Tour de France 2019

The Heraldry of France
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Chris Green
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Re: Tour de France 2019

Postby Chris Green » 14 Jul 2019, 10:08

Sunday's stage starts from yesterday's destination, Saint Étienne, and meanders in a generally south-western direction, passing early on through Roche-la-Molière, whose arms were once those of the Lavieus, lords of Roche.

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The stage crosses the upper reaches of the River Loire at Aurec-sur-Loire. Once again the commune's arms were once those of the local lords, in this case de la Rou.

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Pedalling now westward the cyclists pass Craponne-sur-Arzon, whose arms once again bear witness to the former lords, in this case the Polignacs.

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The finish is at Brioude, the outskirts of which the riders reach, but no they must first do a long sweep through the hills to the South before coming once more to Brioude from the other side (which at least gives the locals a chance to see the race twice). The arms of Brioude feature a beehive and six bees (which in this case have nothing to do with Napoleon).

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Brioude has a population of under 7,000 but hosts a large Romanesque basilica dating from the 11th century, replacing one built in the 5th century. It is dedicated to Saint Julien, a local martyr, not the better known Saint Julian of Le Mans (500km to the North-West). In 1179 the Vicomte de Polignac sacked the town, but was subsequently so remorseful that he established an order of 25 knights charged with defending the basilica. The knights (later canons) of St Julien proved to be something of a curse to the citizens as each was noble and considered himself to be a Count.
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Re: Tour de France 2019

Postby Chris Green » 15 Jul 2019, 09:11

Monday is often a rest day for the riders; not so today. They start from Saint-Flour whose arms may perhaps please Martin Goldstraw:

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The riders pass through Rodez whose arms seem appropriate for a race involving wheels. There seems to be some dissension as to whether the wheels should be spoked or solid.

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De gueules, aux trois roues d'or, au chef cousu d'azur chargé de trois fleurs-de-lis aussi d'or.

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De gueules à trois roues pleines d'or; au chef cousu d'azur chargé de trois fleurs de lis d'or.

The finish is at Albi, seat of the Cathar heresy put down by the Albigensian Crusade of 1208. The Bishop subsequently built the Palais de la Berbie, which served both as a palace and a fortress. The city's arms and motto: "Stat baculus vigilatque leo turresque tuetur" (The [bishop's] staff stands guard, the lion and turret serve as safeguards) recall this building.

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Re: Tour de France 2019

Postby Chris Green » 17 Jul 2019, 08:16

Tuesday was a well-deserved rest day (I expect the riders thought so too!). Today the race re-starts at Albi and heads westwards until it reach the tiny fortified village of Bruniquel whose arms unusually have a charge only under the chevron rather than three, two and one.

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The riders then pedal South-East passing Castelnau-de-Montmiral whose blazon requires a virtually square shield to fit in the charges. The odd charge in the middle is intended to be a mirror (why?)

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De gueules au château donjonné d'argent, ouvert et maçonné de sable, senestré d'un monde croisé d'or, le tout surmonté d'un miroir du même, ouvert aussi de sable, au chef cousu d'azur chargé de trois fleurs de lys aussi d'or.


Continuing southwards the route goes through Lavaur whose arms include the cross of Toulouse/cross of Occitania (gules, a cross cleché (or: pattée) pommettée voided). Quite why Lavaur's arms feature an anchor, seeing that it is situated halfway between the Bay of Biscay and the Mediterranean, is unclear. Perhaps it was the highest navigable point on the River Agout.

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The day ends in Toulouse, France's fourth-largest city and home of Airbus and several other high-tech industries. The city's arms try to cram in not only an unusual Paschal Lamb with cross of Toulouse on a staff, but not one but two buildings: a castle and the basilica of Saint Sernin. Add on a chief of France Ancient and the heraldic artist has quite a job on his/her hands.

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Re: Tour de France 2019

Postby Chris Green » 18 Jul 2019, 10:52

Thursday sees the race starting from Toulouse and once again heading South-West, passing Aurignac, whose name was given to the pre-historic culture, evidence of which was first found here in 1860. The arms feature three towers but there seems to have been just one castle.

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At the spa town of Bagnères-de-Luchon the road does a loop and then turns westward. The arms of the town unsurprisingly reveal that it is a spa. The other charges are less easy to interpret.

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The four charges in saltire are called in french "otelles" and were borne by the local Counts of Comminge. Even the French seem unsure what an "otelle" might be (not an hotel for sure). Here is a site that gives some suggestions: http://www.blason-armoiries.org/heraldique/o/otelle.htm

As I pointed out in the 2016 thread about the Tour de France, the ancient arms of the Counts of Comminges looked like this:

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so perhaps the "otelles" were merely an imaginative way of expressing the shape that had originally been the field beneath the cross patty.

