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Bordeaux (Municipality, Gironde, France)

Last modified: 2024-04-17 by olivier touzeau
Keywords: bordeaux | gironde | moon |
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[Flag of Bordeaux]     [Flag of Bordeaux]

Municipal flag of Bordeaux - Images by Olivier Touzeau, 9 April 2022 (left, outdoor version) and 25 March 2024 (right, indoor version)

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Presentation of Bordeaux

Bordeaux (261,804 inhabitants in 2021 on 4,936 ha ; agglomeration of 1,000,000 inhabitants including the outskirts) is the ninth French town by its population, located on the river Garonne. Bordeaux is the préfecture of the department of Gironde and of the Region Aquitaine.

Bordeaux, then Burdigalia, was the capital of the Gaul tribe of Bituriges Vivisques. Thetowncity increased in importance after the Roman conquest and was successively besieged by the Wisigoths, the Arabs and the Normans.

The Duchy of Aquitaine, with Bordeaux as its capital, was created by King Dagobert (629-638). Duke Huon probably never existed but is the main character of the eponymous chanson de geste (13th century). According to the legend, Huon inadvertently killed a son of Charlemagne and was sentenced to exile. To be forgiven, he was sent to Babylon, where he had to cut the beard of the Emir, pulled him four molars and married his daughter. He was helped in his adventures by the elf Oberon, who started later a new career thanks to Will Shakespeare. Duke Guillaume Tête d'Etoupe (William Tow-Head) was more real and married his daughter to King of France Hugues Capet, becoming therefore the root of the Capetian dynasty.

In 1137, Louis, Crown Prince of France, married Aliénor (Eleanor), the unique daughter of Duke William of Aquitaine, and received as dowry the Duchy of Aquitaine, Périgord, Limousin, Poitou, Angoumois, Saintonge and Gascogne, as well as the suzereignty on Auvergne and the County of Toulouse. The marriage was celebrated in the cathedral of Bordeaux. Louis became King of France as Louis VII but the marriage turned sour because the King was serious and the Queen frivolous. In 1152, the Council of Beaugency pronounced the divorce. Eleanor took back her dowry and married two months later Henry Plantagenet, Count of Anjou and suzereign on Maine, Touraine and Normandy, which made, added to Eleanor's dowry, a territory larger and wealthier than the Kingdom of France. In 1154, Henry inherited the Crown of England and became King Henry II, and the rivalry between France and England started.

In the 14th century, during the Hundred Years' War, Bordeaux was the capital of the Black Prince. Aquitaine became known as Guyenne, following the English pronounciation, and this name remained in use until the French Revolution. The citizens of Bordeaux took great advantage of the situation: they exported wine to England and sold arms to all belligerents. They were allowed to elect their Mayor and Municipal Councillors, called jurats. In 1453, Bordeaux and Guyenne were seized by France, and the war ended after the battle of Castillon. King Louis XI then established a Parliament in Bordeaux.

In order to better control the provinces and bring back more money to the King, Richelieu established in the 17th century the intendances, and the system was later improved by Colbert. In the 18th century, the intendants gave to Bordeaux its modern aspect: more than 5,000 buildings, including the Town Hall, the Great Theater (architect Victor Louis, 1773-1780), the Customs Hotel and the Stocks Hotel (architects Gabriel Sr. and Jr., 1730-1755) were built. The "Old Bordeaux" (Vieux Bordeaux) is now a protected area of 150 ha characterized by its architectural homogeneity.

During the French Revolution, a political group was consituted in 1791 by Brissot and called the Brissotins. Since several Deputies from the department of Gironde had joined the group, it was rapidly known as the Girondins. They tried to promote the progressive bourgeoisie and federalism against the Jacobins, and were eventually suppressed in May-October 1793.

First port of the Kingdom during the Ancient Regime, Bordeaux suffered during the First Empire from the Continental System. Its trading activity resumed under the Bourbonic Restoration and the Second Empire.

In 1870, 1914 and 1940, the French Government withdrew to Bordeaux because of the German breakout. Bordeaux received the nickname of "Tragic Capital" (la Capitale tragique).
During the Second World War, a submarine base was built by the German Navy. When the Germans withdrew, the port of Bordeaux miraculously escaped destruction thanks to the heroism of a German seaman who contacted the French Resistance and sabotaged the destruction plan. The seaman took the French nationality and revealed the true story only a few years ago. Until then, a local leader of the French Resistance had credited himself of the sabotage.

