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Flag of Magny-les-Hameaux - Image by Olivier Touzeau, 30 September 2006
The municipality of Magny-les-Hameaux (9,150 inhabitants - Magnycois - in 2004; 1,664 ha, including 994 ha of parks, gardens and arable lands, 316 ha of woods and 12 ha of waterways; municipal website) is located 30 km south-west of Paris, on a plateau limited by the valleys of the Merantais and the Rhodon. The seven hamlets
(hameaux) for which the municipality is named are Magny-Village, le Bois des Roches, Buloyer, Romainville, Brouessy, Villeneuve and Gomberville.
Magny as a village probably emerged in the 10th century around a fortress whose ruins are still visible behind the today's St. Germain church, whose building probably started in the 12th century.
At the end of the 12th century, Magny belonged to the lords of Châteaufort. In
1204, a monastery was built, which was incorporated as the abbey of
Port-Royal in 1214 by Bouchard I for his mother Mathilde de Garlande. The abbey, originally known as Porrois, was founded in a place where leeks (Latin, porrus; French, poireau)
were grown. When placed under Royal patronage, the name of the abbey
was changed to Portus Regius, Port-Royal.
The women's Cistercian abbey of Port-Royal was created in 1204. A few centuries later, St. Bernard's strict rule was no longer in effect. The ten sisters and the six novices who lived in the abbey were more famous for society life than for piety, even "celebrating" the carnival. In 1602, Mother Angélique Arnaud, officially aged 11 but really 5, was appointed Abbess of Port-Royal. In 1609, she hardly recovered from a serious disease and decided to reestablish discipline in the abbey. She reimplemented cloistering, refusing to meet her own family elsewhere than in the parlor. Rule observance and meditation were favoured, attracting several novices.
In 1618, Angélique was sent by her order to reform the abbey of Maubuisson, north of Paris. Port-Royal was ruled by mother Agnès, Angélique's younger sister. Back to Port-Royal in 1628, Angélique decided to transfer the abbey to Paris to have more space and a more healthy environment. The abbey of Port-Royal, now a maternity hospital, was founded in Paris, as opposed to Port-Royal-des-Champs (in-the-Fields). Angélique appointed as conscience directors Jean Duvergier de Hauranne, abbot of Saint-Cyran, and Antoine Singlin. Extremely austere, they considered that only the divine grace could save the corrupted human being.
One of Angélique's brothers, also influenced by Saint-Cyran's ideas, decided to withdraw from society. With a few friends, he settled in a dependency of Port-Royal abbey in Paris. In 1637, they moved to Port-Royal-des-Champs, which had been abandoned by the nuns, draining the marshes and building new buildings. They became rapidly famous as the messieurs de Port-Royal or solitaires de Port-Royal (recluses). The next year, Saint-Cyran was jailed in Vincennes by Cardinal de Richelieu, whom he had refused to serve. The abbot died in 1643.
In 1648, Mother Angélique, back to Port-Royal-des-Champs, divided her flourishing community between the two Port-Royal abbeys. The messieurs moved uphill in the Granges de Port-Royal (barns). They created the Petites Écoles (Small Schools), the quality and efficiency of their teaching being rapidly acknowledged. The solitaires le Grand Arnauld, Arnauld d'Andilly and their relatives Lemaistre de Sacy, translator of the Bible, the hellenist Lancelot, the moralists Nicole and Hamon were among the most brilliant scholars of that time.
Port-Royal started to influence the Royal court, located in
Versailles, not far from
Port-Royal-des-Champs, but also the Parliament of Paris and the
younger generations. Their strong influence being challenged, the Jesuits accusated Port-Royal to propagate Jansenist ideas.
Jansenius, Bishop of Ieper (now in
Belgium) was appointed by the Catholic
University of Leuven to refute the theory popularized by the
Jesuit Molina, according to which the man was able to improve himself
and save his soul with God's help. Jansenius died in 1638, short
after having published his treaty called Augustinus.
The Port-Royal theologians, led by le Grand Arnauld, approved Augustinus, which was fairly close to their own ideas, but also close to Calvinism. They propagated Augustinus all over France, being accusated by the Jesuits to spread heresy. The Jesuits accumulated "evidence" of the heresy by merging erroneous or incomplete citations of Augustinus, so that the book was condamned several times by the Pope from 1653 onwards.
The crisis increased, resulting in the closing of the Petites Écoles in 1656. The philosoph Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) published in 1656-1657 the Provinciales, a vivid attack to the Jesuits and a defense of Port-Royal. The persecutions against Port-Royal increased again in 1661, the year Mother Angélique died.
After a short period of calm, Louis XIV decided in 1679 to get rid of Port-Royal. The noviciate was closed, the solitaires were forced to leave and even to exile. The nuns of Port-Royal in Paris condamned those of Port-Royal-des-Champs, who were endlessly persecuted. In 1705, only 25 of them remained, the youngest of them being aged 60. On 20 Octobre 1709, the last surviving nuns were expelled by the mousquetaires. The abbey was destroyed next year. The cemetary was profanated, the remains of the nuns being thrown into a common foss in Saint-Lambert. The suppression of Port-Royal did not eradicate Jansenism from France, which still caused serious troubles during the reign of Louis XV.
The radicalization of the persecution against Port-Royal paralleled the radical evolution of Louis XIV's regime. After the death of Queen Marie-Thérèse in 1683, Louis XIV secretely married with Madame de Maintenon and transformed his rule into a personal theocracy, revocating in 1685 the Edict of Nantes. Versailles progressively turned into a gloomy prison. The tragedian Jean Racine, a former student of the solitaires of Port-Royal, became the official writer of the king and did not published anything significant from 1691 to his death in 1699.
