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Pays de Retz (Traditional district, Brittany, France)

Last modified: 2004-02-28 by
Keywords: pays de retz | cross (black) | crosses: 2 (black) | ermines: 9 (black) | ermines: 18 (black) | ermines: 15 (black) |
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Presentation of Pays de Retz

Pays de Retz covers the area located between the southern (left) bank of the Loire river and the North of the Breton-Vendean marsh (West of France). Pays de Retz has no specific administrative status and is mostly included in the departement of Loire-Atlantique, Region Pays de la Loire. Its historical capitale is Machecoul (ca. 5,000 inhabitants).

The area is relatively flat and includes large marshy depressions, such as the lake of Grand Lieu (3,500 ha in summer, 9,000 ha in winter). The Atlantic coast of Pays de Retz is made of schistose cliffs and nicknamed Côte de Jade (Jade Coast).

Economy of Pays de Retz is based on fishing, sea resorts (Pornic, Sainte-Marie, Saint-Brévin), milk-cow rearing, market gardening in the polder areas, and wine-growing (Gros Plant vine, used to produce Muscadet wine).

The name of Retz is associated with Gilles de Retz (1404-1440), better known as Gilles de Rais (or Rays), brother-in-arms of Joan of Arc, Marshall of France at the age of 25, and later satanic and pedophilic serial killer, finally sentenced to death, hung and burned in Nantes. He is the original source of Charles Perrault's Barbe-Bleue (Bluebeard). The ruins of the castle in which he committed most of his crimes can still be seen in Tiffauges. He was lord of a territory larger than Pays de Retz but including most of it.

Ivan Sache, 27 February 2001

Before the Xth century, the Pays de Retz was included in the territory of the celtic tribe of the Pictes or Pictones, who gave the name of Poitou. The area was later incorporated into the county of Poitou. In the Xth century, Brittany was given a small area around Rez (Ratiatum), later called the Pays de Rez (pagus ratiatensis), later Pays de Retz.

Time afer time, the Bretons increased the territory of Pays de Retz. The Pays became a county, then a duchy-pairy, with changing borders, as it was the case for most feudal states in the Middle Ages.

Hervé Rochard, 18 July 2003


The flag controversy

There are at least four competing flags of Pays de Retz, each of of them being said to be the true flag of Pays de Retz according by its supporters. The presentation of trhe flags we use here does not reflect any preference of the page editor.

Flag #1

[Pays de Retz, flag #1]by Ivan Sache

Yellow field with a black cross.

This is a banner of arms, the so-called croix de Retz (Retz cross), being dated XIVth century according to the the Society of Historians of Pays de Retz.

Flag #2

[Pays de Retz, flag #2]by Ivan Sache

White field divided by a black cross fimbriated in white and black. The first quarter includes the Retz cross, the three other ones are white charged with four ermine spots (1+2+1).

This flag is shown in Les drapeaux bretons de 1188 a nos jours in proportion 3:4 [rau98]. The four ermine spots are said to have been taken from the flag of Pays de Nantes to highlight the belonging of Pays de Retz to County of Nantes and (historical if not currently administrative) Brittany. The author of this flag is not mentioned, but the flag is said to have been sold since 1996 by Coop Breizh, in collaboration with the Breton Vexillological Society.

However, this flag has not been unanimuously accepted in Pays de Retz. In an interview (in French)to the most popular local newspaper Ouest-France, M. Lopez, President of the Society of Historians of Pays de Retz, claimed that 'this flag of Pays de Retz cannot represent our territory since it hides its Poitou historical component.' Lopez stated that Pays de Retz had been annexed by Brittany in the IXth century and that a better flag would have included the towers of Poitou. He further explained why Pays de Retz has a composite Breton/Poitevin identity. To summarize, the Society of Historians of Pays de Retz did not approve that flag, as non-representative of the complex identity of Pays de Retz.

The controversy about this flag, even if very local, highlights the difficulty we have in France to properly define 'territorial identity', especially in disputed areas which were successively included in different administrative entities during the history.

Flag #3

[Pays de Retz, flag #3]by Ivan Sache

A white field, including a square version of the Retz cross flag at hoist, but isolated from the flag edges by a white border, and 18 black ermine spots (4+5+4+5) in the second half of the flag. PAYS DE RETZ is written in black below the graphical elements of the flag.

This flag is shown in Ar Banniel [arb] #6 (Summer 1998), p. 20, without further comments. It seems to follow the use of touris' flags developed for specific areas, and the misuse of writings on flags, too common in that kind of flags. It is in my opinion a typical model of a car sticker rather than a real flag.

Flag #4

[Pays de Retz, flag #4]by Raphaël Vinet

This flag, designed by Raphaël Vinet, seems to be an improvement of flag #2, whose basic elements have been kept. The flag is quartered by the Breton black cross. The canton is yellow, quartered with another black cross. The three other quarters are white, charged with five black ermine spots placed 3 + 2.

Ivan Sache, 27 September 2002

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