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Léon (Traditional province, Brittany, France)

Bro Leon

Last modified: 2017-03-18 by ivan sache
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Flag of Léon - Image by Mikael Bodlore-Penlaez, 29 December 1999


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Presentation of Léon

Léon, located in the north-west of Brittany, is an ancient bishopric and county, with Saint-Pol-de-Léon (Kastell-Paol ) as its capital and Brest as it largest town.

Mikael Bodlore-Penlaez, 29 December 1999

In the 12th century, Brittany was under Plantagent influence; since King of England Henry II had in 1181 his son Geoffrey marry Constance, the grand-daughter of the last Duke of Brittany from the house of Cornouaille. Léon, then a county, acted very independently from either England or Brittany; the counts even led several expeditions against Henry II, until the death of Ccount Guyomarch IV in 1179. Part of his domain was confiscated by Henry II and Geoffrey, which established:
- The Viscounty of Léon, granted for the oldest son, Guyomarch V. The last Viscountess sold her domain to the Duke of Brittany in 1298.
- The Lordship of Léon, granted to the youngest, Hervé I. In 1363, the lordship was transmitted to the last lord's sister, and then to her son, who held the name of Rohan from his father. From then on, the heirs of the Rohan family use the title of lord of Léon before becoming Viscountx of Rohan. In 1530, the lordship was styled a principality by the Viscount of Rohan, whose heirs rise to the rank of Duke in 1579.
[Généalogie des vicomtes de Léon; La seigneurie de Léon aux XVe et XVIe siècles]

Corentin Chamboredon, 15 January 2017


Flag of Léon

The flag of Léon, designed by Yoran Delacour in 1996 and approved by the Breton Vexillological Society, is a banner of the traditional, canting arms of the province, a black lion morné (without claws, tongue and teeth) on an orange field, dating from 1276. Leon means lion in Breton.

Mikael Bodlore-Penlaez, 29 December 1999

Morné means in French heraldry "without claws, tongue and teeth". Cognate with the English verb "to mourn", morné originaly meant "blunted" or "saddened".
It seems quite reasonable to think that this coat of arms was in fact a memory of the loss of power of the house of Léon: as years passed, the rulers became more and more helpless and harmless. As it happened while heraldry was appearing, the lion of Léon might have lost its teeth and claws, which were never restored. Seals and armorials of the time did not always depicted the lion as morné.
[Rôle d'armes de l'ost de Ploërmel, province de Léon (1294)]

The Belgian heraldist Goethals wrote in 1866 about a tournament organized in Cambrai (Flanders) in 1238. A knoght from the house of Léon bore "Argent, a lion sable lion armed and langued gules". This different coat of arms was perhaps used because the Count of Flanders already bore "Or, a lion rampant sable armed and langued gules", very similar to the coat of arms of Léon.
[Dix-huit chevaliers bretons à un tournoi en 1238]

Corentin Chamboredon, 15 January 2017