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Comtat Venaissin (Traditional province, France)

Last modified: 2016-11-13 by ivan sache
Keywords: comtat venaissin |
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Flag of Comtat Venaissin - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 12 January 2003

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History of Comtat Venaissin

Comtat Venaissin is limited by the rivers Rhône and Durance and the Mount Ventoux. It is named after its former capital, Venasque (Vindascinum), now a village of 600 inhabitants with one of the oldest Merovingian baptistries in France (6th century). The capital of the Comtat was moved in 1320 to Carpentras, where bishop Malachie d'Inguimbert founded in 1745 the famous Inguimbertine Library.
The town of Avignon was not part of the Comtat Venaissin, but constituted with its outskirts the Comtat of Avignon.

In the 13th century, the Comtat Venaissin belonged to Alfonso of Poitiers (1220-1271), a Capetian prince, son of King of France Louis VIII and Count of Poitiers and Toulouse. Alfonso bequeathed the Comtat to the Holy See, which incorporated it in 1274. At that time, the Comtat of Avignon still belonged to the County of Provence. On 19 June 1348, Countess Joan (1326-1382), better known as Queen John of Naples, sold Avignon to Pope Clement VI. Avignon and the Comtat Venaissin then formed the Papal Enclave, which evolved independently from France.

Nine popes, known as the "Popes of Avignon", stayed in Avignon:
Clement V (Bertrand de Got) 1305-1314
John XXII (Jacques Duese) 1316-1334
Benedict XII (Jacques Fournier) 1334-1342
Clement VI (Pierre Roger) 1342-1352
Innocent VI (Etienne Aubert) 1352-1362
Urban V (Guillaume de Grimoard) 1362-1370
Gregor XI [Pierre Roger de Beaufort] 1370-1378 - Clement VI's nephew
Clement VII (Robert de Genève) 1378-1394
Benedict XIII (Pierre de Lune) 1394-1409 - deposed in 1409 and again in 1417, he died without having resigned.

The economical and cultural development of the enclave encouraged the kings of France to attempt to grab it. The enclave was taken over by the French troops in 1663, 1668 and 1768-1774. Under the reign of Louis XIV, Colbert imposed extremely high customs dues. Louis XV, in 1734, forbid the Comtadins to grow tobacco and to manufacture printed calicos (indiennes). However, the enclave remained a peaceful area where people did not pay taxes and were not subjected to military service.
In 1791, the burghers and merchants of Avignon pushed the incorporation of the enclave to France, which was effective on 14 September 1791. The Holy See recognized the annexion only in 1814.

Ivan Sache, 12 January 2003

Flag of Comtat Venaissin

The flag of Comtat Venaissin is a banner of the arms De gueules aux deux clefs d'or passées en sautoir, liées d'azur (Or two crossed keys the wards outwards gules tied in base with a bow azure), 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 keys, borrowed from the arms of Avignon, are St. Peter's keys, symbolizing the spiritual and temporal powers tied in a single hand.

Ivan Sache, 14 June 2009