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Poher (Traditional district, Brittany, France)


Last modified: 2013-03-23 by ivan sache
Keywords: poher | poc'her | lions: 2 (yellow) | ermine spot (red) | le brun (bernard) |
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[Flag of Poher]

Flag of Poher - Image by Ivan Sache, 18 November 2012

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Presentation of Poher

Poher is a traditional country - without modern administrative significance - located in central western Brittany. Today, Poher is a small area centered on the town of Carhaix. Connecting modern Poher with the historical territory of the same name is not straightforward since reliable historical sources hardly mention Poher before the 11th century - generally speaking, the early history of Brittany is mostly known by scraps of information found in the hagiography of local saints and in the biography heads of clans.

Poher was originally known as Pou Caër, an Old Breton name that was translated into Latin as "pagus castrum" or "pagus castelli", the Castle's (or Castles') Country. André Chédeville (in La Bretagne des saints et des rois - Ve-Xe siècles, Ouest-France, 1984) believes that the name was derived from Ker Ahes, the old name of Carhaix; ker, meaning in Breton "a domain", would have been translated as "a castle". Some historians, such as Christian Y. M. Kerboul (Petite histoire du Grand Poher, Pontig, 2000), claim that Caër was indeed a fortified castle or a citadel built by Conomor. A semi-legendary character of the time, Conomor the Cursed is said to have emigrated from Britain into Brittany in the first half of the 6th century and to have built a castle in Carhaix. The Breton tradition presents Conomor as a local Bluebeard who did not spare the life of his last wife; he would further have sought help by King of the Franks Childebert when threatened by the Breton warlords and abbots, and would have eventually been killed around 560 in a battle against Chlotar, Childebert's successor. Another tradition said that Conomor beheaded his younger son, St. Tremeur, whose head was stuck back by St. Gildas; when seeing his son alive and nagging him, Conomor was terror-stricken to death. Skipping the bloody details, it is probable that the head of a clan was able to establish some kind of feudal "state" in central Brittany, with its capital in Carhaix, in the 6th century.

What happened to Poher, and, more generally, to Brittany, in the next two "obscure" centuries, is not known. At the end of the 8th century, the Carolingian kings attempted to submit Brittany; Louis the Pious, Charlemagne's son and successor, eventually defeated and killed "king" Morvan in 818, and negotiated a peace agreement with Matmonoc, abbot of Landevennec. The agreement resulted in the establishment of dioceses and the appointment of hereditary counts as local representatives of the central power. According to Hubert Guillotel (in La Bretagne des saints et des rois - Ve-Xe siècles, Ouest-France, 1984), the first Count of Poher was Rivallon. He was succeeded by his brother Nominoë (d. 851), who was faithful to Louis the Pious but subsequently challenged his successor Charles the Bald and repelled the Franks eastwards. In 913, Matuedoï, Count of Poher, emigrated to Britain under the Northmen's pressure; in 937, his son Alain landed near Dol and expelled the Northmen from Brittany, being eventually crowned the first Duke of Brittany.

Some historians, for instance Joëlle Quaguebeur (La Cornouaille du IXe au XIIe siècle), consider that the Counts of Poher dominated the whole western Brittany until Matuedoï's exile; accordingly, Cornouaille would not have emerged as a distinct entity - the County of Cornouaille - until the second half of the 10th century. The two countal lineages eventually allied in 1066, when the Count of Cornouaille married the heir of the County of Poher and inherited the Duchy of Brittany.
At the end of the 10th century, the County of Poher was split in the two Viscounties of Poher and Faou. The two entities vanished in the 12th century, being split into several feudal domains.
In 1790, the territory of the sénéchaussée of Carhaix, which matched more or less the former Viscounty of Poher, was split between the three departments of Finistère, Côtes-du-Nord - today, Côtes d'Armor - and Morbihan.

Source: M. Cornec. 1995. Du Poher-Cornouaille au pays du Centre-Ouest Bretagne

The Poher Genealogy and History Center (website) has therefore defined historical Poher, in tis larger territorial extent, as including 45 municipalities in Finistère, 56 municipalities in Côtes d'Armor, and 19 municipalities in Morbihan.

Ivan Sache, 18 November 2012

Flag of Poher

The flag of Poher is yellow with three rows of six red ermine spots each, partially concealed by a red triangle extending form the hoist of the flag to its mid fly and charged with two yellow leopards.
The arms of the lords of Poher were recorded in 1426 as "Gules two leopards or". The background of the flag is a representation of Brittany, with the traditional black and white colours changed to red and yellow to match the former arms of Poher. The triangle highlights the location of Poher in central western Brittany.

The flag was designed by Bernard Le Brun, who decided to propose a flag for Poher following the success of the flag designed for Pays Bigouden.

[Flag of Poher]

Alternative proposal of flag of Poher - Image by Ivan Sache, 18 November 2012

In March 1996, B. Le Brun submitted two proposals. The first proposal was red with two yellow leopards and a narrow yellow triangle placed along the hoist and charged with a red ermine spot. The second proposal was unanimously adopted on 12 January 1997 by the Vexillology Commission of the Breton Society of Vexillology (SBV). Table flags (12 cm x 18 cm) were manufactured by Yoran Delacour (Coop Breizh) and presented to the media (Poher Hebdo, June 1997).
During the 3rd Congress of the SBV, held in Dinard on 16 October 1999, it was decided to produce full-sized (1 m x 1.50 m) flags and to sell them on a subscription basis. A press conference organized on 25 October 1999 in the Carhaix Visitor's Center, fairly reported in the local media (Le Télégramme, 27 November 1999; Poher-Hebdo, 27 November 1999; Ouest-France, 30 November 1999), yielded only three subscribers. On 20 January 2000, the SBV had registered 50 subscriptions and decided to order 100 copies of the flag. The colours were prescribed as red Pantone 032 and yellow Pantone 116.
The flag was officially unveiled on 19 March 2000 in Rostrenen (Ouest-France, 21 March 2000; Poher-Hebdo, 23 March 2000; Le Télégramme, 24 March 2000; Armor Magazine, May 2000).

Source: P. Rault. Le drapeau du Poher. Symbole du renouveau d'un vieux pays. Ar Banniel [arb], No. 12 (2000), p. 4-12.

Philippe Rault, President of the SBV, offered the last available copy of the flag to Ivan Sarajčić, who proudly hoisted it somewhere on the Adriatic coast (photo).
Other sightings of the Poher flag are to be found on websites dedicated to Breton flags (photos by Philippe Rault, photos by Hervé Prat, photo by Mikael Bodlore-Penlaez).

Ivan Sache, 18 November 2012