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Built in 1215, the Prince’s Palace has been the official residence of the Prince of Monaco since 1297.

Located on top of the Rock of Monaco (the Rocher), the Prince’s Palace overlooks the Mediterranean. “It is both the heart and soul of the Principality,” as Monegasques like to say. This Genoese fortress has been the Grimaldi family residence since 1297.

According to legend, it was on 8 January 1297 that, concealing weapons beneath his Franciscan monk disguise, François Grimaldi alias Malizia (the “Malicious”) conquered the fortress, thereby installing the dynasty that has reigned over Monaco for more than seven hundred years…

The Prince’s Palace has been transformed over the centuries since construction first began on the ramparts in 1215. 

Princes Honoré I and Honoré II called on renowned architects to establish the fortress, made up of four imposing towers linked by an eight-metre tall curtain wall, as a true palace in the Italian style. In the seventeenth century, it was even celebrated as a residence characteristic of the Grand Siècle.

Built from Carrara marble, the double helix staircase that connects the Hercule Gallery to the Palace’s Royal Courtyard is inspired by the architecture of the Château de Fontainebleau. The Palace Chapel dedicated to St. Jean-Baptiste features frescoes telling the story of St. Devota, the patron saint of the Principality. The Hercule Gallery is decorated with frescoes depicting mythological figures by Claude Vignon (1593–1670) as well as works illustrating the Labours of Hercules by seventeenth-century Genoese artist Orazio dei Ferrari.

Honoré II, who was an art collector, gathered many works here which were unfortunately lost during the French Revolution, when the Palace was looted.

Some rooms at the Palace evoke historical memories – the Salon Mazarin, for example, whose name pays tribute to the link between the Grimaldi family and the family of the Cardinal de Mazarin, and the Matignon Antechamber, which is a nod to the alliance between the Grimaldis and the Matignons.*

The Prince’s Palace still has the capacity to surprise. In 2015, during renovation of the facades around the Royal Courtyard, frescoes dating from the sixteenth century were discovered hidden behind a false ceiling. “Contrary to what has been thought up to now, the décor of the Hercule Gallery is not a nineteenth-century work but a sixteenth-century fresco, in the purest tradition of grotesque Mannerist art,” says Christian Gautier, who coordinated the work.

* Through the 1715 marriage of Princess Louise-Hippolyte to Jacques François Léonor de Goyon, Count of Matignon.

© Paris Match
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