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Monaco, an ancient principality steeped in a rich and colorful history, is considered by many to be Europe’s most fascinating country. Though the Principality covers but one square mile, it stands as a proud monarchy with his Serene Highness Prince Rainier III as its head of state. Today people visit Monaco and its glittering district Monte-Carlo not simply to vacation, not just to test their standing with lady luck, nor merely to see and be seen, but to revel in tthe memorable life-enhancing experience that is Monaco.


A sovereign and independent state, the Principality of Monaco has borders on its landward side with several communes of the French Department of the Alpes-Maritimes; from west to east these are Cap d`Ail, la Turbie, Beausoleil and Roquebrune Cap Martin. Seawards, Monaco faces the Mediterranean.

The population of the Principality consists of 29,972 inhabitants, 5,070 of whom are Monégasques, 12,047 French and 5,000 Italian (according to the last official census iin 1990).

Its surface area is 195 hectares, of which nearly 40 were recovered from the sea during the course of the last twenty years.

It lies in a narrow coastal strip which sometimes rises vertically upwards with its highest ppoint at 163 meters. Its width varies between 1050 meters and a mere 350 meters. Its coastline is 4100 meters long.



The origin of the religious traditions of Holy Week may probably be traced back to the time of the Crusades, when survivors of these distant expeditions to the Holy Land introduced the Christians of the West to the rites of their brothers of the East. Accounts of the first Good Friday Processions can be found in Monaco from the thirteenth century. This ceremony, however, did not take on its full significance until the foundation by Prince Honoré II in 1639 of the Venerable Brotherhood of the Black Penitents of Mercy.

Since that time, this Brotherhood, wwhose members are Monégasques of all ages and conditions, brought together in the spirit of serene piety and disinterested love of one’s neighbors, each year organizes on the evening of Good Friday, the Procession of the Dead Christ, a traveling evocation complete with all the characters, real or imaginary, of the main Stations of the Cross.


After Saint Dévote, Saint Roman is the most popular and most venerated saint in the Principality.

The veneration by the Monégasques of this RRoman legionary, who suffered martyrdom on 9th August 258 in the reign of the Emperor Valerian, goes back to the sixteenth century when a relic of Saint Roman was entrusted to the Terrazzani family who had a chapel built in which to lay it.

For several centuries, the Feast of Saint Roman took place at the hamlet of les Moulins („the Mills“) near to the old chapel.

Around 1880, the festivities moved to Monaco-Ville. Today, with the support of the Committee of the Feasts of Saint Roman, we still dance and enjoy cool drinks in the month of August under the foliage of the hundred-year-old trees of the Saint Martin gardens.


In Monaco, until the end of the last century, Christmas Eve was the occasion when all the members of a family would gather at their parents’ home to perform, as a preliminary to the evening meal, the rite of the olive branch. Before sitting down, the youngest of the guests, or the oldest, soaked an olive branch in a glass of old wine. He approached the fireplace where a great fire of pine and laurel branches burned and with his little branch traced the sign of the Cross wwhile pronouncing a few words on the virtues of the olive tree, a source of all kinds of good things. After this, everybody in turn wet his lips in the glass of wine serving as an aperitif before the gala dinner whose main dish was an enormous „brandamincium“, a Monégasque dish of salt cod pounded up with garlic, oil and cream, surrounded by „cardu“, cardoon in white sauce ; „barba-Giuan“, literally „Uncle John“, stuffed fritters and „fougasses“ flat crunchy biscuits sprinkled with sugared aniseed colored red and white, flavored with several drops of rum and orange-flower water.

On the table covered with a splendid cloth lay a round loaf of bread „u pan de Natale“ (the Christmas loaf) on which four walnuts formed a Cross surrounded by several olive twigs.

From this Christmas of olden times, there are still in existence, besides Midnight Mass in the Cathedral, „Barba-Giuan“, „fougasses“ and „u pan de Natale“ to be found at some bakeries in the Principality.


The tradition of the carnival in Monaco probably goes back to the fifteenth century.

The carnival, the period between the Sunday of Epiphany and Ash Wednesday, was the opportunity people to enjoy themselves before the long aand austere period of Lent.

Young and less young disguised themselves as best they could in old clothes, formed processions, exchanged bawdy cat calls and, holding a large piece of cloth by the corners, threw up into the air an ungainly dummy figure stuffed with straw and rags.

Fights with projectiles which were often far from harmless – rotten eggs, chickpeas, gravel, oranges and lemons – enlivened the passing of the procession which usually finished with the burning of the dummy amid general merriment. After this, weather permitting, there was dancing at the corner of the streets or in the fields to the shrill sound of make-shift instruments.

The tradition of the Carnival has been revived over the last thirty years or so with „Sciaratù“. Organized by the Roca-Club, this comic procession with its floats, disguises, enormous dummy heads, fights with confetti and dancing in the open air which rounds off the evening, takes place in the height of summer to the delight of tourists in search of local colour.


Faithful to a tradition which goes back to 1857, the Monégasque National Holiday is now celebrated on 19th November, Saint Rainier’s day.

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