History pages

Pigeon-Shooting club of Monte-Carlo: Centre of one of the most controversial sports of the XIX century

Walking through the picturesque streets of the Principality, you may have passed through the Terraces of the Casino boasting a breathtaking view of the endless sea, the Hercule Port and the colourful mosaic on the roof of the Auditorium Rainier III, designed by Victor Vasarely in 1979. However, few people know that before this piece of art, called “Hexa Grace”, appeared on the top of the building, there used to be a club dedicated to one of the most popular sports of the XIX century: pigeon shooting. 

From January to April, competitions in the Pigeon-Shooting club of Monte-Carlo were held three times a week. @www.alamy.com

Another successful brainchild of François Blanc 

Today, we know that this pastime, one of the most controversial sports, was born in England at the end of the XVIII century. Over time, it spread to other European countries, including Monaco. Membership in those kind of clubs was not available to everyone: a potential member was required to have a certain social status and be able to handle weapons.

Since 1872, the Pigeon-Shooting club of Monte-Carlo had been located on the coast of the Principality opposite the Monte-Carlo casino. François Blanc, head of SBM at that time, invested about 300,000 francs into the construction of the club. And for good reason! In this region, Monaco’s shooting club was the only place specializing in pigeon shooting, and therefore was a great success. In addition, it was considered the most beautiful club beating the equivalent Parisian establishment, which at that time was considered one of the best in the world.

The members of the Monegasque club could use the most modern equipment for training and competing. Unlike hunting with hounds, this kind of sport attracted the best shooters, ready to fight for victory. The crème de la crème of European society flocked to the Principality: aristocrats, businessmen and wealthy foreigners.

Pigeon-shooting was one of the most popular sports among the European nobility at the beginning of the XX century. @www.alamy.com

Regulars of the Pigeon-Shooting club of Monte-Carlo

Aristocrats from England and America had a love for the Monegasque club. Many of them came to the Principality every winter to take part in competitions.

In January, 1893, regular annual competitions took place in Monaco. And holders of different noble titles were listed as participants. On the very first day, the winners were announced: Baron de Drasche, who shot down 11 pigeons, as well as Counts Venezze and Trauttmansdorff.

Every day, the competition attracted from 80 to 116 participants. The number of pigeons per player depended on the type of competition. But only one could get the coveted grand prix from the Monte Carlo casino: 20,000 francs. In order to win this fortune, the shooter had to shoot 12 pigeons from 20 and 25 metres.

It is worth noting that the participants had to follow strict rules established by the club. After all, when more than a hundred people have fun with weapons, there is always room for accidents.


Auditorium Rainier III
In 1979, a building with a mosaic roof named ‘Hexa Grace’ in honour of the Princess of Monaco appeared on the site of the former shooting club. © HelloMonaco


The decline of a once popular kind of shooting

It is not difficult to imagine that pigeon shooting was far from pleasing everyone. Given the number of participants and the birds they had to shoot, only those who were really keen on this sport, could enjoy the show.

It is not surprising that, over time, real birds were replaced with artificial targets. However, in some countries, the tradition of using live pigeons was still a success. In Monaco, the shooters switched completely to mechanical targets in 1960. 

Today, the memory of the Monegasque pigeon shooting club is kept alive thanks to the photographs. Over time, this sport has lost its popularity, and in 1972 the club ceased to exist.

Today, the Principality is one of the countries that actively implement “green technologies”, caring for the environment. Cruelty to animals is unacceptable here, and members of the princely family, Princess Stéphanie and her children, in particular, do not miss any opportunity to help our four-legged friends.

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