LANGUAGE: French; Italian; English; Monégasque
RELIGION: Roman Catholicism; small number of Church of England members
Aside from Vatican City, Monaco is the world's smallest independent state. It is a principality—a state ruled by a prince. In 1997, the Grimaldi family celebrated 700 years of rule in Monaco. Located on the French Riviera (the region including southern France and its neighbors along the Mediterranean Sea), Monaco borders the Mediterranean Sea. It shares its remaining borders with France. Since the establishment of its famous casino at Monte Carlo in 1861, Monaco has been a mecca (a sought-after location) for the rich and famous. Its glamorous image increased when its reigning monarch (ruler), Prince Rainier III (b.1923), married American film star Grace Kelly (1929–82) in 1956.
Today, Monaco is a model of order and civility. However, it had its troubled times as the ruling family struggled to keep their tiny country independent of its large and powerful European neighbors. The principality was occupied by Germany during World War II (1939–45).
In the 1970s, Prince Rainier began encouraging the development of light, non-polluting industries. He aimed to prevent Monaco from becoming overly dependent on casino revenue. In the 1980s, new beaches were developed from reclaimed land, and luxury high-rise apartment buildings and condominiums were constructed to appeal to wealthy residents and investors.
Princess Grace was killed in a car accident in 1982. She was mourned in Monaco and throughout the world. Princess Caroline (b.1957), eldest daughter of Princess Grace and Prince Rainier, has taken on her mother's official duties. Her brother, Prince Albert (b.1958), is heir to the throne. (Monaco's constitution dictates that the succession to the throne will be to male heirs only.) Monaco became a member of the United Nations in 1993, with Prince Albert serving as the head of the Monaco delegation.
Monaco is situated at France's southeastern corner, near the Italian border. With an area of 1.9 square miles (0.73 square kilometers), it is smaller than New York City's Central Park. The principality is composed of four distinct areas: the royal palace, the gambling casino and hotel area, the port and business district, and an industrial zone. Its population is entirely urban.
The people of Monaco are called Monégasques. Of Monaco's estimated population of 30,000 people, only about 5,000 are citizens. The remainder are foreigners attracted by Monaco's glamorous lifestyle and, more practically, by the absence of income and inheritance taxes. Native Monégasques come mainly from an area of central Europe once called Rhaetia and now part of Switzerland and Austria. More than half (over 50 percent) of Monaco's foreign residents are French, and about 17 percent are Italian. The rest belong to diverse nationalities including Belgian, British, and American.
French is Monaco's official language. Residents also speak Italian, English, and Monégasque, a local dialect derived from both Genoese Italian (a variation on Italian spoken in Genoa) and Provençal French (a variation on French spoken in southern France).
A colorful legend surrounds Monaco's patron saint, St. Dévote. She was born in Corsica (an island in the Mediterranean Sea) in the third century AD . Persecuted by the Romans for her religious beliefs, she died a martyr's death before the age of twenty. Witnesses heard the voice of the Lord answer her dying prayer and saw a white dove fly from her mouth. Following instructions they had received in a vision, two priests put St. Dévote's body in a boat with them and set out to sea. The boatmen followed the flight of the dove and landed in Monaco. The saint's body was buried there at a chapel that is still dedicated to her. Her martyrdom is commemorated every year on January 26, a national holiday. As part of the observance, Prince Rainier's family (the Grimaldis) and other government officials set fire to a wooden boat in front of the church of St. Dévote near the harbor.
On a darker note, another legend claims that Rainier I, an ancestor of the current monarch, wronged a woman. She then placed a curse on his family, casting a shadow on any happiness they might enjoy. The Grimaldi family has had its share of unhappy events in the past few decades. In 1982, Princess Grace was killed in a car accident. In 1990 Stefano Casiraghi, the husband of Princess Caroline (the eldest daughter of Prince Rainier III and Princess Grace), died while competing in a boating race. Princess Caroline was thus widowed with three small children.
About 95 percent of Monaco's population are Roman Catholics. Roman Catholicism is the state religion. Monaco also belongs to the Church of England's Gibraltar diocese.
Most national holidays are holy days of the Christian calendar. These include Easter (in March or April), Ascension Day (forty days after Easter), Pentecost Monday (the seventh Monday after Easter), the feasts of the Assumption (August 15), Fête-Dieu (All Saints' Day—November 1), the Immaculate Conception (December 8), and Christmas (December 25). The martyrdom of the country's patron saint, St. Dévote, is commemorated on January 26. Other holidays include New Year's Day (January 1) and Labor Day (May 1).
Monégasques live in a modern, industrialized, Christian country. Hence, many of the rites of passage that young people undergo are religious rituals. These include baptism, first communion, confirmation, and marriage. In addition, many families mark a student's progress through the education system with graduation parties.
The people of Monaco interact with each other in ways similar to those of people in sophisticated cities worldwide. Men and women greet each other with handshakes, or may kiss each other on both cheeks.
