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Granville (Municipality, Manche, France)

Last modified: 2005-04-23 by
Keywords: manche | granville | cross (white) | cross (black) | stars: 3 (yellow) | star (black) | bisquine | crab (red) |
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[Flag of Granville]by Arnaud Leroy


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Presentation of Granville

The city of Granville (15,000 inhabitants) is built on a rocky point (Pointe du Roc) dominating the Channel, and is therefore nickamed "the Northern Monaco. It is said that the first settlement in Granville was founded around year 1000 by a Viking called Gran. However, a more probable etymology is grande villa (important city), a name which appeared in the beginning of the XVth century when the fortified city was built.

In 1439, Sir Thomas Scales was ordered by King of England Henry V to build a fortified city which could be used as an operational base against Mont-Saint-Michel. At the time, the fortified abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel was the only place in Normandy that resisted the English conquest. Unfortunately, Granville was seized by surprise by the French three years later.

Granville was granted a municipal charter by King of France Charles VII in March 1445. The city was besieged by the English fleet in 1695 and 1803 and by the Vendean army in 1793, to no avail. Granville was a corsair city, for a while a rival of Saint-Malo, with the famous corsairs Beaubriand-Lévesque, Hautmesnil-Hugon and Pléville-Lepelley. Seventeen French admirals were born in Granville.

From the XVIth to the beginning of the XXth century, Granville mostly lived from cod fishing in Newfoundland. There were more than 100 boats registered in Granville, hiring 5,000 seamen. The yearly fishing campaign started with a carnival which still takes place in Granville. In May 1945, a German commando coming from Jersey attempted to enter the city, to no avail.

Granville is now a passenger port (140,000 passengers per year to the Chausey and Channel Islands) and the fourth French fishing port. Due to the specific local weather conditions, a center for functional rehabilitation and thalassotherapy was founded. Granville was already known as a sea resort in the XIXth century.

The Chausey Islands, located 17 km off Granville, belong to the municipality of Granville. It is said locally than 52 islets and rocks (1 per week) are visible during high tides and 365 (1 per year) during low tides. Shell and oyster farming was recently developped on the islands.

The famous top designer Christian Dior, inventor of the new look style spent his youth in Granville. His house Les Rhumbs is now a museum.

Ivan Sache, 26 August 2002


Municipal flag of Granville

The flag of Granville, as reported by Pascal Vagnat, is divided by a white cross. The first and fourth quarters of the flag are blue, whereas the second and the third quarters are white and separated from the cross by a blue fimbriation. The municipal coat of arms is placed in the middle of the flag.

Ivan Sache, 26 August 2002


Association des Vieux Gréements Granvillais

[Flag of AVGG]by Ivan Sache

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.

Association des Vieux Gréements Granvillais 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.

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 square meters.
The Norman bisquine is a local version of a ship invented in the beginning of the XIXth 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 XIXth 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 Association des Vieux Gréements Granvillais 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.

Source: Website of Association des Vieux Gréements Granvillais, historical elements by Hervé Hillard. The website shows the modern bisquine La Granvillaise flying several copies of the flag of the association.

Ivan Sache, 15 July 2004


Yacht Club de Granville

[YC Granville]by Ivan Sache

Yacht Club de Granville has a dark yellow burgee charged with a black decentered cross fimbriated in white and a black star in canton.

Source: YCG website

Ivan Sache, 13 May 2001

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