THE GRIMALDIS OF MONACO AND THE DORIAS OF DOLCEACQUA-THE ALTARPIECE OF ST. DEVOTE

A word from the editor. Dear followers, on December 26th 2017 a mean hacker attack invalidated the entire Montecarlotimes.com. Today we are pleased to re-publish some of the most liked posts. Yours truly, Ilio Masprone – Knight of the Principality of Monaco for cultural merits, with the Team.

by Andrea Gandolfo MONACO. A year ago, the Embassy of Italy in the Principality of Monaco was pleased to inaugurate the Exhibition “500 years, the Grimaldis and the Dorias in Dolceacqua-The Altarpiece of Saint Devote”. (1517-2017), in the occasion of the St. Devote Day. This is a public holiday in Monaco, celebrated from the 25 to the 27 January each year in honour of St. Devote, the patron saint of the country who was killed during the persecutions of Diocletian and Maxmilian in the 4th century CE. The inauguration took place on Wednesday, January 25th at 6,30 p.m. at the Church of St.Devote in Monaco. Then, the polyptych by Ludovico Brea went back to the Italian village of Dolceacqua on February 28, 2017. Ludovico (or Louis) Brea (c. 1450 – c. 1523) was an Italian painter of the Renaissance . Brea was born into a family of coopers in Nice (then under the Italian Savoy’ s Duchy) that moved to Liguria later. He painted numerous altarpieces that displayed both Lombardy and Flemish influences. Sainte-Dévote Chapel is a Roman Catholic chapel dedicated to St. Devote, the patron saint of Monaco.

The inauguration of this special exhibition took place on Wednesday, January 25th 2017 at 6,30 pm

The first chapel, which was consecrated to Devota, was located on the same site as the ancient temple dedicated to Hercules and was probably built directly over this temple, in order to promote the spread of Christianity. The chapel was first mentioned in archived documents dated 1070, built against the wall of Vallon des Gaumates, on the space now occupied by the Chapel of Relics. In 1606, Prince Honoré II added a span to the chapel followed by a porch in 1637.  The façade was rebuilt in 1870 and refurbished further in 1891 in “18th-century Neo-Greek” style. The chapel became the parish church in 1887. The stained-glass windows were made by Nicolas Lorin of Chartres at the end of the XIX century. The glass windows were destroyed during the bombing of Monaco during World War II and were restored in 1948. The current Sainte-Dévote Church is located in the Valley of the Gaumates, in approximately the same place (according to legend) as where the boat with the martyred body of the Saint was beached and where her cadavre was buried. It is since 1924 and under the reign of Prince Louis II that a symbolic fishing boat has been burnt on the evening of January 26. This is followed by a fireworks display that lights up Port-Hercule.

26th January 2018 – Princes Albert, Charlene, Jacques and Gabriella at the St.Devote boat’s fire

On January 27, a Mass is celebrated in the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception attended by HSH Prince Albert II and HSH Princess Charlene. It is followed by a Solemn Procession of the Relics, to request protection for the Royal Family and the Principality. Saint Devote is the patron saint of the Principality, the Royal Family and the Archdiocese of Monaco and is also the patron saint of the Island of Corsica. In the early 4th century, on Corsica (which was then a Roman province) the Roman governor, Diocletian, ordered the great persecution of the Christians. A young Christian girl of around 19 years of age named Devote was arrested, imprisoned, tortured and martyred. After her death, the governor of the province ordered for her body to be burnt but the Christians saved her body and placed it on a boat bound for Africa, where they believed she would receive a proper Christian burial. Whilst afloat in the Mediterranean Sea a storm blow up and overtook the boat. During the mayhem, a dove guided the boat safely to the coastline of Monaco where it ran aground in an area known as the Gaumates. It was upon this landing site that a church was built in her memory and also to house her remains. An oratory shows the place of her tomb. Around 1560-1570 Isabelle Grimaldi, wife of the Prince Honoré I, shown in miniature knelt downbelow in the central panel, offered a triypthic of Sainte Devote to the Monaco Cathedral, which hosts a beautiful Brea’s polypthic of Saint Nicolas.

Monaco Cathedral: Saint Nicolas polypthic by Brea

The St. Devote polyptych was commanded to Ludovico Brea in 1513 by Françoise Grimaldi of Monaco and completed by the famous painter in the year 1517. It found its definitive place as Altarpiece of the Dolceacqua Cathedral some years after, when Françoise Grimaldi of Monaco, who had married in 1491 the Luca Doria of Dolceacqua, devoted it to the Saint Martyr. At the time, Françoise wished to put an end to an existing feud between the two noble families and give peace to a territory that was continuously claimed by both sides. Her marriage to Luca Doria of Dolceacqua had been looking forward to unifying the rival families, creating the core of a large realm over the Mediterranean. But the Genoese Admiral Andrea Doria and his allies did not want that to happen. In the year 1523 he pushed the eldest son of Luca and Francesca, Bartholomew Doria to kill his uncle Lucien Grimaldi of Monaco.

The recently restored polyptych of St. Devote painted by Louis Brea in 1517 is preserved in the splendid St. Antonio Abate Cathedral in Dolceacqua (see cover)

The Admiral had not forgot the surrender of the Monaco’s fortress to the Guelph dominion in 1297 by “the Malicious Monk” and the consequent end of the Ghibelline era of Genoa over Monaco. By now, the Admiral wished to take hold of Monaco and thus enlarge the Genoese territory. Yet, during the war between Genoa and Pisa, in the autumn of the year 1506 the Genoese army was besieging the Monaco’s stronghold. For more than six months the Monegasque to whom Saint Devote had appeared ensuring them the divine protection and the victory repelled their attacks until, on March 15, 1507, the Genoese had raised the siege. Thus, Saint Devote’s cult became important to the Grimaldis. In 1524, the Savoy’s duchy that had been called to judge the murder banned the young murderer from Monaco and from Dolceacqua as well. Soon after Bartholomew Doria was killed by an hit man. To the Admiral Andrea Doria’s delusion, the sorrow for the deaths of Lucien and Bartholomew and the common devotion to the patrons of identical monasteries of the Sainte Devote put an end to a possible feud between the powerful Grimaldi’s Family and the Dorias. Other weddings between the two families tied and strengthened the two families’ alliance along the centuries. The common story of the Dorias and the Grimaldis is made of well-defended harbours and fortresses, commercial areas such as Genoa, of coastal sailings between Provence and t Liguria, inland trails and roads yet existing. That long lasting alliance has been sealed by the recent official visits to S.A.S. Prince Albert II in Dolceacqua. “This exhibition – said Fulvio Gazzola, Dolceacqua’s Mayor – wants to thank the Grimaldi family, the Principality and the Monegasques. The Monaco economic fortune has generated a virtuous growth throughout the border since the 60s, until more recent times, up to the important donation by the Monegasque Government to complete the bike track and the constant indirect communication that boosts tourism in the Ligurian town”.

Prince Albert II of Monaco with the Dolceacqua’s Mayor Fulvio Gazzola

The current relationship between Monaco and Dolceacqua in social, occupational, sports, tourism and a common identity have been enhanced with the opening in April of a media room in the Doria Castle in Dolceacqua about this historical period of time and its links. Both Monaco and Dolceacqua Governments have a comprehensive, carefully planned heritage policy. They treat heritage issues as a priority. Preserving, promoting and making the heritage more accessible is central to developing this essential aspect of cultural policy.

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