Last modified: 2011-06-10 by ivan sache
Keywords: vaucluse | monteux |
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Flag of Monteux - Image by Ivan Sache, 5 September 2004
Monteux (10,000 habitants - Montiliens -, 3, 841 ha) is a town located 20 km north-east of Avignon and 5 km south-west of Carpentras.
The old village of Monteux was surrounded by city walls built in the XIVth century, from which only the Gate of Avignon (Porte d'Avignon) and the New Gate (Porte Neuve) still exist, whereas the modern outskirts stretch over the rich plain surrounding Carpentras.
The Gate of Avignon was built in the XIVth century in the south of the town. It was walled up in 1695 and rebuilt in the beginning of the XVIIIth century according to plans by Mignard, one of Louis XIV's official painters and architects. The gate was decorated with the arms of the Pope and of the town of Monteux, which were destroyed in 1792. The New Gate was built in the XIVth century and then called Porte Notre-Dame. It was revamped and increased in the XVIIth century, when it took its current name. Two stone benches located under its porch were used for the meetings of the Municipal Council.
The church Notre-Dame de Nazareth was also built in the XIVth century. Its nave, built mostly in Gothic style, is 40-m long and 14-m wide. The bell tower dates back to 1605.
In 1566, a brotherhood of Black Penitents (Pénitents Noirs) was founded in Monteux. In Provence, there were several such brotherhoods, whose members could, at least theoretically, remain anonymous. The main aim of those brotherhoods, however, was the possibility of free meetings and political discussions. The Black Penitents' brotherhood remained active until 1960.
The chapel Notre-Dame des Grâces was built in 1630, during the epidemics of black plague that scoured Provence, in order to calm down l'ire de Dieu (God's wrath). It was used as an infirmary in 1720 when the black plague stroke back and later as a shelter during harsh weather events. On 21 September 1780, the river Auzon flooded the chapel and trashed its walls.
The castle of Monteux was built in the XIth century. Its donjon, a square tower called tour clémentine (Clementine tower) is the only remain left by the 1415 fire. The name of the tower refers to Pope Clement V (Bertrand de Got, Pope from 1305 to 1314), who enjoyed staying in the castle. Clement V transported the Holy See from Rome to Avignon and suppressed the order of the Knights Templars in 1311-1312 (Council of Vienne), upon request of King of France Philippe le Bel. The Clementine tower is 28-m high, 8-m wide and the width of its walls is 2 m.
Due to its geographical location, Monteux lived until the middle of the XIXth century mostly from agriculture (especially vegetable and fruit production, for which Vaucluse is famous). Monteux is today the world capital of pyrotechnics since the Lacroix-Ruggieri company established its headquarters there. The first Ruggieri pyrotechnicists came from Bolonia (Italy) to Paris in 1739. The successive generations of Ruggieri were appointed official organizers of fireworks for the King, the Emperor and eventually the Republic. They invented most of the modern fireworks, including the famous Bengal lights. In the 1960s, Ruggieri developed the concept of pyromelodic shows, during which fireworks are associated to music and an elaborated scenography. Famous examples of such shows are the Fêtes de Nuit, hold in summer at the Bassin de Neptune in the park of the palace of Versailles, and the "historical" show hold in the castle of Puy-du-Fou in Vendée. Every year in Monteux, the St. John's festival ends with a big pyromelodic show attracting more then 15,000 visitors.
The saint patron of Monteux is saint Gens (1104-1127), born in Monteux
as Gens Bournareau. He fought superstition and remains of pagan cults
in the town and had to exile in the hills of Beaucet, near
Saint-Didier, with two cows given to him by his father. Gens worked and
prayed, and hardly slept. A wolf killed one of the cows, but Gens
submitted it and the wolf worked instead of the cow it had killed.
Gens' mother, once visiting her son, was thursty. Gens punched a rock
with his finger and an everlasting spring showed up. Since then, Gens
is invocated when rain is needed. After Gens' death, his tomb, located
in the chapel of his hermitage, became a popular place of pilgrimage.
Every year, the St. Gens' brotherhood organizes the pilgrimage. On Saturday, Gens' statue and banner are carried to the hermitage by young runners. Next Sunday, a statue of Christ leaves Monteux at 6 AM to the hermitage. When the celebrations are completed, the pilgrims walk back to Monteux, where they are welcome by fireworks and bells.
Monteux is the birth city of Nicolas Saboly (XVIIth century), who wrote several Christmas carols still very popular in Provence, and of Félicien Trewey (1848-1920), a famous artist particularly known for his shadow shows and one of the main attractions of the 1900 Universal Exhibition in Paris.
Ivan Sache, 5 September 2004
The flag of Monteux is hoisted over the Clementine tower and
in front of the city hall. It is horizontally divided blue-yellow.
The colours of the flag do not seem to be derived from the municipal coat of arms, which is (Brian Timms):
D'azur à trois tours d'argent posées en fasce crênelées et maçonnées de sable, celle du milieu plus haute et ouverte du champ (Azure three towers argent in fess the center higher than the others masoned sable.
Bresc [bjs94] gives a simpler blason:
D'azur à trois tours d'argent (Azure three towers silver).
Ivan Sache, 5 September 2004
Commemorative banners used in Monteux - Images by Ivan Sache, 5 September 2004
In 2005, Monteux celebrated the 900th anniversary of saint Gens. Among the decorations designed for the event, a model of a medieval knight was placed in the middle of a big traffic circle located on the road to Avignon. The knight holds two forked banners, horizontally divided blue-yellow and red-yellow. I guess that the red-yellow banner was added for the sake of symmetry with the municipal banner, red and yellow being the colours of Provence. The knight also holds an enigmatic shield, vertically divided white-blue with a red castle.
Ivan Sache, 5 September 2004