful moments together with the whole population in the Principality, with special regard to happy and sad occasions involving the Princely Family. Funerals, Marriages, Christenings. What memories! I am sure that the Diocese of Monaco will be in good hands with my successor. We must be close to the people, to any individual. And Monsignor Dominique-Marie David has the will to go in that direction. Something really important in our pocket-sized Country. I won’t be very far from here, I am going to move to Nice. My position as emeritus Archbishop will allow me to maintain a strong bond with Monaco. I will continue to pray with you and for you.