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Roussillon (Traditional province, France)

Last modified: 2004-12-22 by
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[Flag of Roussillon]by Jorge Candeias

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History of Roussillon

The Romans conquered Roussillon against the Iberians. Roussillon was then a division of the Provincia narbonensis, with the oppidum (fortified city) of Ruscino as its capital city. The area was divided in four pagi, the pagus Ruscinonensis, the pagus Vallis Asperi (now Vallespir), the pagus Confluentis (now Conflent), and the pagus Liviensis (now Cerdagne, including the Spanish enclave of Llivia). The Roman Roussillon had two main ports, Cocoliberis (Collioure) and Portus Veneris (Port-Vendres).

Roussilon was trashed during the successive invasions by the Wisigoths, the Arabs and the Franks. After the conquest of Septimania, Pépin le Bref reincorporated Roussillon to the reunified Gaul (752-759). In order to fight against the Caliphate of Cordoua, the Carolingian kings set up the Spanish marsh, made of Septimania and the maritime Catalan counties: Roussillon, Empurias, Gerona and Barcelona. When the Carolingian rule vanished, Catalonia became de facto independent.

The count of Barcelona, helped by the Church, transformed the area in a feudal monarchy which spread from the south of France to Aragon. The cities were granted municipal rights, for instance Perpignan in 1197. The suppression of the Umeyyad state in southern Spain favoured the economical development of the region. Romanic art peaked in Roussillon with the cloisters of Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa and Elne and the frescos of Saint-Martin de Fenollar.

During the Albigensian Crusade, king of Aragon Pedro the Catholic was defeated and killed in Muret in 1213. Central-southern France, except the city of Montpellier, was de facto incorporated to the kingdom of France. However, the treaty of Corbeil, signed in 1258, left Roussillon to Catalonia. In 1262, king of Aragon Jaume the Conqueror shared his kingdom between his two sons: Aragon, Catalonia and Valence remained united, whereas a new kingdom was made of the Balearic islands of Mallorca and Ibiza, Roussillon and Montpellier. The powerful kingdom of Mallorca, with Perpignan as its capital city (1276), remained independent until 1344, when it was reincoporated to Aragon, except Montpellier which was ceded to France. Roussillon and Cerdagne were incorporated to the Principate of Catalonia, a kind of autonomous federation within the kingdom of Aragon. The Catalan parliament (corts) had its seat in Barcelona but senf a deputation to Perpignan.

In 1463, Jaume of Aragon attempted to get rid of the Catalans, with the help of king of France Louis XI, whose troops invaded Roussillon. The inhabitants of Perpignan surrendered only upon request of the king of Aragon, and were given the nickname of rat eaters for their resistance.

In 1493, Charles VIII retroceded Roussillon to Ferdinando and Isabel the Catholic. They fortified Perpignan, which was then one of the best defended fortresses in Europe. In 1640, the Catalans revolted against Madrid and set up an alliance with Cardinal de Richelieu. Next day, king Louis XIII was appointed count of Barcelona. However, Perpignan was defended by a Spanish garrison, so that Louis XIII himself had to besiege and capture the city.

In 1659, Louis XIV definitively incorporated Roussillon to France by the treaty of Pyrénées.


Ivan Sache, 10 December 2003

Description of the flag of Roussillon

The coat of arms of Roussillon is:

D'or aux quatre pals de gueules

In English:

Or four pallets gules

These arms the arms of the counts of Roussillon, based on the arms of the counts of Barcelone. The legend says that Joffre the Hairy, count of the Spanish marsh in the VIIIth century, was injured when fighting the Norsemen. Charles le Chauve, as a tribute to his courage, drew four red stripes on Joffre's shield, which was plain gold, using of course Joffre's blood. A similar bloody legend 'explains' the colours of the Austrian flag.

However, the flag used in Roussillon has horizontal stripes, exactly like the flag of the Autonomous Community of Catalonia.

Some flagmakers' catalogues show an erroneous flag with vertical stripes.

Ivan Sache, 10 December 2003

Erroneous banner of Roussillon

[Erroneous flag of Roussillon]by Chris Pinette

Some manufacturers still sell 'flags of Roussillon' with vertical bars, sometimes with equal number of red and yellow stripes.

Pascal Vagnat, 29 April 2000

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