The beginnings of an English church for Monaco
English speaking tourism was an established feature of life on the Côte d’Azur
and in Monaco a hundred and fifty years ago.
Some visitors settled permanently, and in so doing, moved beyond the temporary
provision of worship centres for visitors in hotels, to the building of their own churches.
A first initiative was made in Monaco in 1869, by a
Mr. de Mello to erect a ‘Protestant Temple Church’ but it did not succeed.
In 1888, Mr. Edward Smith, Monaco Banker, British Vice-Consul and devout churchman, bought a plot of land and erected a wooden church in the neighbouring French commune of Beausoleil. This was known as the Église Anglo-Americaine.
Bishop Sandford, Church of England Bishop in Gibraltar at that time, and responsible for chaplaincies in southern Europe, did not approve of the initiative. Unlike France, where church and state are separate, the Roman Catholic Church in Monaco is the Established Church of the Principality. Introducing a chapel of the English Established Church was a diplomatic issue. The Anglophone expatriate community however, embraced then, as now, several nationalities, and denominations. Confident in his mission, Smith went ahead and appointed a pastor without episcopal authorisation.
Integration into the diocese
Bishop Sandford eventually incorporated the church into the diocese in 1893, under the supervision of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, a foreign missionary organisation, with European chaplaincies in its care. The building was dedicated in honour of St Cyprian the Martyr. It prospered until 1913 when it was demolished as part of an enlargement scheme. Work was halted by the first World War, when many expatriates were obliged to leave the country. After the War, services resumed in temporary accommodation, while other arrangements were being negotiated. The Salle communale of Beausoleil is built on the site once occupied by St Cyprian’s. The bell, a few ornaments, and the credence table used to serve the main altar, are all that survive of the original church.
A New Beginning
In 1921, the Princely family of Monaco gave the land on which the present building is sited for raising an Anglican Church in the Principality. St Paul’s was built and dedicated by the Bishop of Gibraltar on 19 February 1925. The avenue des Fleurs in Monte-Carlo, on which it was located, was re-named avenue de Grande-Bretagne in honour of the occasion.
Pictured is the original design for St Paul’s. As can be seen from an examination of the site, the building is not only a very clever use of the available land but also and engineering masterpiece. The edifice is built on four separate levels. The top level is the church itself. From street level on avenue de Grande Bretagne, this presents simply as a modest church. On the second level, partly visible from avenue de Grande Bretagne, is the chaplain’s apartment, which matches the footprint of the church above it.
On one side the chaplain’s apartment faces onto avenue de Grande Bretagne, but for the greater part it faces directly onto the Mediterranean (before Houston Palace was built). The next level is now the Library. This section of the building is half the size of the apartment above so as to fit the contours of the rock face on which it was built. The bottom floor is the same size as the Library as serves as the apartment for the sacristan.
You will note that the style of the current tower is quite different to the present one.
Other modifications were made to the style of the windows and the sacristan’s apartment was added at lower ground level.
The Lord Bishop of Gibraltar
laying the foundation stone in 1922.
The present building was not then as you see it now. Over the years it has been gradually
enriched and beautified with marble, wood and glass.
Note in this photograph, taken in 1939, that the pulpit is on the opposite side of the nave from where it now stands, and that the lectern has been moved from the left-hand side to where it now rests on the mid right-hand side. A marble altar rail was also added to form the Lady Chapel.
Inside Saint Paul’s
The rear of the church looks much as it does
now except for the addition of five
stained glass windows under the organ loft.