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The National Monegasque Traditions Committee is celebrating its 100th anniversary

On March 14, 1923, a group of Monegasques, fervent admirers of their ancestral history, created an association with the purpose of preserving their national traditions. This year, the Monegasque Traditions Committee is celebrating its centenary. From the very moment of its conception, the committee has been working on perpetuating such traditions as a seven-gun Christmas midnight salute or the one specially fired in honour of Sainte Devote. Assisted by the bakers and the town hall, it has also brought back the “Pan de Natale” tradition, raising funds for charity associations.

Museum of Old Monaco

This summer, in commemoration of its centenary, the committee is to reopen the Museum of Old Monaco. Located on the Princely Rock, Placette des Carmes, it has been closed since 2015 for expansion works. Significant adjustments were made and professionals hired to look after the exhibitions’ scenography. Two young artists just out of the Plastic Arts School have thus taken over its two floors. The ground floor is dedicated to history. Starting from the town castle, it is taking us through the Principality’s different streets, introducing us to artists like the ceramist Ernesto Sprega and personalities who have marked the history of Monaco, perpetuated with commemorative plaques… Personalities like the poet Guillaume Apollinaire studied in Monaco. Having entered Saint-Charles college in 1889, he was awarded his first Prize of Excellence in the following year. Student of the same school, he composed his very first verses in 1893.

This kind of glorious past and the illustrious people involved are of primary interest to the National Monegasque Traditions’ Committee, always on the lookout for major and minor episodes having forged Monaco’s identity. The committee is looking particularly for the characters having marked local history through different legends and religious celebrations.

The Monegasque language used at school and for religious services

According to the President of the Committee, Claude Manzone: “Restoring the Monegasque language is also one of our goals. Prince Rainier believed that a language conveys the country’s soul. He therefore reinstated the teaching of Monegasque from the primary to the 3rd grade of middle school. We are pursuing these same efforts. Initially the committee only counted a few people concerned with perpetuating this street language, originally an oral Genoese-based dialect. Then there were the first writings, a dictionary, a grammar, and the language became alive…”.

The National Monegasque Traditions Committee is celebrating its 100th anniversary
“The Castafiore Emerald”, an album of the famous “The Adventures of Tintin” series, has been translated and published in the Monegasque language. This language has become alive again and taught at school. Photo provided by Le Comité National des Traditions Monégasques.

Some authors currently write in Monegasque, poets compose their verses; even some of Tintin albums are translated into the Monegasque language!.. Following the wish of Prince Rainier III, Monegasque is thus very much alive.

During the opening of the Dialectal Languages Academy in 1982, Prince Rainier made an important statement: “Letting a language die away, is to forever tarnish its people’s inner soul, renouncing one of its most precious legacies.”

Some students are taught entirely in the Monegasque language up to the final baccalaureate year, whilst Prince Albert II solemnly awards the most deserving ones in the Town Hall’s courtyard. This is a great moment for these young Monegasques and a guarantee that their language continues to live.

The Monegasque language is also part of church life. Saint Nicholas being the patron saint, on December 6, a mass is celebrated in Monegasque at his altar in the Monaco Cathedral. Dressed in traditional folk clothing, children act out his legend. Another important celebration is that of Saint Devote whose legend is also translated into Monegasque. One of the oldest of the Principality’s traditions, it has featured in the national culture in a number of fields: religion, folklore, popular beliefs, history, literature, arts, painting, music, numismatics and philately.

As the legend goes, a young Corsican Christian named Devota was martyred under the Emperors Diocletian and Maximian by the prefect Barbarus in the year 303 or 304. Her body, stolen by the Christians on the following night, was smuggled on a boat and brought to Monaco. It was then buried in “des Gaumates” chapel, near the port, on January 27 of the same year.

In the 17th century, during the reign of Prince Honoré II, Sainte Devote became patroness of Monaco. Since 1874, this tradition has been celebrated every year. A boat is burned in the presence of the Sovereign, the Princely Family and Monegasque high officials. Fireworks are then set off over Port Hercule. A large procession brings together Monegasques cherishing their past, with the National Traditions Committee members at the forefront.

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