Monaco's residents enjoy a high standard of living. They have both the greatest per capita (per person) income and the highest level of car ownership in the world. The demand for housing is so great that in order to have lawns they are put on the roofs of some new apartment buildings. Architectural styles range from ornate, nineteenth-century villas to modern, high-rise apartment buildings. Meeting the high demand for luxury housing is a priority for both the government and the construction industry. In the late 1990s, rent for a small apartment was $20,000 a month or more, and the purchase price of a one-bedroom apartment was likely to be $600,000.
The typical family in Monaco, as in most of Monaco's western European neighbors, is the nuclear family composed of parents and their children. Most Monégasque families have one or two children. Due to the small size of their country, the residents of Monaco have an unusually personal relationship with their royal family. All adult Monégasques are invited to the palace to celebrate major events of the royal family, such as engagements, weddings, and christenings. All Monégasque children under the age of twelve are invited to an annual palace Christmas party that includes refreshments, entertainment, and a gift for every child.
Monégasques wear modern Western-style clothing typical of developed countries. Its many wealthy residents can be seen wearing the latest in high fashion, especially in the evening, at Monaco's restaurants, casinos, and other entertainment spots. Topless bathing is common and accepted on the beaches in Monaco (as in other parts of the French Riviera). However, dress standards off the beach are much more conservative.
Monaco's cuisine is Mediterranean, featuring plenty of olive oil, fresh tomatoes, onions, garlic, black olives, and anchovies. Fresh fish—including sea bass, red mullet, and daurade —are plentiful and widely eaten, as is the famous fish stew, bouillabaisse . The region is also known for its abundance of fresh vegetables. Salads are popular, as well as dishes such as ratatouille, a vegetable stew made from tomatoes, onions, peppers, and eggplant (called aubergine on the Mediterranean coast). Champagne has the status of a national beverage in Monaco. (A single glass can cost as much as $40 at a fashionable restaurant.)
Education in Monaco is required between the ages of six and sixteen, and literacy (the ability to read and write) is practically universal. The school curriculum is based on that of France. Students are also taught the history of Monaco and given some formal instruction in Monégasque, one of the dialects spoken in the principality.
Monaco's national orchestra has performed with many leading conductors and soloists. Monte Carlo's historic theater, the Salle Garnier, is a world-famous venue (site) for opera, ballet, and orchestral concerts. Monaco also has its own ballet company, established in 1975. The Oceanographic Museum houses an impressive aquarium and a display of whale skeletons, and reflects the interest of Prince Albert (1848–1922) who once ruled Monaco.
Under Prince Rainier III, Monaco established an annual literary prize awarded to a Monégasque author writing in French. The Princess Caroline Library specializes in literature for children.
Monaco has practically no unemployment. Its 5,000 citizens are guaranteed lifetime employment by Prince Rainier III. Over two-thirds of its labor force commutes to work from France or Italy. Tourism is a major employer since over 600,000 visitors come from abroad every year. Monte Carlo's casino enterprise provides numerous jobs in its restaurants, hotel, and theater, as well as in the casino itself. Many workers—especially those who commute from neighboring countries—are employed in the non-polluting light industries that have been established in Monaco since the 1970s. Products include perfumes and cosmetics, pharmaceutical goods, precision instruments, jewelry, leather goods, and radio parts.
Monaco is famous for two auto racing events: the Monaco Grand Prix and the Monte Carlo Rally. Many consider the Grand Prix to be the world championship of Formula One auto racing. The race course lies totally within Monaco's modest borders. Residents gather at strategic spots throughout the principality to view the race. Other well-known sporting events include the Monte Carlo Golf Open and the prestigious Monte Carlo Tennis Open.
Golf and tennis are popular spectator and participation sports in Monaco. Overlooking the Mediterranean Ocean, the Monte Carlo Country Club's tennis courts are some of the most scenic in Europe. Monégasques also enjoy a variety of water sports, including sailing and big-game fishing.
Monaco has been known as a gambling mecca since the opening of the casino at Monte Carlo in the mid-1800s. Residents and visitors alike enjoy Monaco's beaches, its numerous museums and other cultural venues, and its beautiful gardens. The Princess Grace Rose Garden boasts 150 different varieties of roses. Monaco's residents receive both foreign and locally produced radio and television programs.
Princess Grace established shops in Monte Carlo and Monaco-Ville where potters and other local artisans can sell their work.
A watchful police force sees to it that street crime is virtually nonexistent. There are nearly 500 police officers who patrol the streets of the tiny principality. Eighty-one surveillance cameras allow officers at police headquarters to further monitor any suspicious activity. Some residents are concerned that industrial development and residential construction are detracting from the quality of daily life.
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European Travel Commission. Monaco. [Online] Available http://www.visiteurope.com/Monaco/Monaco01.htm , 1998.
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