In 1693, the Dames de Saint-Cyr purchased, with the support (and the money!) of the king, the domains of Rhodon, Gomberville and Magny-Lessart. In 1788, Magny-Lessart (aka Magny l'Essart, an essart being a cleared piece of land) was renamed Magny-les-Hameaux. In 1977, due to the change in the municipal majority, the inhabitants of some hamlets asked for the secession, which was rejected by referendum.
In 1855, the painter Robert Fleury (1804-1858) purchased the former
presbytery of Magny, a big house located in the center of the village.
He invited there several of his friends, the most famous of them
being Jean-Baptiste Corot (1796-1875). In 1957, Corot's painting Coin
de parc à Magny-les-Hameaux was sold for 1,380,000 francs. A local rumor says that a private house in Magny is decorated with frescoes by Corot. After Fleury's death, his house was purchased by the landscape
and animal painter Jacques Raymond Brascassat (1805-1867), who sold it
in 1864 to another animal painter, Auguste Bonheur (1824-1884).
An noted painter, Bonheur was completely overshadowed by his junior sister Marie-Rosalie, aka Rosa (1822-1899). Rosa Bonheur, also an animal painter, was the first female artist to be awarded the Legion of Honour (1867); in spite of her eccentric life (she was blatantly lesbian, smoked havanas and wore trousers), she was beloved in France and overseas, meeting Empress Eugénie, Queen Victoria and Buffalo Bill. There is no evidence that she ever stayed in Magny, though.
The composer Raymond Bonheur (1856-1934) succeeded his father Auguste in the family house, where he welcomed his friends: the musicians Claude Debussy and Ernest Chausson, the painter Eugène Carrière and the writers André Gide, Francis Jammes, Charles Guérin and Albert Samain. Bonheur published very few works: a few melodies for Jammes' poems and Gide's elegias, and the incidental music for Samain's Polyphème (1904). Albert Samain (1858-1900), an obscure clerk at the Town Hall of Paris. was a refined, symbolist poet, inspired by Hugo, Baudelaire and Verlaine. He was one of the founders of the prestigious magazine Mercure de France. Inventor of the 15-verse poem, Samain published a book of tales and three collections of poems (Au jardin de l'Infante, 1893; Aux flancs du vase, poèmes, 1898; Le Chariot d'or, poèmes, 1900). In 1900, he stayed at Bonheur's house but had to move to a smaller, isolated house in Magny because he was suffering from contagious tuberculosis. Bonheur did not stop caring for him until his death, on 18 August. The painter Eugène Carrière painted Samain sur son lit de mort (Samain on his death bed), a painting which was hung in Bonheur's room until his own death.
The south-west of Paris was one of the cradles of the French aviation
industry. The brothers Henri (1874-1958) and Maurice (1876-1954) Farman
stayed in Magny in the family estate, still owned by the family and
known as the "Farman Brothers' house". The local legend says they had set
up their workshop there, where they designed plane protoypes. This is not impossible since they made most of their trials on the neighbouring airfield of Toussus-le-Noble.
On 30 November 1934, the aviatrix Hélène Boucher (1908-1934) crashed during practice in the place called La Croix de Bois. The exact place of the crash was a matter of dispute between the municipalities of Magny and Voisins-le-Bretonneux, solved on 12 June 1999 when the two mayors inaugurated a commemorative plaque on the alleged place of the crash. Hélène Boucher was very famous because of her raids and several world records she had beaten. She was a national celebrity and her death caused a real stir all over the country. Her coffin, covered with the French Tricolore flag, was shown for two days in the St. Louis chapel of the Hotel des Invalides in Paris; she was the first woman to be awarded such an honour. During her funeral in Yermenonville, a plane released a spray of white carnations over the cemetary.
The engineer Paul Weiss (1867-1945), of Alsatian origin, was Mayor of
Magny-les-Hameaux from 1935-1940. During his professional life, he
served the French Republic in several offices linked to mining and
transportation. He lived in the domain of Brouessy, still owned by his
family, significantly contributing to the development of the
village and promoting the development of public transportations and
educational facilities in the municipality. The domain of Brouessy was
also a center of culture since Weiss has among his friends the painters
Raoul Dufy and Maurice de Vlaeminck.
Among Weiss' six children, the most famous is the journalist, writer, feminist and European militant Louise Weiss (1893-1983, buried in the municipal cemetary of Maghy). As a journalist, Louise Weiss,traveled a lot after the First World War. Encouraged by her friends in central Europe (the Czechs Masaryk and Beneš and the Slovak Štefánik), she founded in 1918 the review L'Europe Nouvelle, promoting reconciliation with Germany and pacifism among the European elites and publishing the texts of the peace treaties. In January 1934, she resigned from L'Europe Nouvelle and openly opposed to Hitler. After the Second World War, she worked with the sociologist Gaston Bouthoul, the founder of polemology, the science of armed conflicts. Louise Weiss was a very good friend of Aristide Briant and strongly supported the incorporation of Germany into the League of Nations (1926) and the Briand-Kellog anti-war pact (1928). Louise Weiss believed that the only way to secure peace was to give the right of vote to women. In 1934, she founded the movement La Femme Nouvelle (The New Woman), involved in several demonstrations. Women were allowed to vote on 21 April 1944. In 1979, Louis Weiss was elected at the European Parliament on the Gaullist list; she was the oldest member of the Assembly. She beaqueathed all her collections and archives to the municipality of Saverne, which keep them in the Louise Weiss Museum, housed in the Rohan castle.
Ivan Sache, 30 September 2006
The flag of Magny-les-Hameaux, hoisted in front of the town hall, is white with the municipal logo.
Olivier Touzeau, 30 September 2006