Last modified: 2010-11-12 by ivan sache
Keywords: yonne | sens | tower (white) | fleurs-de-lis: 6 (yellow) |
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Flag of Sens - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 29 March 2006
The municipality of Sens (27,952 inhabitants) is located in
north-western Burgundy, on the river Yonne; it is the capital city of
the small region of Senonais.
The region and the city are named after the Gaul tribe of Senons, which invaded Italy and seized Rome in 390 BC, led by Brennus. After the conquest of Gaul, Sens, then called Agedincum or Agendicum, was an important administrative city located on the main north-south Roman way. In the IVth century, it was the capital city of the Province of Fourth Lyonnaise (Senonia). It was then surrounded by city walls, which were increased by King Charles V (1364-1380) and completely suppressed in the beginning of the XXth century.
Sens was very early a main religious center in Gaul. The Archbishopric,
founded in the Vth century, ruled the Bishoprics of Chartres, Auxerre,
Paris, Orléans and Troyes, to which Nevers and Meaux were added in the
VIth century. The Archbishop of Sens was then the Primate of Gaul.
Under the Merovingian rule, he was also Count of Sens; in 731,
Archbishop Ebbon organized the resistance to the Sarracen invaders.
Under the Carolingian rule, the Archbishop was strongly involved in the
administration of the Empire. At the end of the IXth century, his
duties included the crowning of the sovereigns, the diplomatic
relations between the Holy See and the Empire, and the organization of
synodes. In the XIth century, the Primacy of Gaul was transferred to
Lyon. King of France Robert le Pieux (996-1031) incorporated Sens to the Royal domain in 1015. Municipal rights were granted to the town by
Louis VII (1137-1180) in 1146 and confirmed by Philippe-Auguste
(1180-1223) in 1189.
In 1140, the Council of Sens condemned the book Theologia scholarium written by the philosoph, logician and theologian Pierre Abélard (1079-1142), better known for his romance with Héloïse (1101-1164) that ended with an emasculation ordered by Canon Fulbert, Héloïse's uncle. Pope Alexander III (Rolando Bandinelli, 1159-1181) exiled in Sens in 1163-1164. Soon after his election by the anti-German party, the Pope was challenged by the anti-Pope Victor IV, supported by the German and Italian cardinals (Council of Pavia) and Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa (1155-1190). Supported by France, England, Sicily and the Iberian kingdoms, Alexander III excommunicated the Emperor in March 1160 and had to flee to France. After a long dispute, Alexander III was eventually recognized by Barbarossa in 1177 (treaty of Venise).
The building of the St. Etienne cathedral was initiated by Archbishop
Henri Sanglier c. 1130, but most of the work was done in 1140-1168;
Sens has therefore the earliest Gothic cathedral in France. Its
architecture was used as a template for several churches, for instance
the choir of the cathedral of Canterbury, rebuilt in 1175-1192 by the
architect Guillaume de Sens. The cathedral of Sens is famous for its
early Gothic statues, made at the end of the XIIth century, its
XII-XVIIth stained-glass windows and its treasure, one of the richest
in France. The marriage of King Louis IX (Saint Louis, 1226-1270) and
Marguerite de Provence (1221-1295) was celebrated in the cathedral in
In 1622, Bishop Henri de Gondi obtaineed the creation of the Archbishopric of Paris, which was officialized by the bull Universi Orbis. The Archbishopric of Sens lost the Bishoprics of Chartres, Meaux, Orléans and Paris and its religious importance started to decline.
The Senonian stratigraphic layer was defined in 1842 by Alcide d'Orbigny (1802-1857) as the upper layer of Upper Cretaceous, after white chalky layers found in the region of Sens. The exact limits of the Senonian have been fiercely disputed; d'Orbigny's definition, today widely accepted, includes all the layers placed between Turonian and Danian. Most of the chalk layers of the Paris Basin, of Lower Provence, of Belgium and England belong to the Senonian. Fossils commonly found in Senonian layers are ammonites and rudists (big oysters).
Ivan Sache, 29 March 2006
The municipal flag of Sens, seen hoisted on the town hall, is white with the municipal coat of arms surmonting the lettering Sens / en Bourgogne.
The coat of arms of Sens is (GASO):
D'azur à la tour d'argent accompagnée de six fleurs de lis d'or, trois en chef, une à chaque flanc et une en pointe (Azure a tower argent between six fleurs-de-lis or three in chief two in flanks and one in base).
Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 29 March 2006