Saturday, January 30, 2010

St Nicholas Cathedral

Saint Nicholas Cathedral, also known as the Cathedral of Monaco is the national cathedral of the Principality of Monaco and the cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Monaco. Located in Monaco-Ville, the cathedral was consecrated on January 6, 1875 during the reign of HSH Prince Charles III and was finished in 1884. It was built on the site of the original parish church of Monaco which had been built in 1252 and had been dedicated to St Nicholas.

Three years after the completion of the cathedral the faithful of Monaco were removed from the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Nice and given their own bishop as a diocese attached directly to Rome. After an agreement was signed on July 30, 1981, during the reign of HSH Prince Rainier III, the bishopric was raised to the status of an archbishopric. The cathedral is the spiritual heart of Monaco and has seen many of the most historic events in Monegasque history. It is also the place where most of the recent members of the Princely Family have been entombed, most famously Princess Grace and Prince Rainier III.

The cathedral is constructed of white stone quarried from the area around La Turbie and is dedicated to the Immaculate Conception. The Great Altar and the bishop’s throne are made of white Carrara marble. The pillars are made of granite and porphyry which gives them a colorful appearance. The building includes three naves and an ambulatory where the past Princes of Monaco are buried. Lavishly decorated, some of the noted pieces of artwork are a reredos and a Pieta made by the master artist Louis Brea from Nice; two paintings dating back to the XVIth Century, a procession canopy bearing the coat-of-arms of HSH Prince Antoine I and a gilded wood altar from the Spanish Renaissance. The cupola mosaic and most of the stained glass windows date from the XIIth Century.

St Nicholas Cathedral is at the center of the spiritual and cultural life of Monaco and the setting for many national events. Pontifical High Masses are held on all major religious festivals such as the Feast of St Devote, patron of Monaco, and Monegasque National Day. On such special occasions and for musical concerts visitors can hear the monumental four-keyboard organ which was installed by Prince Rainier III in 1976. From June to September the Sunday mass is accompanied by singing from the famous Children’s Choir of Monaco and the Cathedral Choir School. On December 6 a special mass is held for primary school children in honor of St Nicholas, the patron saint of children.

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