Feast of Sainte Devote: ten facts about Monaco’s patron saint

To celebrate the annual Feast of Sainte Devote, we take a look at ten fascinating facts about the Principality’s patron saint

The 27th January is a date ingrained in the minds of all those who inhabit Monaco’s sparkling shores, with the annual Feast of Sainte Devote being held on this day.

If you haven’t heard the story of the Principality’s patron saint, legend has it that she was a 19-year-old Corsican woman born in the early part of the 4th century.

A young virgin, she had decided to devote herself to Christianity and the service of God. However, on the orders of Diocletian, who demanded the great persecution of the Christians, she was arrested, imprisoned, tortured and martyred.

Following her death, the governor of the province demanded her body to be burnt, but the Christians managed to save her body from the flames and placed it on a boat bound for Africa where it was thought it would receive a proper Christian burial.

However, during the journey across the Mediterranean, a storm engulfed the boat and threatened to capsize it, along with the body of Sainte Devote. At that point, a dove is believed to have flown from the mouth of the saint, guiding the boat safely to Les Gaumates on the Monaco coast.

Her body was discovered by fishermen and a chapel was built to honour her and provide a home for her remains, which still stands to this day.

Here we look at ten fascinating facts about the lady they called Devota.

1. Sainte Devote is also the patron saint of the Island of Corsica.

2.Turn one of the annual Monaco Formula 1 grand prix takes place directly in front of the tiny chapel which houses the saint’s remains, and as a result, is named the Sainte Devote corner in her honour.

3.Legend states that flowers bloom before their season on January 27 in order to mark the Feast of Sainte Devote.

4.The chapel of Sainte Devote was first mentioned in archived documents dated 1070. It has been and rebuilt on several occasions, including in 1948 when the church’s stained-glass windows were restored by Fassi Cadet following the bombing of Monaco during World War II.

5.In 1944 and 1992, a series of postage stamps bearing Sainte Devote’s effigy were issued in the Principality.

6.Over the years, Sainte Devote has been credited with performing many miracles in the name of Monaco, including ending a plague that broke out in the Principality in 1631 and ending the Spanish occupation in 1641.

7.The first book ever to be written in Monegasque language was entitled ‘A legenda de Santa Devota’ (The legend of Sainte Devote) and was created in 1927 by the Monegasque poet, Louis Notari.

8.On the 1700th anniversary of her death in 2004, a €5 silver commemorative coin featuring an image of a dove guiding a maiden on a boat, was minted in her honour.

9.Every year on 27 January, Monegasques hold a boat-burning ceremony in front of the chapel . The ritual dates back hundreds of years from when an attempt was made to steal the relics of Sainte Devote, but the attempt was thwarted and the perpetrator instead saw his boat burned.

10.In line with Monegasque tradition, on 2 July 2011, following her Roman-Catholic wedding to HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco, Princess Charlene and her new husband walked to the chapel of Sainte Devote where she laid down her bridal bouquet in front of a statue of the saint – 55 years after Albert’s mother, Princess Grace of Monaco, had done the same.