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Vendée (Department, France)

Last modified: 2005-02-26 by
Keywords: vendee | pays de la loire | heart | general council |
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[Flag of Vendée]by Jaume Ollé & Ivan Sache


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Administrative data

Code: 85
Region: Pays de la Loire
Traditional provinces: Poitou
Bordering departments: Charente-Maritime, Loire-Atlantique, Maine-et-Loire, Deux-Sèvres

Area: 6,720 km2
Population (1995): 525,700 inhabitants

Préfecture: La Roche-sur-Yon
Sous-préfecture: Fontenay-le-Comte, Les Sables-d'Olonne
Subdivisions: 3 arrondissements, 31 cantons, 282 communes.

The department is named after the historical region of Vendée.

The name of Vendée comes from Celtic uindo (wind / uind / vind), white. This root is cognate with find (Irish), gwyn (Welsh), and gwenn (Breton). Therefore, the Vendée is the white river. Colour names were often given to rivers, and especially the colour white, in the Celtic mythology. Another river of the west of France, the Vienne, has the same origin, as well as the Argenton (argent is silver in French).


Flag of the department of Vendée

The flag of the departement is vertically divided red-white with the logotype of the General Council in the centre.

The logo of the Général Council was created by the agence Carré Noir, who made also the logotypes of the cities of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Noisy-le-Roi and Sceaux.

Source: Société Vexillologique de l'Ouest

Ivan Sache & Jaume Ollé, 2 December 2000


Flag of the General Council of Vendée

[General Council of Vendee]by Jaume Ollé & Ivan Sache

The flag of the General Council is white with two vertical thin red and white stripes in the centre, charged with the logo. The writing VENDEE CONSEIL GENERAL appears below the logo.

The vertical stripes and logo are very commonly seen as car stickers but are not used as a banner.

Source: Société Vexillologique de l'Ouest

Ivan Sache, 2 December 2000

The symbol of Vendée is a matter of controversy. In March 1999, the association Une Vendée pour tous les Vendéens served a writ on the General Council because of its logo. The cross was considered as a religious symbol in contradiction with the state secularity (in France, state and religion have been separated since 1905). The court of Nantes, however, validated the logo and stated: "The logo does not refer to religion but to history...".

The logo of the General Council was designed after the former coat of arms of the department of Vendée, which had been adopted in 1943 by the French State (Vichy regime). The main attribute of the coat of arms was made of two interlaced hearts surmonted with a cross and a crown, the motto of the department being Utrique fidelis. The symbol of the two hearts seems to be very ancient and its origin is not necessarily to be found in the west of France. However, this symbol was very commonly used before the Revolution on furniture and jewels in the region. Its simplest interpretation is reciprocal faithfulness. The cross and the crown are clear references to the Royalist insurrection of 1793 and the Roman Catholic religion. The cult of the Sacred-Heart was spread by St. Louis-Marie de Grignon de Montfort (1673-1716) in Lower Poitou, which was then a Calvinist area.

The interpretation of the motto is less straightforward, utrique fidelis meaning faithful to both. The motto can be read faithful both to God and the King or faithful both to the Blues [the Republicans] and the Whites [the Royalists]. In 1793, the insurgents wore the Sacred-Heart as a patch and used mostly parochial banners as flags. They had no time to design new flags, and the current symbol of Vendée was never seen on any flag during the Revolution. In 1944, Pierre Lanco, the designer of the coat of arms, explained that he had wished to symbolize the reconciliation between the Royalists and the Republicans. However, it is difficult to find any Republican symbol in the coat of arms, which was of clear Royalist and Roman Catholic inspiration. Note that the Petainist ideology was strongly anti-Republican and asked for the support of the Church. The return to the national roots and symbols was part of the myth of the National Revolution, although the French State was nothing but a puppet state completely controlled by the Germans.

In spite of its controversial origin, the logo of Vendée is now widely accepted and should be considered as based on history rather than ideology, even if the controversy resurfaces from time to time. It is one of the logos most commonly used as a car sticker. The flag of Vendée is often seen during bicycle races since there is a local professional team, Brioches La Boulangère (ex Bonjour), coached by the Vendean Jean-René Bernaudeau, a former member of Bernard Hinault's team. Félicia Ballanger, ten times world champion and three times Olympic champion on track is an even more famous Vendean cyclist.

Ivan Sache, 5 September 2003


The Sacred Heart of Vendée

The Sacred Heart of Vendée is a plain red heart topped with a plain red Christian cross. The Sacred Heart was used during the Vendée insurrection between 1793 and 1796.
After the execution of Louis XVI, the Republican government (the 'Convention') decided the conscription of 300,000 new soldiers. In the region of Vendée (West of France), a general insurrection, with noble and peasant leaders, bursted out. The so-called 'Catholic and Royal Army' (the 'Whites', as opposed to the 'Blues', the Army of the Republic) used a white flag seme with fleurs-de-lys, often charged with the words Vive Louis XVII, referring to the young son of Louis XVI. The leaders wore on the chest a wool badge with the Sacred Heart. The Vendée War, a typical pacification war, is one of the darkest page of the French history, and its proper evaluation is still to be done. Activists still claim for the acknowledgement of a Vendean genocide, which is quite far from the historical reality (all of this occurred during the Terreur period, when everyone opposed to the Republic risked death as an 'enemy of the nation'). Sporadic local insurrections occurred in the area up to 1816.

Ivan Sache, 20 November 1997

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