The prince’s Palace situated in Monaco is one of the significant structures not only because of its splendid architecture but for the political importance it holds. Constructed in 1191 as a Genoese fortress, it was captured by the Grimaldi family, who still rules it today. However, in the late eighteenth century, the French stripped it of its treasures. The Palace is used as an official residence of the Grimaldi family for more than seven centuries. Although it’s common for royal families to build new palaces, the Grimaldi family invested in constructing new wings or rebuilding various sections of the palace. Therefore, the history of the family is depicted in the Palace of Monaco along with the evolution of the city.

The Prince's Palace- The Monte-Carlo of Monaco - Sheet1
The Prince’s Palace, Monaco ©Robert Harding
The Prince's Palace- The Monte-Carlo of Monaco - Sheet2
The Prince’s Palace, Monaco ©Robert Harding

The fortress was acquired by the Republic of Genoa. In 1215 a new fortress was constructed consisting of four towers connected by a defensive wall. These features form the core of the palace till date. Genoa played an important role in the politics of the 12th century. The treasure of Genoese played the role of a banker to the other countries of that era. But, the Genoese parted their ways after Emperor Frederick II challenged the power of Pope Innocent IV. In the late thirteenth century, Francois Grimaldi disguised himself as a monk and entered the castle and murdered the guard and won the castle along with his men. In honor, a statue of Francois Grimaldi is erected in the area of the Palace. The next ruler Charles I, the nephew of Francois Grimaldi, added buildings to the Palace which made the fortress look like a fortified house. One was constructed overlooking the sea for protection as well as another one against the ramparts of the eastern side.

The Grimaldi was successful in defending their land from invasions. Despite the damage and the bombarding, the palace was restored. Finally, Grimaldi allied with France and succeeded in gaining strength and power. The transformation of the fortified house into a palace took place in the 15th century. The east side of the fort was constructed into a three-storeyed wing which was guarded by walls that connected the bastion towers. The State Hall which is commonly known as the Guard Room and the principal room are prominent areas of the wing, along with the balconies designed for the private use of the royal family.

The Prince's Palace- The Monte-Carlo of Monaco - Sheet3
The Prince’s Palace, Monaco ©Robert Harding
The Prince's Palace- The Monte-Carlo of Monaco - Sheet4
The Prince’s Palace, Monaco ©Robert Harding

Furthermore, during the sixteenth century, the treaty of Tordesillas came into use which clarified the position of Monaco as a protectorate of Spain. This, in turn, helped the ruler to focus on the other side of residence as there was no constant need to defend it. Hence, many additions to the Palace were carried out. The courtyard was built again by architect Dominique Gallo. Today, we witness the ceilings painted with the scenes of the Labours of Hercules which were designed during the later reign of Honore II. Because of the paintings, the upper arcades are known as the Gallery of Hercules. A new wing was constructed on the other side of the courtyard. All saints tower and the Serravalle Bastion were also some of the additions to the palace during this period. All saints Tower consisted of a semi-circular shape and guarded the end of a rock promontory. Man-made caves in the rock were connected to it. Also, it had gun platforms and cannons. Further, Cistern was installed under the courtyard which provided the troops with sufficient water. Later the construction work reduced as Monaco became politically unstable.

The Prince's Palace- The Monte-Carlo of Monaco - Sheet5
The Prince’s Palace, Monaco ©Robert Harding
The Prince's Palace- The Monte-Carlo of Monaco - Sheet6
The Prince’s Palace, Monaco ©Robert Harding

Honore II was responsible for the art collection during the seventeenth century. He also gave a new image to the palace by deciding to soften the fortified appearance of the Palace. Ar. Jacques Catone added decorative elements on the front facade of the palace, glazing was added to the upper loggias as well as at the entrance. Also, new structures were added during this period. Hence, we can see different architectural styles applied in the structure of the palace along with the personal touches of the rulers who ruled Monaco. We can witness Renaissance-style palazzi in the principal facade. The rear side of the facade seems untouched and hence showcases the medieval fortifications. The palace consists of some iconic areas like the horseshoe-shaped staircase, gallery of Hercules, Mirror gallery, Throne room, Blue room, Red room (named because of the use of red brocade), York room, Yellow room. Yet the most unusual room in the Palace is the Mazarin Room, which is a drawing-room lined with polychrome boiseries. Although the interior of the Palace showcases 18th-century architecture, the exterior depicts the 19th and 20th-century look due to the restoration and rebuilding of many elements of the palace.

Moreover, tourists are also allowed in some sections of the palace. Hence, a common man can witness the construction as well as a luxury that has been evolved throughout the history of Monaco. The citizens of Monaco are allowed in the courtyard on the occasions of marriage and birth ceremonies and the Prince addresses the crowd through the Gallery of Hercules. Also, the courtyard is used to host annual children’s Christmas parties and many such events. Hence, we can say, the palace and the royal family plays an important role in the life of its citizens in today’s era as well.

Architectural Journalist

Rethinking The Future

Arundhati Chitnis is an architect and a writer based in Dubai. She believes in the architecture which can cater the needs of the users and hence apply user centric approach in her designs. Also, she believes every structure has a story to tell, we just have to give it a voice. 

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