Christina O., the “palace of the seas” by Aristotle Onassis, a star in Cannes

The sulphurous story of the mythical yacht Christina, by Aristotle Onassis, which hosted his wedding with Jackie Kennedy. (Martinique, March 18, 1969.) STAFF / AFP

In his movie Triangle of Sadness, presented in official competition at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival, Ruben Östlund chose to (fictionally) blow up this exceptional vessel. Which nevertheless houses the most sulphurous stories of its time.

They had sealed their union on this floating palace. On October 20, 1968, Jackie Kennedy, former First Lady of the United States said yes to Greek tycoon Aristotle Onassis aboard the Christina O, a legendary frigate, a collector’s item. Sixty-eight years later, it is on this same yacht that the new film by Swedish director Ruben Östlund is set, which won the Palme d’or for The Square in 2017. Triangle of Sadness, selected in the official competition of the Cannes Film Festival, depicts the confrontation of a newly rich couple struggling with a Marxist captain. Thus telling the story of a shipwreck, between power games and societal rupture, sailing aboard a symbolic ship.

Private Tour of Aristotle Onassis and Jackie Kennedy’s Yacht, Christina O

The most luxurious in the world

The history of this legendary yacht, initial property of the Canadian government stamped “Stormont”, begins in 1954, when Aristotle Onassis acquires it. The latter bought it for the modest sum of 34,000 dollars (equivalent to almost 365,000 today), and renamed it “Christina O.”, in homage to his daughter, then 4 years old – fruit of his union with Athina Livanos. At that time, the Greek businessman, richer than ever, set himself the task of transforming the boat into a palace of the seas, and undertook a refit to the tune of 4 million dollars.

Under the ideas of the German architect Cäsar Pinnau (to whom we owe the Bristol swimming pool), the yacht was then completely redesigned. Aristotle Onassis had a landing strip installed there for his helicopter, as well as a swimming pool that transformed into a dance floor for the wettest evenings. Able to accommodate up to 250 guests, it is 99.3 meters long, has 17 cabins, a jacuzzi, and a “Lapis” lounge adorned with a sumptuous lapis lazuli fireplace. “Madame, you are sitting on the largest penis in the world,” the wealthy man then had fun saying.

“Madam, do you know that you are sitting on the largest penis in the world? »

Aristotle Onassis

Gatsby the magnificent

Very quickly, the frigate became a place of pilgrimage where Hollywood crowded to attend the great receptions of the sixties. Building on its reputation, the ship hosted the wedding of Prince Rainier III of Monaco and Grace Kelly in 1956. On other days, we come across there, a cocktail in hand in swimming trunks, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Winston Churchill, Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, Marlene Dietrich, Ava Gardner and even, a few years later, the Kennedys.

A taste of freedom that will surely already please the first lady of the United States, when she first boarded the yacht in 1963. Five years after the death of John Fitzgerald, on October 20, 1968, the widow celebrated her wedding with Aristotle Onassis, this new The Magnificent Gatsby, between the walls of Christina O’s living room. A photo, taken that same year, immortalizes the young wife in sandals and dark glasses, with her children. Together, they pose, amused, in front of the huge hull of the boat moored on the shore of the port of Scorpios Island. With a broad smile, Jackie seems happy. Happy to take off.

Jackie Kennedy and her three children seated in front of the huge hull of the yacht Christina O. Getty Images

go up in smoke

In 1975, when the tycoon died, the boat was bequeathed to his daughter Christina, who then handed it over to the Greek government. The institution first made it a presidential ship, before leaving it in the hands of many owners. In 1998, John-Paul Papanicolaou, a close friend of the Onassis family, bought it, and, like his predecessor, had fun restoring it to its former glory. In 2014, she was sold for 25 million euros before falling into the hands of the Greek shipping company Morley Yachts. Who, since then, offers it for rent for up to 80,000 euros per day in low season.

Sixty-eight years later, Ruben Östlund has reclaimed the history of this extraordinary vessel. For his movie, Triangle of Sadness, the most ambitious yet, the director decided to (fictionally) blow up the ship. “We wanted to capture the world of fashion and blow things up spectacularly, including the yacht which has a very amusing symbolic value,” he said on February 5 in the columns of variety. A great way to blow this whole story up in smoke.

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Christina O., the “palace of the seas” by Aristotle Onassis, a star in Cannes