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Saintonge (Traditional province, France)

Last modified: 2011-05-13 by ivan sache
Keywords: saintonge | mitre: bishop (white) | fleurs-de-lis: 3 (yellow) |
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Flag of Saintonge - Image by Pierre Gay, 13 December 2003

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History of Saintonge

The name of Saintonge comes from Latin Santonia, which was used to designate the area inhabited by the tribe of Santoni. The amphitheater and the votive arch, built on the bridge over the river Charente in year 19 by Caius Julius Rufus as a tribute to Germanicus, Tiber and Drusus, are the most important remains of the Roman town of Mediolanum Santonum (Saintes). Still significant when the Roman Empire collapsed, the town was celebrated by the local poet Ausonius (c. 310 - c. 395), appointed Count and Consul by Emperor Gratian.

In the Middle Ages, Saintonge was divided in small domains for which the Count of Poitou and the Duke of Aquitaine competed. In the 13th-14th centuries, the north of Saintonge was part of the Capetian royal domain, whereas the south was part of the Plantagenet Angevin Kingdom. In 1204, Saintonge was among John Lackland's domains which were confiscated by King of France Philip II Augustus, who could keep only Upper Saintonge. In 1259, Louis IX (St. Louis) ceded to King of England Henry III the Duchy of Guyenne, which included Saintonge.

In 1360, by the Treaty of Brétigny, Saintonge was incorporated with Aquitaine, Aunis and Angoumois, to the Kingdom of England. Reconquered by Constable Duguesclin in 1371, Saintonge was definitively incorporated to the Kingdom of France by Charles V in 1375.

Ivan Sache, 13 December 2003

Flag of Saintonge

The flag of Saintonge is a banner of the arms D'azur à la mitre d'argent accompagnée de trois fleurs de lys d'or (Azure a bishop's mitre argent between three fleurs de lis or two in chief and one in base), assigned to the province by Jacques Meurgey in his Notice historique sur les blasons des anciennes provinces de France (Historical note on the coats of arms of the ancient French provinces, 1941).

The mitre recalls St. Eutrope, first Bishop of Saintes and the Apostle of Saintonge, martyrized in the 3rd century. Saintes was later an important stopping place on the pilgrim road to Santiago. In 1047, Agnes of Burgundy, the wife of Geoffrey Martel, Count of Anjou and suzereign of Saintes, funded the St. Mary abbey, aka abbaye aux dames (The Ladies' Abbey), a Benedictine abbey ruled by members of the French noble families, who were given the title of Madame de Saintes. The St. Eutrope church was built in the 11th century as two superposed churchs, the upper church being for the monks and the lower church being the parish church. King of France Louis XI revering the saint as Monsieur de Saint-Eutrope after he had "cured" his dropsy, offered a new bell tower to the church.

Ivan Sache, 14 June 2009