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Sarreguemines (Municipality, Moselle, France)

Last modified: 2011-11-12 by ivan sache
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[Flag of Sarreguemines]

Municipal flag of Sarreguemines - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 6 February 2005

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Presentation of Sarreguemines

The town of Sarreguemines (23,774 inhabitants; 29.67 sq. km) is located in Lorraine, close to the border with Germany. Sarreguemines is 80 km of Metz, 90 km of Nancy, 100 km of Strasbourg and 20 km of Sarrebrück.

In 777, Fulrad, a councillor of Pépin le Bref and Charlemagne, bequeathed his goods and domains to the St. Denis' royal abbey. Among Fulrad's goods was a big estate located on the confluency of the rivers Sarre (German, Saar) and Blies. The name of Sarreguemines (Saargemund) is related to the roots Gemundia (Latin) and Gmund (German), meaning confluency.
The Sarreguemines farm was fortified in order to control the ford on the Sarre and to perceive a tax (tonlieu). Progressively, a small town surrounded with walls developed around a castle built on the hill dominating the river (Schlossberg; lit., the castle's mountain). In 1125, the lord representing the St. Denis' abbey exchanged with Duke of Lorraine Ferry III Sarreguemines for lands located near Bitche. Sarreguemines was then the see of a châtellenie, that is an administrative and military division of the Duchy of Lorraine. In the same period, the Brabant road linking Flanders to Italy was opened via the St. Gothard pass in the Alps; Sarreguemines became an important trade town on this road. In the XIVth century, the town was granted a franchise and became independent of the feudal powers. Jewish and Lombard moneymakers contributed to the development of the city.

In 1523, Sarreguemines had three fairs per year and was very wealthy. However, the town was sacked during the guerre des rustauds in 1525 and the Thirty Years' War (1632-1662). Sarreguemines was incorporated to the Kingdom of France in 1679. An attempt of resettlement of the town failed because of Louis XIV's wars. In 1698, the Duchy of Lorraine was reestablished and Sarreguemines became the see of the Bailiwick of Germany, one of the four administrative divisions of the Duchy, corresponding to the German-speaking part of Lorraine. From 1700 to 1735, the town developed and grew up out of the medieval city walls. Lorraine was progessively incorporated into the Kingdom of France; importation of wood from Holland and local textile industry increased the prosperity of the area.

In 1790, Sarreguemines was the capital of one of the nine districts forming the new department of Moselle. In 1800, Sarreguemines was the sous-prefecture of the fourth arrondissement (replacing the district) of Moselle.
In 1815, the treaty of Vienna placed Sarreguemines on the border with Prussia. Industrialization started in 1830 with the set up of dynastic capitalism. Factories were established on the right bank of the Saar, producing pottery, snuffboxes, cudly toys, safety matches, steam engines and safes. In 1863-1866, the building of the Collieries' Canal (Canal des Houillères) and of the railway speeded up the development of Sarreguemines; the town had only 6,000 inhabitants in 1850 but 14,000 en 1900. It was then the second most important town in Moselle after Metz.
From 1871 to 1918, Sarreguemines was incorporated to the German Empire as a part of the Alsace-Moselle region. It became a garrison town, with the building of two big barracks for cavalry and infantry. A new court of justice, railway station and hospital were the base of the complete redesign of the town.

In 1918, Sarreguemines was reincorporated to France and took benefit of the neigbouring coal-mining basin. However, the town was located close to the border with Germany and was included in the "red zone" of the Maginot defense plan in 1930. The increasing threat of war with Germany completely stopped the economical development of the town.
The inhabitants of Sarregumines were all evacuated to Charente (southwest of France) on 1 September 1939. In the neighbouring village of Frauenberg, the writer Roland Dorgelès (1885-1973) coined the expression la drôle de guerre (the Phoney War), used to designate the period between the declaration of war and the German assault of June 1940. After the defeat of France, Sarreguemines, severely damaged by several bombings, was incorporated into the Third Reich.
Sarreguemines was liberated by the American forces in December 1944. The town was quickly rebuilt around the remains of its historical center in 1945-1955. A new industrial zone was inaugurated in May 1961 with the opening of the Continental tyre factory, and new industries replaced the traditional textile and pottery activities deemed obsolete. The municipality of Sarreguemines absorbed the neighbouring rural municipalities of Neunkirch and Welferding (1964) and Folpersviller (1971). The urban district of Sarreguemines was created in 1972 and was succeeded in 2002 by the urban community of Sarreguemines-Confluences (52,670 inhabitants).

Sarreguemines is renowned for pottery. The first, pre-industrial earthenware factory was founded in 1790 by the brothers Nicolas-Henri and Paul-Augustin Jacobi and their associate Joseph Fabry. Production became industrial in the 1830s under the leadership of Paul Utzschneider and Paul de Geiger. There were 3,000 workers in the factory in the beginning of the XXth century. The Geiger family kept the control of the factory until the end of the XXth century; in 1979, the factory was purchased by the Lunéville-Saint-Clément group, also owner of the historical factory of Lunéville, and production was mostly redirected towards tiles. The factory was renamed Sarreguemines-Bâtiment in 1982.
The former house of the director of the factory was transformed into the Earthenware Museum; it includes the wonderful Winter Garten built for Paul de Geiger in 1882. Another museum, housed by the Blies watermill, shows the traditional techniques and tools used in Sarreguemines for earthenware production. One of the 30 original ovens, made of brick and with a conical chimney, can still be seen behind the city hall. The casino built in 1890 has been transformed into a restaurant.
Geiger's social capitalism is recalled every year in June on St. Paul's Day. A street festival recalls that Paul de Geiger offered a lunch to his factory workers on his patron saint's day.

The Carnival of Sarreguemines takes place every year in the two weeks before Mardi Gras. Its traditional elements are the Kappensitzung, the cavalcade and the masked ball Balla balla. It ends on Ash Wednesday with the sentencing of Prince Carnival.
Sarreguemines hosts every year the Mir Redde Platt festival, dedicated to the Frankish (Platt) language still spoken in the region and in the neighbouring Luxembourg.

Source: Municipal website

Ivan Sache, 6 February 2005

Municipal flag of Sarreguemines

The municipal flag of Sarreguemines is proudly waved on the front page of the municipal website, and was confirmed to be a real flag by the municipal administration. It is a banner of the municipal arms.

The municipal arms of Sarreguemines are:
Parti: au premier d'or à la croix patriarcale de gueules, au second du même à l'alerion d'argent. (GASO)
Parti d'or à la croix de Lorraine de gueule et de gueules à l'alerion d'argent. (Brian Timms)
(Per pale or a cross double traversed gules and gules an alerion argent).

Both GASO and Timms say that these arms, showing the two main symbols of Lorraine, were used for the first time in 1610. Then, Timms claims in a fairly obscure manner that Sarreguemines used the "simple" arms of Lorraine.
In 1913, the municipality was allowed by German Emperor William II to readopt its original arms. In 1941, the Germans attempted, to no avail, to suppress the Cross of Lorraine, which had been adopted by General de Gaulle as the symbol of the Free France.
On the flag, the cross is shadowed and the alerion is outlined in black.

Ivan Sache, 6 February 2005