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Monaco Cathedral

Monaco Cathedral
Monaco Cathedral / Berthold Werner, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

WorldBlue  In short

The present day Cathedral of Monaco symbolizes the rebirth of this small principality in the late 19th century, when Monaco turned into independent and very rich country. The old, medieval church was torn down and in its place was built new, magnificent cathedral.

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GPS coordinates
43.7303 N 7.4227 E
Location, address
Europe, Monaco, Rock of Monaco
Alternate names
Cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, Notre Dame of Monaco, Saint Nicholas Cathedral (the previous church, the name erroneously is attributed to present cathedral)
Name in French
Cathédrale Notre-Dame-Immaculée de Monaco
Charles Lenormand
Architectural style
Neo-Romanesque, Neo-Byzantine
Year of construction
1875 – 1903
Branch of Christianity

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Old church

Present-day cathedral is located in the place where the first chapel of Monaco was built.

Permit to build a Christian chapel at the Castle of Monaco was issued by Innocent IV in 1247. This letter was issued on the day of Saint Nicholas of Myra – the same prototype of contemporary Santa Claus. Thus in 1322, it was decided to dedicate this church to this saint, patron of seafarers.

Construction of this church started in 1252 and over the years this structure was extended and made more beautiful.

New cathedral
Interior of Monaco Cathedral
Interior of Monaco Cathedral / Archangel12, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

After lengthy quarrels the parish of Monaco was separated from the Diocese of Nice in 1868, and it was decided to build a new, large cathedral.

It was a time when Monaco suddenly became prosperous – there was built a railway and the prince of Monaco had the happy thought to build a luxurious casino in 1863. Thus the small principality had the means to afford an impressive cathedral.

In 1874 the old church of Saint Nicholas was demolished and in 1875 the construction of the new cathedral started.

Cathedral was designed by Charles Lenormand, architect from Paris. For the construction was used the wonderful, light-colored limestone from the nearby La Turbie in France.

Construction lasted until 1903 and the cathedral was consecrated in 1911.

Today the cathedral plays important role in the cultural and religious life of the country. Here are organized numerous events such as the singing of Cathedral Choir School.

The history of the royal family is closely linked to the cathedral – here are buried numerous members of the Grimaldi family including Albert I, Grave Kelly, and Rainier III. Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier married here in 1956.


Cathedral was built in the Neo-Romanesque style with many features in the Neo-Byzantine style.

Retable paintings by Ludovico Brea, Monaco Cathedral
Retable paintings by Ludovico Brea, Monaco Cathedral / Berthold Werner, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Sculptures in the facade were made by Henri Louis Cordier in 1883 – 1901. In this period of time he made also sculptures for the casino in Monte Carlo.

Beautiful is the Neo-Byzantine mosaic on the apse of the cathedral.

Cathedral has 183 stained glass windows, all restored after the damage in World War II.

From the old church has been inherited important pieces of Renaissance art. Especially notable are paintings: retable paintings by Ludovico Brea, a famous Renaissance painter were made around 1500 and show Mary Magdalene, Saint John with the donator for the painting – Antoine Teste at his feet as well as Saint Nicholas, Saint Stephen, Saint Lawrence, and archangel Michael weighing souls. Another important piece of art is "Pieta" by François Brea (nephew of Louis Brea), painted in the time period between 1500 and 1505.

Organ in the Monaco Cathedral
Organ in the Monaco Cathedral / Haydn Blackey, Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

From the old Chapel comes also the Chapel of Blessed Sacrament with a beautiful altar made from gilded walnut in Spanish Renaissance style, in 1667. This chapel serves as a funeral chapel for bishops and archbishops of Monaco.

In the cathedral are two organs, also the Grand Organ with 7000 pipes which was installed in 1976-1980. It is adorned with thin plates of plexiglass which can be illuminated according to the tone of the instrument.

  1. Eve Ann Lovero, Vino Con Vista Italy Travel Guides and Events, The Cathedral of Monaco in the French Riviera and the Royal Weddings. Accessed on July 19, 2015

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The history of the Principality of Monaco dates back to the Middle Ages, when the destiny of this tiny state intermingled with that of the Grimaldis, from Italy. During the night of 8th January, the Grimaldis captured the Rock and swore that at no price would they relinquish it.

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