The town of Bordeaux has developed new districts located in the periphery of the "Old Bordeaux". From the Liberation to the 90s, the Mayor of Bordeaux was Jacques Chaban-Delmas (1915-2000), appointed General by de Gaulle in 1944 when 29. Chaban-Delmas was several times Minister, Prime Minister from 1969 to 1972 (under Georges Pompidou) and President of the National Assembly (1958-1969, 1978-1981, 1986-1988). He was also Representative of Gironde from 1946 to 1993, and President of the Region Aquitaine (1974-1979; 1985-1988). François Mauriac (see below) nicknamed him un Bonaparte gai"("a cheerful Bonaparte").

Most of the fame of Bordeaux is due to the vineyards which stretch over 135,000 ha (105 x 130 km) in the areas of Médoc, Haut-Médoc, Graves, Sauternes and Barsac, Premières Côtes de Bordeaux, Côtes de Bordeaux-Saint-Macaire, Entre-Deux-Mers, Saint-Émilion, etc. The vineyard is organized in c. 12,000 estates called châteaux (castles), with 53 appellations (brand names) from six main classes. Annual production is about 600 millions of bottles (3/4 red wines, 1/4 white wines), one third of them being exported.
The white wine from Sauternes gets its specific sweet taste from a fungus (Botrytis cinerea), which is normally considered as a harmful pathogen (rot) but called in Sauternes pourriture noble ("noble rot"). The fungus colonizes the grapes only partially and short before harvest, causing them loss of water and therefore increasing their sugar content. In the Château-d'Yquem, maybe the most renowned Sauternes castle, the grapes are selected by hand, berry by berry, and the whole production of a year might be discarded if it does not meet very high quality standards.

Two main French writers, Montaigne and Mauriac, are linked to Bordeaux.
Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) was not born in Bordeaux but in neighbouring Périgord. However, several episodes of his life took place in Bordeaux. In 1558, the local court of Périgueux was transfered to Bordeaux, where Montaigne met a colleague called La Boétie. This was the beginning of a close friendship who ended six years later with La Boétie's death and is the subject of the most famous section (I, 26) of Montaigne's Essais. Those Essais were published for the first time in Bordeaux in 1580. Montaigne was elected Mayor of Bordeaux from 1580 to 1586, during the Religion Wars, and served as a mediator between the Protestant leader Henri of Navarre and Marshal of Matignon, appointed Governor of Guyenne by the Roman Catholic King of France Henri III.

François Mauriac (1885-1970) was born in Bordeaux, which is often portrayed in his novels and poems. Mauriac was elected to the French Academy in 1933. In 1952, he received the Nobel Prize in Literature and started a new career as journalist and polemist. His weekly Bloc-note was one of the main events of the French intellectual life in the 50-60s. Mauriac supported General de Gaulle but violently denounced the use of torture during the Algerian Independence War.

Ivan Sache, 18 September 2002

Flag of Bordeaux

The flag of Bordeaux, oberved on the city hall, is white with the greater municipal arms, including the supports ans the motto: photo (2018).

Olivier Touzeau, 9 April 2022

The flag in use indoor has a brown listel for the motto, and adds the words "VILLE DE BORDEAUX" below the arms: photo from this page, 2023; photo, 2023.

Olivier Touzeau, 25 March 2024

On the arms, the leopard recalls that Bordeaux was the capital of the Duchy of Guyenne.
The castle shows the towers of the former city hall, from which only the Grosse Cloche (the Big Bell) was preserved. This bell was placed in a beffrey, and was rung to announce the beginning of grape harvest. It is said that when the King of France was not happy with the people of Bordeaux, which might have happened quite often since the town had its own Parliament, he ordered the bells and clocks to be removed.
The water symbolizes the river Garonne (but the real Bell tower is not located on the river) and the moon crescent stands for the curve made by this river inside the town.

Source: GASO website

Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 18 September 2002

For most historians, traditionally, the expression "port of the Moon" would come from the wide crescent-shaped meander that the river describes as it passes through the city, represented by a crescent moon on the city's coat of arms. . The expression "port of the Moon", however, is only attested at the beginning of the 17th century, at the time when the city's cipher appeared, which displays three intertwined crescent moons. The small coat of arms whose stylized vision is taken up by the current Bordeaux logo appear, among other things, on the spine and the covers of the bindings of the prize books awarded by the college of Guyenne and adorned, in the 18th century, the pediment of the Saint-Projet fountain. The Moon is mentioned in the motto: Lilia solia regunt lunma undas castra leonem (Only the fleurs-de-lis shall reign on the moon, the waters, the castle and the lion.)

