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Last modified: 2014-04-25 by ivan sache
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Flag of Granville, two versions - Images by Arnaud Leroy, 26 August 2002 (left), and Olivier Touzeau, 9 September 2013 (right)
The municipality of Granville (13,100 inhabitants in 2007; 990 ha; municipal website) is
located on the English Channel, on the western side of the Cotentin
peninsula, 25 north of Mont-Saint-Michel. The former municipality of Saint-Nicolas-près-Granville was incorporated to Granville in 1962.
Chausey, a group of islets (30 inhabitants in 1999 on Grande-Île, the only inhabited island; 650 ha) located 17 km off Granville, is part of the municipality of Granville. The traditions says that Chausey has 52 islets at high tide and 365 at low tide, therefore the number of weeks and days in a year, respectively.
Granville was founded by the Grant family, who supported Duke William
of Normandy during the conquest of England and was rewarded with a
piece of land located around the rocky spur known as Pointe du Roc. In
1230, the domain, then known as La Roque de Lihou, was transferred to
the D'Argouges family, who never lived in the town, however.
In the 14th century, the English conquerred the whole of Normandy,
except the fortified abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel; they set up their
operations base in the small port of Genêts, located across the bay.
Looking for a safer place, Lord Thomas de Scales (1397-1460) purchased
in 1439 La Roque de Lihou from Jean d'Argouges and built a fortress.
At high tide, the fortress formed an island bigger than Mont-Saint-
On 8 November 1442, the French defenders of Mont-Saint-Michel, led by Louis d'Estouteville, raided the fortress and expelled the English. King Charles VII understood the strategic potential of the place and made in 1445 of Granville a Royal town, granted with arms and free of tax. Expelled from Spain, several Jews settled in the outskirts of Granville - they were not permitted to stay intra muros - and were allowed to sell goldmsith and loan money. They contributed to the emergence of shipowner's dynasties in Granville; ships from Granville were recorded in Newfoundland as early as in 1450. Once specialized in cod fishing, the ships registered in Granville were allowed to privateer by Louis XIV. In its gilded age, Granville had between 70 and 80 privateers; 15 admirals of the French Navy were born in Granville, including Georges-René Pléville Le Pellay (1726-1805), "the wooden-legged privateer", who served as Minister of the Navy and the Colonies in 1797-1798.
Granville was bombed by the English in 1695, with 27 houses destroyed. In 1793, the Vendean army was prevented to enter the town by women who threw cider casks down to the assaulters. Severely damaged in 1803 by another English bombing, the town walls were completely rebuilt and still surround the upper town (Ville Haute).
Liberated without fightings on 31 July 1944, Granville was briefly raided on 9 March 1945 by a German commando coming from Jersey.
From 1850 onwards, Granville became a famous sea resort, often
nicknamed "the Northern Monaco" or "an elegant borough of Paris". The
casino, the concerts and theaters were enjoyed by celebrities such as
Stendhal, Michelet and Victor Hugo.
The villa Les Rhumbs, buit in 1895 by the shipowner Beust, was purchased in 1906 by Maurice Dior. His son Christian (1905-1957) spent most of his youth summer vacations in the villa, sold in 1932 to the municipality of Granville, which opened in 1938 the garden to the public (website). Christian Dior became a famous fashion designer; on 12 February 1947, Carmel Snow coined in the Harpers' Bazaar the expression new look for Dior's collection Corolle. In 1997, the villa was transformed into the Christian Dior museum. The Perfumes' Garden was inaugurated in 2005 to celebrate Christian Dior's 100th anniversary.
Ivan Sache, 22 August 2010
The flag of Granville (photos) is quartered blue-white by a white cross resarcele blue. The municipal coat of arms is placed in the middle of the flag.
A flag hoisted near the tourist's office has the writing "Granville", in blue letters, added in the right horizontal arm of the cross.
The first arms of Granville are believed to have been granted in 1487
by Charles VIII (but the "History" section of the municipal website
says that the arms were granted in 1445 by Charles VII!) as "Azure a dexter arm or issuant from a cloud of the same holding a sword in pale argent pommelled or and surrounded by three mullets of the same". The arms probably allude to the nightly, successful raid on Granville performed in 1442 by the French.
In 1697, the officers of the Armorial Général in Caen suppressed the stars and added a sun above the sword. The blazon was amended to "... ensigned by a sun in his splendor". The change was considered as derogatory in Granville: the stars represented the night watch, which is more difficult and glorious than the day watch represented by the sun.
