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Treize-Septiers (Municipality, Vendée, France)

Last modified: 2005-02-26 by
Keywords: vendee | treize-septiers | towers: 3 (white) | bushel (yellow) | wheat |
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[Flag of Treize-Septiers]by Ivan Sache, coat of arms from International Civic Heraldry website

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Presentation of Treize-Septiers

The municipality of Treize-Septiers (2,400 inhabitants; 2,184 ha) is located in Vendée, in the west of Poitou. The typical landscape of the region is called bocage vendéen, that is, a mosaic of small fields limited by hedges. The bocage is characteristic of the west of France (for instance Normandy), although the bocage areas considerably decreased when intensive agriculture was considered the only viable agricultural system. Recently, it was eventually understood that the bocage was a well-balanced agro-ecological system and that hedges were not only obstacles to tractors and combines but also efficient windbreaks and biodiversity niches. There is fortunately a trend to reconstitute the bocage where it was nearly eradicated.

Agriculture is the main activity in Treize-Septiers, with 28 farms and a cultivated area of 1,946 ha. Most farms produce meat and/or milk. No-ground farming (poultry, pigeons, rabbits, pigs) is done in 14 farms. The main crop is grain, whose yield have been increased due to soil drainage. The average age of the farmers is 40, which is fairly low and promising for the future.

The name of Treize-Septiers is unique in France. Treize means "thirteen" and Septier is the local form of setier or sextier, a measurement unit used for grain and liquids before the French Revolution. Like all measurement units at that time, the setier varied from place to place and was also different for grain and liquids. The setier de Paris was made of twelve boisseaux (bushels), c. 150 liters. Sextier refers to sexter, one sixth, and indicate that this particular measurement system was designed in base 6. After the Revolution, it was decided to homogeneize the units used in the different parts of France to facilitate communication and trade, and the metric system, in base 10, was designed.
The oldest known form of Treize-Septiers is De Tredecim Sextariis. The name of the village undoubtly refers to the quantity represented by thriteen setiers but interpretations of that quantity differ: the thirteen setiers might correspond to the area of the municipality, expressed by the attainable yield of grain, or, more probably, to the tithe due to the local lord.

In the XIVth century, the castle of Ganuchères was built on a small hill near the village. The most famous lords of Ganuchères belonged to the la Roche Saint-André family, who settled in Treize-Septiers in the XVth century. In 1667, Gilles de la Roche Saint-André was appointed Head of Squad of the royal armies. The castle was trashed and burned down in the XVth century and never rebuilt.

After the French Revolution, Treize-Septiers, like several Vendean villages which took the party of the Royalists, was attacked and trashed by the "Hell"s Columns" of the Republican army.
In the XIXth century, the inhabitants hardly survived because of the poverty of the granitic soil and the lack of adapted agronomic practices. Limited industrialization started some decades ago with the opening of a shoe factory (Arima, founded by former Mayor Ferdinand Jauffrineau) and a furniture factory (Chaudière).

Abbot Lelièvre (1874-1944) was born in Treize-Septiers. He wrote poems and theater plays and served as a volunteer chaplain during the First World War. He was injured in 1915 and got his left arm paralyzed, which earned him the War Cross and the Légion d'Honneur. At the end of his life, in Paris, Lelièvre hid several Jews and saved them from deportation.
The most famous citizen of Treize-Septiers was Vincent Ansquer (1925-1987), Deputy and Mayor of Les Herbiers for years. Ansquer was Minister of Trade and Craft Industry (1974-1976) and Minister of Quality of Life (1976-1977).

Source: Municipal website

Ivan Sache, 20 May 2004

According to Dictionnaire des Noms de Lieux en Vendée by the anthropologist and ethnologist Jean-Loïc Le Quellec, treize (thirteen) comes from the Latin words tres (three) and decem (ten), whereas septiers refers to sestier, a former measurement unit for grain. The word sestier or sesterée was also used to design a sown area. Therefore, Treize-Septiers probably designated a land by its area and not by the tithe it yielded.

From a more general agronomical point of view, Le Quellec's explanation does make sense. In the former, autarcic agricultural systems, the count units were areas, numbers etc. and not money, which was extremely rare and kept for buying goods not produced locally. In France, there are still several places named after ancient measurement units of areas (for instance, arpents). Agricultural plots have often a name, which is very often related to their area.

Thierry Gilabert & Ivan Sache, 22 May 2004

Municipal flag of Treize-Septiers

The flag of Treize-Septiers was photographed by Hervé Prat. It is white with the municipal coat of arms in the middle.

The municipal coat of arms of Treize-Septiers was adopted in 1974. It can be blazoned as:

Per pale, gules a bucket or, vert a sheaf of thirteen wheat stems or, chief azure three towers argent masoned sable.

I believe that the name of the vilage can be "read" on the shield. The bucket most probably contains a septier of grain and the choice of thirteen wheat stems is probably not coincidental. The towers in chief might refer to the former castle of Ganuchères and the la Roche Saint-André family.

Source: International Civic Heraldry website

Ivan Sache, 20 May 2004