In his Ancient History of the Port of Bordeaux (1950), the local historian Charles Higounet offers another explanation, new at the time. The allegorical crescent appears in a city seal in the mid-13th century. And at that time, we already found three intertwined crescents on mile markers to designate Bordeaux
Perhaps it is because the original meaning of this heraldic crescent was forgotten that the easy explanation by the route of the river was formed in the 17th century. Now Mr. Dion, master geographer from the Collège de France, thinks that the harbor of Bordeaux would have already been called by navigators and travelers the “port of the moon” as early as the Middle Ages, at the time of Charles II the Bald (823- 877). According to him, the expression comes from a confusion with the Italian port of Luna (“urbs lunensis” in Latin), taken in the 9th century by the Normans led by Hastings in the conquest of the Mediterranean. This port was in fact only a modest city, while Dudon de Saint-Quentin, a Norman historian from the beginning of the 11th century, describes “the city of the moon” as a powerfully fortified city, like Bordeaux. The city had also been taken in 848 by treachery by Hastings and the Normans and it was the first great Gallo-Roman metropolis that pirates discovered coming from the Nordic seas. Hence a possible confusion..
A third explanation is based on the power of the Moon on the rhythm of the tides, which allowed ships to move far inland, centuries before the invention of motorboats, and thus made Bordeaux the most close to the Mediterranean

In 2007, the "Port of the Moon" and roughly 1800 hectares of the surrounding urban area were listed a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its outstanding and "innovative classical and neoclassical architectural trends" and Bordeaux's prominence as both the center of the historical wine industry and as a global trading center for more than 800 years.[2] The World Heritage Site is the largest urban area inscribed by UNESCO (as of 2021), covering roughly 40% of the entire city's area.

Olivier Touzeau, 25 March 2024

Former flag of Bordeaux in the 1950ies

[Flag of Bordeaux]

Flag of Bordeaux in the 1950ies - Image by Olivier Touzeau, 25 March 2024

In his website []  Pascal Vagnat mentionned the use of another Bordeaux flag, blue or red with the city cypher in white in the center, seen in images dating back to the 1950ies, during a report by France 2, broadcasted in December 2003 (inauguration of the first Bordeaux tramway), and reported by the French vexillologist Patrice de la Condamine.
The report can be seen here: [INA's website]. It show images of last tramway in Bordeaux in 1958 (left on the printscreen), which can be seen too in articles by the newspaper Sud-Ouest [source], [source], and especllay on this picture.

[Flag of Bordeaux]

In fact, the flag of Bordeaux in the 1950ies was probably red (comparing with the shades of grey on the tricolore) with the outline of the arms including the supports, crown and motto all in white, and in the center of the shield the cypher of Bordeaux. The previously purported flag of plain field with the cypher in white has no existence.

Olivier Touzeau, 25 March 2024

Mayor Bayssellance and the flags

Adrien Bayssellance (1829-1907) was Mayor of Bordeaux from 1888 to 1892. He was born in an old local Protestant family and had very strict moral values.
During his mandate, his contributions to the maintenance of law and order in Bordeaux were the following:

  • the suppression of the Workers' Congress, where the red flag had been hoisted
  • a decree forbidding the use of the Tricolore flag as a sign by drinking establishment
  • a very famous article against the pornographic leaflets

Ivan Sache, 27 July 2004

Bastide-Niel ZAC (district)

[Flag of Bordeaux]

Flag of Bastide-Niel ZAC - Image by Olivier Touzeau, 3 May 2022

The ZAC (Concerted Development Zone) Bastide Niel, with an approximate surface area of 35 ha, between Avenue Thiers and the Quai de Queyries, consists of two railway wastelands and the former Barracks Niel in Bordeaux. Originally a land of palus in the Entre-deux-Mers on the right bank of the Garonne, the Bastide district was annexed to the municipality of Bordeaux in 1865. For a long time an industrial and working-class district, it was the subject of numerous development projects of urban development within the framework of "Bordeaux 2030".
The Niel barracks is a former military barracks located on the right bank of he Garonne Bordeaux. Built from 1875, it was occupied by various regiments until its activities ceased in 2005. It extends over approximately 10 hectares in the district of La Bastide.

The "Bastide Niel" project is anchored in the reconquest of the right bank, started in 1997 with the guide plan of the right bank and the planning documents which outline the orientations for this sector. At that time, the decommissioning of rthe former "Orléans railway station" had led to the closure of a large number of companies linked to rail activity and the inhabitants remaining in the sector were isolated in an aging habitat. These large freed land areas, close to the city center of Bordeaux, have enabled the Metropolis to launch studies for the creation of a Concerted Development Zone (Zone d'aménagement concerté, ZAC) in order to design a new area of housing and activities in application of the urban project.