In 1793, the tinctures were changed and the sun was discarded. The blazon was changed to "Gules a dexter arm argent issuant from a cloud azure holding a sword in pale argent pommelled or". Red might have represented the heroic behaviour of the defenders of the town during the Vendean assault.
Emperor Napoléon I partially reinstated the original arms of the town by Letters Patented dated 12 November 1811, prescribing "Azure a fess cloudy argent surrounded by three mullets or, two in chief and one in base, a dexter arm armed sable issuant sinister and holding a sword per pale or, canton [N or for "Napoléon"] and ornaments as of towns of second rank".
On 12 October 1816, King Louis XVIII, in a Decree kept in the municipal library, upon request by Mayor Jonville-Méquin, allowed the town to use the arms ascribed in the Armorial Général. The municipality would have prefered to use the arms granted by Charles VII/VIII, but this would have required the paiement of an expensive tax on the seal.
The arms used today by Granville, as shown on the municipal website, are indeed the oldest arms of the town, but with the cloud argent instead of or, "Azure a dexter arm or issuant from a cloud argent holding a sword in pale of the same pommelled or and surrounded by three mullets of the same". However, the arms used on the flag are slightly different, with the cloud replaced by a fess cloudy.
Ivan Sache, Pascal Vagnat & Olivier Touzeau, 9 September 2013
Flag of AVGG - Image by Ivan Sache, 15 July 2004
Association des Vieux Gréements Granvillais (AVGG; website) was founded in Granville on 23 December 1982. Initial membership was 20 and is today over 200. The association owns and manages the bisquine La Granvillaise, built in 1990, the mackerel-fishing cutter Albatros II and the dinghy Mirror.
In French, gréement means the rigging of a sailing ship. Recently, interest for the ancient sailing ship triggered the creation of
associations whose aim is to preserve the few ancient ships still
intact, collect and exchange information on the local variants of those
ships and, if possible, build conform replicas of the lost ships and,
last but not least, sail on them. These ancient ships are known under
the generic name of vieux gréements (lit., old riggings).
The vieux gréements are now among the most popular attractions in nautical festivals, such as the Brest 2004 festival.
The bisquine is the biggest sailing ship which was ever used for
non-leisure purpose on the French coast. A standard bisquine was 18
m long (excluding the 9 m-long boom and the 4 m-long queue-de-malet), had three masts and three layers of sails, representing an area of 340
The Norman bisquine is a local version of a ship invented in the beginning of the 19th century by the Basques and called biscayenne. The ship was progressively adopted all along the Atlantic coast, with variants adapted to the local conditions and needs. In the middle of the 19th century, several variants of the bisquine existed in northern Brittany and Normandy. However, the most famous bisquines sailed in the bay of Mont-Saint-Michel, which stretches from Cancale to Granville. From 1890 to 1930, the local shipwrights built several bisquines, which were particularly adapted to the hazardous sailing in the bay. Currents are violent there and the tides are the highest in Europe, so that sailing requires swift boats easy to maneuver. The shipwrights improved the bisquine by refining the shape of the boat and increasing its draft. The bisquine reached its peak around 1900. The main use of the bisquine was scallop and oyster fishing, which is allowed only during short, specific periods. Therefore, powerful and swift boats were required. A painting by Marin-Marie shows a stream of 400 bisquines entering the port of Cancale.
The bisquines were also the pride of Cancale and Granville and a matter of rivalry between the two ports, which ran a famous regatta each year. The first official regatta took place in 1845 but the best years of these regattas were the 1895-1914 years. The races were extremely disputed and sometimes ended with small riots on land.
The flag of AVVG is blue with a red stylized crab. Blue recalls the sea and red the traditional colour of the seals of the bisquine. The crab recalls that the bisquines were nicknamed écraseurs de crabes (crab squashers) because they often sailed so close to the coast that their hull scraped the bottom of the sea.
Ivan Sache, 15 July 2004
Flag of CPAG - Image by Ivan Sache, 22 August 2010
The flag of Comité des Pêcheurs Amateurs Granvillais (CPAG; website), the association of local, non-professional fishers, is the municipal flag of Granville with the letters "C", "P", "A" and "G", countercoloured, in the respective quarters of the flag.
Ivan Sache, 22 August 2010
Flag and burgee of YCG - by Ivan Sache, 22 August 2010
Yacht Club de Granville (YCG) was founded in 1933.
The flag of YCG (photo) is yellow with a blue cross fimbriated in white and a blue star in canton. The burgee of YCG (photo) is a triangular version of the club's flag.
Ivan Sache, 22 August 2010
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