St Devota

Although there is only one European country named after a saint - San Marino (see Orthodox San Marino), there is also one European country named after monks - Monaco, from the Greek ‘monachos’, monk. Sadly the country has long since ceased to be a refuge for ascetics; since 1862 it has been famous for one thing, not a monastery, but its casino, in its capital Monte Carlo. Nevertheless, as in other Western European countries, fragments of the old Orthodox piety remain among the Monegasques, among them their devotion to the patroness of Monaco, St Devota. Who was she?

Devota was born in Corsica, of which she is also considered to be patroness, in the late third century. She was brought up by an Orthodox Christian nurse. The latter fed St Devota, not only physically, but also spiritually. As a young girl, Devota learnt that Rome, then ruled by the tyrant Diocletian, had sent an official whose task it was to launch a persecution of the Orthodox on the island.

Taking refuge at the home of a noble called Euticius, she made ready for the coming assault on the Faith. She spent her days in prayer, fasting and the reading of the Scriptures. Eutices refused to give up Devota to the Roman official and the latter therefore had Eutices poisoned. Seizing Devota, he attempted to force her to sacrifice to the pagan Roman idols. Devota refused and was tortured atrociously on the rack. Here she gave up her soul and a white dove was seen to fly from her lips.

The pagan Romans ordered her relics to be burned but two priests, forewarned in a dream, took them away by night. At first wanting to sail to Africa, they were guided to Monaco. Here the precious relics were honoured by the people of the town who have ever since revered the holy virgin as their patroness. St Devota was martyred in 303 and she is feasted on 27 January.

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