18.5.11

The Heart of Monaco

Wednesday, 5 August 1891 - Monaco

I must apologize for being silent these last few days. TimeTweets was a bit dodgy. I think the good techs back home in the 27th cenutry have fixed it.

I have not been idle though. The last couple of days I have been recording Monaco as it looked in 1891. It now seems rather modest, knowing the tall buildings that will one day cover this tiny 3/4 mile nation.

Monaco is technically a city-state so the capital and nation are one and the same. The closest thing the principality has to a capital is the oldest section of the city known as the Rock of Monaco, or Monaco-Ville. It was the original medieval settlement and many of the walls are still here.

Rock of Monaco or Monaco-Ville
The most impressive building is the Prince’s Palace, which began as a fortress in 1191. In 1297 Francois Grimaldi captured it disguised as a monk. Doesn't sound cricket to me. Francois’s family still lives there.

Prince's Palace
In other countries when the royal family wishes to live in a nicer palace, they simply build a new one elsewhere. In Monaco, lacking space, they add a new wing. The resulting castle is a hodge-podge of various periods. They did whitewash the whole affair to give it a more homogenous look. Thanks to the money coming in from the casino across the bay, Charles III has been able to do restorations and a few additions to the ancient building.

On Tuesdays the Prince allows tours of part of the palace. There are frescos and paintings are everywhere. One room has rich red Damask material covers the furniture, as well as the walls.

The tour guide proudly pointed out the Duke of York room. I wondered why they had a room named after an English duke, then found out the poor chap had died there in 1767. No, nothing underhanded. Apparently the Duke was traveling by ship, fell ill and landed at the first port he came to. The Prince of Monaco put him in one of his best rooms, but despite Monaco’s best efforts, the Duke died. King George III of England was quite touched by the act of kindness toward his family. Not a bad ally for a tiny nation.

Close by is the palace is the Cathédrale Notre-Dame-Immaculée (Cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception.) It is better known as Saint Nicholas Cathedral. I not sure why it has two names. Although the church dates back to 1252, the current structure built on it’s foundations dates back to the late decade.

Cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception
or St. Nicholas Cathedral
The streets in the old section are narrow lanes, the whole place keeping it’s medieval flavor, without the medieval filth. The place is very clean and well paved. Besides government buildings, like the post office, there are shops. I visited them all to get vid.

On the southern and eastern end, on the rocks overlooking the sea, is the Avenue and Garden de St. Martin. Prince Honore V (reigned 1819-1841) carved the road out of solid rock and designed the garden. (Well, actually he had some laborers carve out the road, but he paid for it.)

Avenue and Garden of St. Martin
in the distance Monte Carlo
If one looks over the edge you can see prickly pear cactus clinging to the rocks. It’s said Franciscan monks planted them there to help defend the city from invaders. Yes, I can see where anyone brave enough to scale the cliff would be put off by these vicious plants.

Overlooking the garden is the Convent and College of La Visitation founded in 1673. The sisters abandoned it during the French Revolution. After that it was used as barracks, until 1862 when it was placed at the disposal of the Jesuits. In 1872 they made it an educational establishment. Next century they will turn it into an art museum.

Across from it is an orphanage for a couple of dozen girls. The are no poor houses, though there is an asylum for foreign laborers down on their luck. Poverty seems non-existent in Monaco at this time save for a few unfortunates that fell through the cracks and are given aid.

This is the real Monaco, in contrast to the gaudy, noisy Monte Carlo filled with tourists. I’m glad I am able to show how it looked before the skyscrapers and landfills will change it all. I can see why so many have fallen in love with Monaco.

Monte Carlo Casino, in the distance the Rock of Monaco
(the gaudy part of Monaco overlooking the heart of Monaco)

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