The sinister half of the chief has a Roman votive altar with the words Ilixioni Deo and the letters V S L M. "Ilixo" was apparently the name of the local heathen god to which the altar was dedicated. The letters stand for Votum Solvit Libens Merito (Willingly and deservedly have the vow been fulfilled) and were common on such Roman religious artefacts.

After a long stretch through the montains, the race finishes at another spa, Bagnères de Bigorres. The town's arms are a castle with three towers, but not, as is more usual, seen flat with a single face, but as if from a view-point by which one can see into the courtyard. (Compare the "ville fortifiée" of Masevaux-Niederbruck that we saw on 11 July).

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Re: Tour de France 2019

Postby Chris Green » 18 Jul 2019, 10:56

Iain Boyd wrote:RE - Masevaux - whose arms bear a "ville fortifiée" (a walled town), which doesn't seem to be the case:
Not true! The image shows a church at the back with houses in front all surrounded with a fortified wall - quite clearly a 'fortified town'!


I have only just seen your comment Iain. My own comment related to the actual village, not to the charge, which is obviously fortified.
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Re: Tour de France 2019

Postby Iain Boyd » 18 Jul 2019, 23:15

Re the arms of Bagnères-de-Luchon -

The altar in chief probably also refers to the spa as the Celts were known to revere watery sites and many of their gods and goddesses are associated with springs - sources of water.

It would not surprise me to learn that the altar stone was originally found in or very near the spa.

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Re: Tour de France 2019

Postby Chris Green » 19 Jul 2019, 11:00

Today (Friday) the Tour takes a different form, an individual time-trial around Pau.

I covered the heraldry of Pau in some detail in 2016, but here it is again for those who missed it.

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Pau, was formerly capital of Béarn. From 1512 it was the capital of the Kingdom of Navarre, and it was here that the future King Henry III of Navarre was born in 1553. King Henry became King Henry IV of France in 1589. Another founder of a royal dynasty was born in Pau, though in humbler circumstances. Jean Bernadotte was born in 1763, the son of a local lawyer. He went on to be in turn a Marshal of France and (as King Karl XIV Johan) King of Sweden, founder of the present Swedish royal line.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_IV_of_France

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_XIV_John_of_Sweden

Pau's CoA must rank among the most eccentric among French civic arms. It includes a turtle shell, a couple of oxen, and a peacock, not to mention H and IV (for Henri IV). I decline to attempt a blazon in English. Here is the French; make of it what you will.

Blazon:'D'azur à la barrière de trois pals aux pieds fichés d'argent, sommée d'un paon rouant d'or, accompagnée en pointe et intérieurement de deux vaches affrontées et couronnées du même ; au chef aussi d'or chargé d'une écaille de tortue au naturel surmontée d'une couronne royale fermée d'azur rehaussée d'or, accompagnée à dextre de la lettre H capitale et à senestre d'un quatre en chiffres romains aussi d'azur.
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Re: Tour de France 2019

Postby Chris Green » 20 Jul 2019, 07:46

Saturday sees a gruelling mountainous stage starting from Tarbes once base of the Counts of Bigorre. The city's arms are however very simple and bear no reference to Bigorre.

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The route goes westward for a while and then turns South, thus skirting Lourdes. The cyclists pass the village of Arbéost whose arms include the two cows found also in the arms of Pau and (in gules) of Andorra. Why the chief should feature two arrows and one f-de-l is a mystery. Any number of cities and towns in France have three f-de-l or France Ancient, but two arrows with one f-de-l?

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Turning East, the route continues to skirt Lourdes until it reaches Argèles-Gazost whose arms contain four mysterious quarters, for none of which I (yet) have an explanation.

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Why three boar's hooves in Q1? Does the cow and suckling calf in Q3 have any connection with the two cows of Pau and Andorra?

The last climb, to Tourmalet-Barèges is a classic Tour de France finish and will have a significant effect on the standings. The sprint finishers will not be enjoying themselves today! The arms of Barèges feature a chamois, probably better equipped for the heights than any cyclist. The skis in bend are a reminder that the Pyrenees see many more skiers than cyclists.

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Iain Boyd
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Re: Tour de France 2019

Postby Iain Boyd » 21 Jul 2019, 00:21

Re the arms of Arbéost -

Is it possible that the arrows are a punning reference to 'arbalest' (a type of crossbow)?

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Re: Tour de France 2019

Postby Chris Green » 21 Jul 2019, 07:56

Iain Boyd wrote:Re the arms of Arbéost -
Is it possible that the arrows are a punning reference to 'arbalest' (a type of crossbow)?


Interesting thought, but arbalests/crossbows fired bolts/quarrels not arrows. They were shorter and did not have feathered fletchings. The French blazon states deux flèches - arrows, rather than deux carreaux (d'arbalète) - bolts. Had the intention been to have canting charges, logically they would have been arbalètes (the weapon) rather than carreaux d'arbalète (the bolts).

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