The "Bastide Niel" project was launched in 2010. In July 2014, Bordeaux Métropole entrusted, after competitive bidding, the construction of the ZAC Bastide Niel by signing the concession agreement with the consortium made up of Bordeaux Métropole Aménagement, Domofrance and Aquitanis in order to: "ensure the project management and carrying out infrastructure and superstructure works and equipment; to carry out the construction program according to the phasing agreed with the urban community; to implement an effective and appropriate promotion and communication strategy on the urban project”. The group was set up as a Simplified Joint Stock Company, specifically dedicated to the Bastide Niel operation and endowed with a share capital of 2 million euros distributed as follows: BMA, Chairman 51%; Aquitanis, Partner 24.5%; Domofrance, Partner 24.5%.
The Bastide Niel urban project was reoriented in December 2020 at the request of the city of Bordeaux and Bordeaux Métropole's new political majority: enhanced greening of public spaces, evolution of the architecture in line with new objectives of sobriety, increase in the number of social housing units.

The project has a flag, white with its logo and the logo of the company dedicated to the operation (SAS d’Aménagement Bastide Niel): photo, photo.

Olivier Touzeau, 3 May 2022

Yacht clubs

Cercle de la Marine de Bordeaux

[CM Bordeaux]

Burgee of CMB - Image by Ivan Sache, 28 December 2004

Cercle de la Marine de Bordeaux was founded in 1932. Its burgee is white with three black anchors placed 2 and 1 and a white triangle at fly.

Source: Yacht Club de France website (affiliated clubs)

Ivan Sache, 28 December 2004

Cercle de la Voile de Bordeaux Carcans-Maubuisson

[CV Bordeaux]         [CV Bordeaux]

Flag and burgee of CVBCM - Images by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg & José Carlos Alegria, 4 October 2011

Article 1 of the club's Statutes, last amended on 20 January 2008, gives the name of the club as "Cercle de la Voile de Bordeaux, Carcans-Maubuisson, 'C.V.B.C.M.' ". Article 3 says that CVBCM, with its social seat at Bordeaux, was officially registered on 21 February 1977. The registration was published on 13 March 1977 in the French official gazette.
CVBCM is based on the Bombannes Domain, located on the shore of Lake Carcans-Hourtin. The lake, sometimes called Lake Hourtin-Carcans (18 km x 5 km; 6,600 ha) is located north-west of Bordeaux, surrounded by the famous Médoc vineyards. Its northern end once housed an hydroplane base. The Bombannes Domain and the resort of Maubuisson, created in 1954, are located on the territory of the municipality of Carcans (2,114 inhabitants in 2007; 17,540 ha).
The most famous member of the club, then known as CVB, is Serge Maury (b. 1946), Olympic champion in 1972 (Kiel) in the Finn class, also World champion (1973) and European champion (1975-1976) and French champion (1969-1974) in the Finn class.

The flag of CVBCM (photos) is red with a red cross and a blue diamond with a white border and the letters "CVB" in blue in the middle of the cross. The cover of the 1970 Yearbook of CVB (image) shows the flag with the cross skewed to the flag's hoist.
The burgee of CVBCM is a triangular version of the flag, with the cross skewed to the hoist.

[CM Bordeaux]

Other representation of the flag of CVB - Image by Ivan Sache, 30 April 2012

The cover of the 1970 Yearbook of CVB (image) shows the flag with the cross skewed to the flag's hoist and thinner than on the flag in actual use.

Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg & Ivan Sache, 30 April 2012

Sport clubs

Girondins de Bordeaux FC

[Girondins de Bordeaux]

Flag of the Girondins de Bordeaux FC - Image by Olivier Touzeau, 25 March 2024

The Club of Bordeaux was founded on 1 October 1881 as a multi-sports club and is one of the most successful football clubs in France. The club has won six Division 1/Ligue 1 titles, the last in 2009. Bordeaux have also won four Coupe de France titles, three Coupe de la Ligue titles, and three Trophée des champions titles as well. Bordeaux also reached the UEFA Cup final in 1996.

In May 2023, the flag of the Girondins de Bordeaux football club was hoisted on the city hall to support the club towards promotion to League 1 (but the Girondins ended the season 3rd and stayed in League 2): [source]
The flag is blue with the emblem of the Club, including in the center the cypher (three intersecting crescents) of Bordeaux.

Olivier Touzeau, 25 March 2024