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Thônes (Municipality, Haute-Savoie, France)

Last modified: 2005-04-02 by
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[Flag of Thones]by Ivan Sache

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Presentation of Thônes

Thônes is a city of 5,210 inhabitants (1999 census). The road linking the valley of Thônes to Geneva (now in Switzerland) through the defile of Dingy was built by the Roman lord Tincius. This is shown by the sentence Lucius Tincius Paculus per vium fecit, engraved in a rock.

In 1066, Thônes was mentioned for the first time. The village already had a church, fairs and craftsmen. In 1350, Count of Geneva Amédée III granted the citizens of Thônes a municipal chart. In 1453, the downtown of the city, then made of wood, was totally burnt and rebuilt with characteristic arcades.

In October 1792, the inhabitants of Thônes gathered in the church and massively approved the incorporation of Savoy and Thônes to France, provided their municipal rights would be respected. On 4-9 May 1793, an insurrection known as the Thônes war (la guerre de Thônes) broke out. The insurgents attempted to stop the Republican troops near Morette, to no avail. The repression was violent and Marguerite Frichelet, still considered as a local heroin, was executed on the Champs-de-Mars in Annecy.

In 1815, Thônes and Savoy were given back to the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia. In 1860, Thônes massively approved the reincorporation to France.
Industrialisation of the valley started c. 1860. with the opening of small hatter and watch-making factories. The Manufactures Reunies de Thônes, a textile factory, opened in 1909. In 1898, the steam tramway Annecy-Thônes was inaugurated. As a consequence, tourism developed in Thônes. The tourist office was created in 1906 and there were seven hotels in 1913. The first bobsledge and ski competitions took place in 1908.

Like the rest of the department of Haute-Savoie, Thônes was strongly involved in the anti-German resistance. In January 1944, the Vichy government (pro-German) proclaimed the state of siege in the department. Several members of the anti-German resistance rallied on the plateau des Glières, under the guidance of Lieutenant Tom Morel. The paramilitary groups and the Milice sent by Vichy were unable to seize the plateau. The Germans sent 15,000 soldiers from the 157th Alpine Division of the Wehrmacht, who, helped by the Luftwaffe, progressively invaded the plateau. Captain Anjot, who had succeded Morel, ordered the Resistance troops to withdraw. A small group of fighters, led by Lieutenants Bastien and Joubert, was attacked by the German artillery near Morette. Twenty-two out of the thirty members of the group were killed. The Germans ordered to bury them in a common grave, but Louis Haase, the Mayor of Thônes, refused to obey. The firemen and other inhabitants of Thônes buried the soldiers in the cemetary of Morette. Later victims of the German repression were also buried in Morette, as well as other fighters from the Glières who had been previously buried elsewhere.

On 5 November 1944, General de Gaulle, then chief of the Provisory Government of the French Republic, visited Thônes and Morette. On 25 May 1947, President of the Republic Vincent Auriol officially inaugurated the National Cemetary of Morette, where 105 fighters are buried. The city of Thônes was granted the War Cross and the Medal of the Resistance.

Source: Municipal website

Ivan Sache, 1 July 2003

The reblochon cheese

Thônes is the capital city of the reblochon cheese. The reblochon was invented in the XIIIth century in the valley of Thônes. The first mention of the reblochon on a written document dates back to 1699. In the past, the farmers had to pay the owner of the land a fee (aucière) proportional to the quantity of milk produced by the cows. In order to diminish the fee, the farmers intentionally diminished milking when paiement of the fee was due. The remaining milk was gathered later during a second, clandestine milking, which was locally called reblochi.

The development of raods and railway popularized the reblochon all over France. The genuine reblochon fermier de Savoie must be produced in the valley of Thônes or in Lanslebourg, in the valley of Maurienne.

Ivan Sache, 1 July 2003

Municipal flag of Thônes

The flag of Thônes, as reported by Pascal Vagnat, is a banner of the municipal arms:

Gules, a barrier or

Both the municipal website and Brian Timms call the charge a harrow (in French, herse). Timms says that a more appropriate word would be portcullis. However, I believe that an agricultural harrow or a gate portcullis have their teeth pointing downwards, whereas the barrier of Thônes has its teeth pointing skywards.

According to the municipal website, these arms symbolize the geographical location of the city, which has a strategic position between the valley of Nom and the upper and lower valleys of Fier. It is possible that these arms formerly belonged to the family of Clefs, who ruled Thônes until the grant of municipal rights. This would also make the arms canting, since clefs is nearly homophonic to claie, a barrier.

Ivan Sache, 1 July 2003

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