Tradition has it that the young Corsican virgin Devota was sentenced to death by a Roman prefect because of her Christian faith. The martyr’s remains were placed on a boat by allies for the funeral in North Africa, but ended up in a storm in Monaco on January 27, 303 (or 304). There she was buried. The church dedicated to her has a permanent place in the life of the Monegasques and in the seventeenth century she became the patron saint of the principality.
The burning of a boat reflects a failed attempt by a Florentine captain in 1070 to steal the remains of Devota. During his escape attempt, his boat ended up in bad weather and was thrown back to Monaco. The then ruler Urgo Grimaldi had the captain’s ears and nose cut off and the boat burned on the beach.
Given the history of the feast of Sainte Devoté, there could be no question of canceling the ceremony because of the corona measures and the curfew, but the activities, including a solemn mass on Tuesday morning in the cathedral, were limited. The burning of the boat – a sloop with a sail, bordered by burning coniferous wood – took place near the church in the early evening. The princely family was provided with masks.