Last modified: 2022-03-01 by ivan sache
Keywords: gournay-en-bray |
Links: FOTW homepage | search | disclaimer and copyright | write us | mirrors
Flag of Gournay-en-Bray - Image by Olivier Touzeau, 10 June 2021
The municipality of Gournay-en-Bray (6,041 inhabitants in 2019; 1,040 ha) is located 50 km of Rouen.
Gournay-en-Bray is located in Pays de Bray, named for the Gaulish word braco, "a swamp", "mud". The area appears to be so named after its sticky clayish soil.
Geologically, the Pays de Bray is a relatively small eroded anticline along the Bray fault, breaking through rocks on the fringe of the Paris Basin, which forms the chalky plateaus around it. It is a smaller version of the Weald of Kent and Sussex, but reveals the beds more deeply; down to the Upper Jurassic clay. To the north is the Upper Cretaceous plateau of Picardy with the Pays de Caux to the west and the Vexin to the south-east. The erosion has exposed clay beds in an elliptically-shaped region which is called the buttonhole of the Pays de Bray.
In 911, Charles III granted by the Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte the region between "the Epte and the sea" to Rollo, who entrusted the pagus of Bray to Odo de Gournay, the knight with the black shield. Gournay was fortified in 984 with the construction of the Hue tower by Hugh I of Gournay.
In 1066, Hugh II of Gournay and his son Neal fought alongside William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings. Due to their bravery Hugh II was granted strongholds in Essex and Suffolk while Neal was granted several estates in Somerset near Bristol and Bath. In 1171, nine canons of the Abbey of Notre-Dame de Bellozanne were appointed to the St. Hildevert parish, allowing the church to become a collegiate church. In 1174, then at war with his father, Henry the Younger and his allies, Philip of Alsace, Count of Flanders, Matthew of Alsace, Count of Boulogne, and Louis VII of France, seized Gournay and captured Hugh IV of Gournay and 160 men; they partially set fire to the castle and the collegiate church. The new church was consecrated on 29 April 1192. The Sainte-Croix fair, which took place in September, dates back to 1193, when Hugh V of Gournay returned from the crusade.
In 1202, Philip II August, at war against John Lackland, besieged Gournay, after having taken Eu and Drincourt. The town was recaptured after the French troops ha opened the dam that held back the waters of the Epte and the Morette which swept away the town's defenses. He knighted Arthur Plantagenêt in the parish church and made him betrothed to his daughter Mary. In 1204, the king of France confiscated the domains of Hugh V of Gournay, who left France. The town and the county then belonged to the crown of France until the reign of Louis XI, who offered it to the Harcourt family, Counts of Tancarville. Subsequent lords of Gournay were the Princes of Orléans-Longueville in 1488 and the Montmorency-Luxembourg house in 1724.
In 1375, the town suffered a fire which ended after a procession of the relics of St. Hildevert. During the Hundred Years' War, Gournay was occupied for 41 years by the English. In 1435, the English troops of John FitzAlan, Count of Arundel, were defeated by the French troops commanded by La Hire during the battle of Gerberoy and pursued to a place called Les Épinettes, on the outskirts of Laudencourt, a hamlet near Gournay. The town was taken over in 1449 by the French royal troops commanded by Louis de Luxembourg, Count of Saint-Pol. On 24 June 1465, Duke of Burgundy Charles the Bold seized the town, looted and sacked it as well as the castle of Goulancourt located in Senantes, that of Coudray-Saint-Germer, the surroundings of Gerberoy and the country of Bray. On 20 September of the same year, Charles de Melun recaptured the town in the name of the king of France.
On 21 August 1589, Henri d'Orléans, Duke of Longueville and lord of Gournay, delivered the town to Henry IV. On 4 September 1589, the town, defended by 700 to 800 men, was besieged by the troops of the Holy League commanded by Charles de Mayenne. On 7 September, after opening a breach near Ybert Gate, the assaulters entered town. Philippe de Marles, Lord of La Falaise, became governor of Gournay. In October 1591, Marshal Biron besieged and took the town in the name of Henry IV. René du Bec, Marquess of Vardes, became governor of the town. A long period of peace settled in the region, allowing the town to prosper until the French Revolution.
On 7 June 1940, the downtown of Gournay was almost completely destroyed by German bombardments. Occupied on 9 June 1950, the town was linerated on 30 August 30, 1944, Gournay was liberated by Canadian troops. It took more than ten years to complete its reconstruction. The reference to the country of Bray was added on April 9, 1962 in the name of the town
Olivier Touzeau, 10 June 2021
The flag of Gournay-en-Bray (photo) is white with the municipal logo, which was adopted in 2015 after the municipa arms, "Sable an armed knight contourny holding in the right hand a lance argent in chief a fleur-de-lis or".
The local tradition claims that Odo de Gournay's plain black shield scared so much the population of the town that they immediately plead allegiance to their new lord. Odo allegedly planted his lance on the bank of river Epte to impress even more those who had not understood that there was a new sheriff in town.
[Town unofficial website]
In Three hundred years of a Norman house: The Barons of Gournay from the tenth to the thirteenth century (1867), James Hannay unambiguously states that absolutely nothing is known on the patriarch of the famous Gournay / Gurney lineage:
"In short, Odo is a name supplied by tradition to somebody whose existence is, after all, a matter of certainty. [...] For the rest, all about Eudes is dark. He is nominis umbra. [...] All, we again repeat, is dim and shadowy, dark and indefinite, about the patriarch of this, as of all, families. It is a Force rather than a Person that is present with us when we think of him."
Odo de Gournay and his son, Hugh, were first mentioned by Daniel Gurney, in The record of the house of Gournay (1848). In his account of Gurney's work, Léopold Delisle lists "Eudes, Rollo's so-called fellow" among the inaccuracies of the early part of the book, and points out that the first lord of Gournay quoted in reliable sources is Hugh I the Old.
[Léopold Delisle. 1852. Bibliothèque de l'École des chartes 13, 187-189]
The riding knight and the fleur-de-lis were subsequently added to the plain arms to recall an event that took place in 1202 in Gournay. Short after the reconquest of the town, king of France Philip II Augustus armed knight Arthur, Duke of Brittany and pretender to the throne of England, in the parish church and engaged him to his daughter, Mary of France.
The marriage was never celebrated since Arthur was captured by his rival John Lackland and died in 1203.
[Town unofficial website]
The Armorial Général shows the arms of Gournay with the knight standing, not riding a horse, and holding a sword instead of a lance (image).
Olivier Touzeau & Ivan Sache, 19 September 2021