Monaco Culture

Monaco Culture

(Principauté de Monaco) Southern European state (2.02 km²). Capital: Monaco. Population: 31,109 (2008). Language: French (official), Italian, Monegasque. Religion: Catholics 81.2%, others 18.8%. Monetary unit: euro (100 cents). Borders: surrounded by France (N, E, W), overlooking the Mediterranean Sea (S). Member of: UN and OSCE.


Since the time of Prince Albert I and especially since the end of the 19th century, according to ehealthfacts, the Principality of Monaco has been actively involved in promoting various cultural initiatives. Important theatrical activity organized by the Grand-Théâtre de Monte-Carlo, an eighteenth-century style building, inaugurated in 1879, which over the course of a century has hosted prestigious prose shows and important performances of operas (with absolute novelties by Massenet, Ravel, Fauré etc.) and has been above all, since 1911, one of the great centers of modern ballet. There were active Djagilev and, later, the company of the Ballets de l’Opéra de Monte-Carlo directed by René Blum, a company that merged in 1932 with Colonel de Basil’s Opéra Russe à Paris to give life to the Ballets Russes de Monte-Carlo, co – directed by Blum and de Basil until 1935. Other important companies were that of the Nouveau Ballet de Monte- Carlo, formed by M. Sablon in 1942 and active until April 1944; that of the Nouveaux Ballets de Monte-Carlo, staged in 1945 by E. Grunberg (with S. Lifar artistic director), and the Grand Ballet de Monte-Carlo, by the Marquis de Cuevas, which in 1947 welcomed various members of the dissolved company of Lifar and in 1950 it became the Grand Ballet du Marquis de Cuevas. Dissolved in 1963, the company was re-founded in 1985 thanks to the intervention of Princess Caroline of Hanover, and organized numerous tours presenting a program of works from the repertoire of the Ballets Russes but also contemporary creations by choreographers such as Kevin Haigen, John Clifford, Jean -Christophe Maillot, Dieter Amman, Uwe Scholz. Since 1993, the new director-choreographer is Jean-Christophe Maillot, who has given the dance troupe a new international dimension. The Grand-Théâtre is also home to the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra, established in 1979 and born from the first permanent orchestra (1863). Already directed by some of the greatest musicians of the century (Toscanini, Bernstein, Strauss), the orchestra, thanks to continuous performances all over the world, it has become a true ambassador of Monegasque culture.

The work of artistic promotion continues thanks to the commitment of Prince Rainier III and the establishment of foundations such as the Prince Pierre Foundation which announces annual awards for literature, music and art, the Princess Grace of Monaco Foundation which discovers and supports young talent, and the Prince Rainier Musical Academy Foundation. Also noteworthy is the presence of an oceanographic museum (inaugurated in 1910), commissioned by Prince Albert I to house the finds of his numerous oceanographic campaigns and a museum of prehistoric anthropology (1950). Official language is French, but Monegasque, a Franco-Italian dialect, is commonly spoken.


Various traditions of religious origin, an integral and exclusive component of a social, cultural and moral heritage, are rooted in the collective memory of the Monegasques, a population with a large Catholic majority. Among the most heartfelt is the feast of Saint Devota (January 27), whose cult (dating back to 300 AD) has endured over the centuries in the community of the Principality. Every year there is a procession and a religious ceremony that ends with the burning of a boat, sprinkled with olive, pine and laurel branches. The symbolic gesture recalls the boat that the Monegasques burned to erase the traces of the martyrdom of the saint carried out by the Roman soldiers. After Saint Devota, the most revered and popular in Monaco is Saint Roman (9 August), a Roman legionary who was martyred during the reign of the emperor Valerian (258 AD). The days of 23 and 24 June are instead dedicated to the feast of St. John the Baptist: in the square of the Palazzo dei Principi there are parades in historical costumes, dances and songs to the sound of mandolins, while inside the palace chapel, dedicated to St. John, the royal family participates in a ceremony. Subsequently, two servants of the reigning house light a large bonfire in the center of the square, around which the doing it, an ancient Provençal dance symbol of a collective journey through the experiences of life. The following day the celebrations continue in the Monte-Carlo district. The national holiday is celebrated on November 19, the day of the name day of Prince Rainier III (previously it took place in conjunction with the feast of Santa Devota). The program includes the bestowal of honors and decorations, a gala evening at the Opera House, celebrations especially for children and the elderly and a great fireworks show. Other traditions, now decayed but perhaps only temporarily forgotten, testify both to the religious temper of the Monegasques and to their vital spirit. To remember the tradition of Calendimaggio, a festival of very remote origin, which celebrates the full return of spring, ciaraviyù (Monegasque version of the French word charivari which means “noise, din”), consisting in playing the worst possible serenade under the windows of the newlyweds considered by the community to be a mismatched couple. It is a traditional heritage whose protection is entrusted to the National Committee of Monégasque Traditions, founded in 1924, committed to recovering and reviving traditions settled in the collective memory.


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