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Ecole Polytechnique (Military College, France)

Last modified: 2003-05-17 by
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Presentation of the Ecole Polytechnique

Ecole Polytechnique, a.k.a. l'X (the X [letter]), is one of the most prestigious engineering schools in France.

The School was founded in 1794 in Paris by Monge and Carnot, in order to train scientists and engineers for the senior branches of civil service. Imperial Decree of 27 Messidor Year 12 (16 July 1804) organized it as a military school. Nowadays, Ecole Polytechnique still comes under the authority of the Ministery of National Defence. The students shall obey the military discipline and wear a uniform. Ecole Polytechnique, initially located in Paris intra muros, is now located in Palaiseau, 20 km south of Paris.

Ivan Sache, 12 March 2002

Description of the flag

On 14 Frimaire Year 12 (5 December 1804), all Imperial regiments were given a flag during the ceremony of eagle giving, held on Champ-de-Mars. The flag of the Ecole Polytechnique could not have been manufactured in due time, therefore the school received the flag of the 29th Line Regiment.
In a letter dated 17 Nivôse Year 3 (7 January 1805), General Dejean, 'Minister-Director of the War Administration', informed General Lecuée, Governor of the Ecole Polytechnique, that Marshall Berthier, Minister of War, had proposed Patrie, Science, Gloire (Fatherland, Science, Glory) as the motto for the School. On 21 Germinal Year 13 (11 April 1805), an internal order described the flag officially granted to the School with Lecuée's agreement. The flag should bear, in gold letters, on one side:

L'Empereur des Français aux élèves de l'Ecole polytechnique (The Emperor of the French to the students of Ecole Polytechnique),

and on the other side:

Pour la Patrie Les Sciences Et la Gloire (For Fatherland, Sciences and Glory)

Writings were in capital letters, with cedilla and accents when required.

This first flag was most probably burned with most of the flags of the Imperial Army in Hôtel des Invalides on 31 March 1814. A fac-simile of the original flag was manufactured in 1894 for the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Ecole Polytechnique. It is still displayed in the Council Room of the School.

In 1901, the Ecole Polytechnique was given a new flag. In 1940, after the defeat of the French Army, the Ecole Polytechnique was demilitarized and moved to Lyon, in the non-occupied zone. The flag of the School was secretely given to the Archbishop of Bordeaux. Three students of the School volunteered to bring back the flag from Bordeaux to Lyon, which was at that time extremely hazardous. In March 1943, following the occupation of the whole French territory, the Ecole Polytechnique was moved back to Paris. The flag seems to have been secretely kept by the staff of the School. After the Liberation, two members of the staff were decorated because they had hidden the flag during the occupation.

In the past, the flag of the Ecole Polytechnique was nicknamed Zurlin, after General Zurlinden, who had ordered to add blinds to the windows of the School. Nowadays, the blinds themselves are called Zurlin and the flag does not seem to have got a new nickname.

Source: Website of the Ecole Polytechnique (with images of the current flag and a reconstitution of the Imperial flag)

Ivan Sache, 12 March 2002