Monaco chapelle St Honoré

Do you know where the final resting place of the members of the Princely Family in Monaco is?

Although many people would answer this question by naming the Cathedral de Notre-Dame-Immaculée, the truth is that dating back to Jean II Grimaldi – also known as Giovanni Grimaldi “Le Magnifique” – (1468 – 1505), the cathedral is the resting place for most of Monaco’s ruling monarchs and their consorts, but not for the entire Princely Family. HSH Prince Rainier III was also buried here in the 2005, next to his beloved wife, Princess Grace. Nevertheless, other members of the Princely family are resting not far from the cathedral, in Monaco-Ville.

Located in Monaco-Ville, in front of the National Council – “Cunsiyu Naçiunale de Munegu”, in Monégasque -, and next to the offices of the Ministry of State, there is a little chapel, closed to the public and surrounded by a high fence and shrubs. Probably hundreds of people walk in front of this chapel every day without noticing it, but it is one of the most discrete places in the Principality. 

This little chapel is popularly known as the “Chapelle de la Paix”, and according to a plaque located outside the building, it was founded by Prince Honoré V (1778 – 1841) and enlarged and reinaugurated by his nephew Prince Charles III on 19 July, 1863. 

Initially, the chapel was located next to the ancient hospice, later relocated in Les Salines and turned into a modern hospital by Prince Albert I in 1902.

Precisely a year after, on 20 February, 1903 the chapel was deconsecrated and became the headquarters of the International Institute for Peace – “Institut International de la Paix”; an international organisation founded by Prince Albert I together with the Peace Nobel Prize winner Bertha von Suttner. 

In recent years, the importance of the International Institute for Peace has been revalued as a precursor institution of the League of Nations (1920) and the United Nations (1945). This organisation aimed to promote publications, coordinate international conferences and diverse activities about international law, the resolution of international conflicts, the statistics on wars and armaments, the development of international organisations and the teaching of pacific practices. 

Monaco chapelle St Honoré
Monaco chapelle St Honoré / WikiPedia Commons

The institute operated in the chapel until the beginning of World War I in 1914.  Afterwards, the venue remained without a specific use for more than fifty years, until 1968, when Prince Rainier III decided to restore the chapel in honour of Saint Honoré in recognition of the onomastic of its founder, Prince Honoré V. 

In the following years, the interior of the chapel and surroundings, gardens remained closed to the public, and by Sovereign’s decision of the Prince it became the resting place of various members of his immediate family, including: 

  • HSH Prince Pierre of Monaco (1895 – 1964), father of HSH Prince Rainier III and HSH Princess Antoinette; 
  • John Brian Gilpin (1930 – 1983), husband of Princess Antoinette;
  • Baroness Christine Alix of Massy (1951 – 1989), the youngest daughter of Princess Antoinette;
  • Stefano Casiraghi (1960 – 1990), second husband of HRH the Princess of Hannover; 
  • HSH Princess Antoinette, Baroness de Massy (1920-2011), sister of Prince Rainier III; 
  • Baroness Elizabeth-Ann de Massy (1947 – 2020), also a daughter of Princess Antoinette, is buried next to her mother on the exterior gardens of the chapel. 

Nonetheless, following their wishes, other members of the Princely family have found their final rest abroad. For example, HSH Princess Charlotte, Duchess of Valentinois (1898 – 1977), the mother of Rainier III, was buried at Château de Marchais, a state of the Grimaldi family located in the north of France, where she lived for many years after she renounced and ceded her rights to the throne to her son. Also, HSH Princess Alice of Monaco (1858 – 1925) – consort of HSH Prince Albert I, and HSH Princess Ghislaine, Dowager Princess of Monaco (1900 – 1991) – consort of Prince Louis II, are buried in Paris, at Père-Lachaise Cemetery and the Passy Cemetery respectively. 

As part of the distinctive identity of Monaco, and like many other families, the Princely family preserve the good memories and legacy of their defunct members and safeguard their traditions like a torch in flame, a torch to be passed to the new generations to come.

Written by Juan Dávila y Verdin, FRSA (Argentina, 1984) – Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. MBA alumni from the International University of Monaco. BA (Hons.) in Global Politics and International Relations, Birkbeck College, University of London. Currently part of the International Law and Diplomacy program organised by United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) and the University for Peace (UPEACE) – UN Mandated. His research “National identities and cultural resilience in the European microstates in the twenty-first century: the current challenges in Liechtenstein, Monaco and San Marino. A contribution to the study of international relations.” is part of MONARCHÉO, the exposition organised by the Museum of Prehistoric Anthropology of Monaco.

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