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La Ciotat (Municipality, Bouches-du-Rhône, France)

Last modified: 2004-02-28 by
Keywords: bouches-du-rhone | ciotat (la) | yacht club |
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Presentation of La Ciotat

La Ciotat is a city of 31,000 inhabitants, located at the end of a wide bay on the Mediterranean Sea, locally called Golfe d'Amour (Love Gulf). This name is said to have been coined by the French poet Alphonse de Lamartine (1790-1869) because of the swift variations in weather and colours over the landscape, which also attracted painters such as Georges Braque (1882-1963). La Ciotat has ca. 15 km of beaches.
The weather in La Ciotat is particularly pleasant because the city is protected on the west by the cliffs of Cap Canaille (394 m a.s.l., the highest cliffs in Europe) and the pudding stone rocks of Bec de l'Aigle (Eagle's Beak). La Ciotat is therefore the French city with the lowest number of rainy days per year.
Less than one mile off La Ciotat, the Ile Verte (Green Island) is a small island of 13 hectares, covered with a pine forest. Geologically speaking, the Ile Verte and the Bec de l'Aigle are the remains of the estuary of a huge river which flowed from the the former Tyrrhenian Continent (which included Corsica, Sardinia and the Balearic Islands) into a wide sea located on the current site of Provence.

Remains of human activity in La Ciotat dates back to the late Neolithic, as proved by paleontological findings in the Terreveine cave. The first port was established in the Vth century BP.

The city was granted a municipal chart (communs) in 1429 and developed mainly in the XV-XVIth centuries. In the XVIth century, several members of the Genoese aristocracy emigrated to La Ciotat and increased the wealth of the city. A shipyard was founded in La Ciotat in 1622. In 1836, Louis Benet industrialized the shipyard, which remained the main source of wealth for the city until its closure at the end of the 1980s. Most of the shipyard activity was outdoors thanks to the clement weather, and the huge launching pads and cranes are still a part of the lanscape of La Ciotat. The main customers of the shipyard were the rich shipowners of Marseilles.

La Ciotat is the birth city of two main inventions of the XXth century, cinema and petanque.

At the end of the XIXth century, the manufacturer Antoine Lumière, from Lyon, bought in La Ciotat an estate he called Le Château du Clos des Plages. His sons Louis (1864-1948) and Auguste (1862-1954) invented the Cinématographe. One of their first films, shown for the first time in the Grand Café in Paris on 28 December 1895, was L'arrivée du train en gare de la Ciotat (The train coming in the station of La Ciotat). Other Lumière films were shown in the Eden Theâtre, opend in 1899 in La Ciotat, and therefore the oldest movie theater kept until now.

In 1910, Jules Lenoir, crippled with rhumatism, could no longer play the traditional Provencal bowl game because he was not able to take the necessary run up. In his club La Boule Etoilée (The Starry Bowl), he invented a new game with les pieds tanqués (the feet sticked in), which became very popular as the pétanque and superseded the older bowl games in Provence.

La Ciotat is the birth city of: Admiral Honoré Ganteaume (1755-1818), Chief of Staff of the Navy, who organized the return of Bonaparte's expedition from Egypt (1799); Captain Etienne Marchand (1755-1793), who did the first travel around the world under the French Tricolor ensign; the violonist Zino Francescatti (1902-1991); the geographer André Brue (1654-1738), who drew the first outlined map of Senegal. The famous actor Michel Simon (1895-1975) enjoyed his estate in La Ciotat.

The neighbouring city of Ceyreste (3,000 inhabitants) was a borough of La Ciotat until the XVth century. Citharista (or Cesarista) was built by the Romans in a small valley invisible from the sea and was used as a fallback position when the port of La Ciotat was under attack. The forest of Ceyreste was completely destroyed for the shipyard use.

Ivan Sache, 17 August 2003


Description of the flag

La Ciotat uses as its flag the municipal logo, with the motto La Ville des Lumières (The Lumières' City - The City of Enlighment), but the last release of the municipal bulletin announced a contest for a new logo. This logoflag, however, is not hoisted over the city hall, which flies the French national flag, the European Union flag and the two flags of Provence.

Ivan Sache, 17 August 2003


Yacht clubs

Neptune-Club

[Neptune-Club]by Ivan Sache

The Neptune-Club is based in the Saint-Jean borough, at the east of la Ciotat. Its burgee is horizontally divided red-blue with the white letters NCCP placed horizontally in the middle of the burgee.

Ivan Sache, 17 August 2003


Société Nautique de la Ciotat

[SN La Ciotat]by Ivan Sache

The Société Nautique de la Ciotat was founded on 10 October 1889, and is therefore the second oldest yacht club in France and in the Mediterranean Bassin. Its membership is 400. Its fleet includes several pointus (pointed), the traditional Provencal small fishing boats. The SNC is based in the picturesque old port of la Ciotat.

The burgee of the SNC is white with two red triangles placed along the hoist and the blue letters SNC placed horizontally in the white field. There might be a relationship between the SNC and the shipyard, since the same burgee with the letters CNC (Chantiers Navals de la Ciotat) is painted on the main crane of the shipyard.

Ivan Sache, 17 August 2003


Société des Régates de la Ciotat

[SR La Ciotat]by Ivan Sache

The Société des Régates de la Ciotat is based in the modern marina of la Ciotat.

The burgee of the SRC is white with the blue letter SRC placed horizontally.

Ivan Sache, 17 August 2003

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