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Roquebrune-Cap-Martin (Municipality, Alpes-Maritimes, France)

Last modified: 2019-01-09 by ivan sache
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Flag of Roquebrune-Cap-Martin - Image by Ivan Sache, 14 December 2008

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Presentation of Roquebrune-Cap-Martin

The municipality of Roquebrune-Cap-Martin (11,692 inhabitants in 1999; 933 ha; municipal website) is located on the French Riviera, between the Principality of Monaco and Menton. Cap Martin is a cape separating Roquebrune from Monaco; Cap-Martin was added to the name of the town to differentiate it from the Provencal town of Roquebrune-sur-Argens.

The region of Roquebrune was already inhabited in the Neolithic. The cave of Vallonnet, found in 1958 and excavated from 1962 to 1973, has yielded thousands of animal bones and a few archaic tools, demonstrating that human beings had lived there more than one million years ago.
Roquebrune is located on the crossroads of two Roman ways, the Julian and the Aurelian ways. An old wall excavated near the today's town hall and locally known as "the Lumone grave" probably belonged to the mansio of Lumone, a post house where horses were changed. The so- called Millenary Olive Tree, located on the road to Menton, is said to have been planted by the Phenicians 3,000 years ago, but it was most probably planted by the Gallo-Romans around 400.
After the Sarracens had been expelled from the coats by Guillaume, Count of Arles, in 978, the area was resettled by monks from the abbey of Lérins, a small island located a few miles off Cannes, protected by the Counts of Ventimiglia (today in Italy). The abbey of Lérins set up in the 11th century a priory in the Cap Martin, whose ruins can still be seen near the semaphore. The medieval castle, built by count Conrad I in 970, is considered as the oldest in France; it was increased in the 15th century and purchased in 1911 by Sir William Ingram, who offered it in 1921 to the municipality.

The name of Roquebrune appears for the first time in 1115, when the Count of Ventimiglia transferred the castle of Roquebrune, together with other castles, to the powerful Municipality of Genoa, which appointed a lord to rule Roquebrune. In 1355, Charles I Grimaldi, whose family had recently left Genoa and settled in Monaco, purchased the domain of Roquebrune. However, peace was not restored in Roquebrune until 1507 and the failure of the last Genoese expedition; in the meantime, the Genoese Guelphs and Ghibellines, as well as the local feudal lords, especially the Counts of Tende and Beuil, never stopped attacking Roquebrune.
Roquebrune was part of the domain, later Principality of Monaco, until 1848, when the inhabitants of Roquebrune and Menton proclaimed a free town placed under Sardinian protection. On 16 April 1860, 194 out ot 194 voters from the village decided the incorporation to France, which was officialized by the treaty signed on 2 February 1861 by Prince Charles III and Emperor Napoléon III.

The development of winter tourism on the French Riviera in the late 19th century contributed to the development of Roquebrune. Cap Martin was a favorite place of residence of the empresses Eugénie de Montijo and Elisabeth of Austria (Sissi). Other famous guests of the place were Sir Winston Churchill, the playwright Sacha Guitry, the fashion designer Coco Chanel, the singer Jacques Brel and the actress Silvana Mangano.
From 1926 to 1929, the designer and architect Ellen Gray (1878-1976) built in Roquebrune E 1027, maison en bord de mer (E 1027, a house on the seashore) for her friend Jean Badovici and herself (presentation). E 1027, named after a "Surrealist code" ("E" for Ellen and the numbers for the alphabetic rank of the letters "J" [10, for Jean], "B" [2, for Badovici], and "G" [7 for Gray]) is considered as the manifesto of the Modern Movement in architecture, using its five main points (pilotis, flat roof, long windows, free plan and free facade). The architect Le Corbusier and the painter Fernand Léger became familiar guests at E 1027; fed up by the noise, Ellen Gray abandoned E 1027 to Badovici and built a new house, for her alone, in the hinterland. In 1938, Le Corbusier realized eight mural frescoes in the house without asking permission, which was the cause of a definitive quarrel between the two architects.
"Expelled" from E 1027, Le Corbusier built nearby a small pavilion (3.66 m x 3. 66 m), the Cabanon (after the name of the traditional, small houses of the Provencal fishers) he quickly nicknamed "my castle" (presentation). Le Corbusier drowned on 27 August 1965 off Roquebrune; he was buried, together with his wife Yvette, in the municipal cemetary, in a tomb he had designed himself.
In 1956, Badovici died and E 1027 was purchased by a patron of Le Corbusier, Mrs. Schelbert. After her death in 1982, the house was inhabited by her personal psychiatrist, Dr. Kaegi, who progressively sold the furniture and was murdered in 1996 by his gardeners. The municipality of Roquebrune, helped by patrons, eventually purchased E 1027 in 1999, to transform it into a cultural center and a museum dedicated to Ellen Gray and Le Corbusier.

  • E 1027 - Monument historique cherche mécènes by Florence Canarelli

    Ivan Sache, 14 December 2008

    Flag of Roquebrune-Cap-Martin

    The flag of Roquebrune-Cap-Martin (photo; photo) is vertically divided yellow-red.

    The municipal coat of arms is shown on the facade of the town hall. It is made of a shield "Gules six barrulets argent a chief of the same", placed over two gray swords crossed per saltire and with a helmet argent as the crest. The whole is placed in front of a castle sable and or, and surmounted by a white scroll bearing the name of the municipality in red letters.
    An other coat of arms of Roquebrune-Cap Martin is shown in the Armorial du Comté de Nice by Pierre Garino, as "Gules a tower placed on a mount issuant from a sea all or, a chief of the same, a canton fusilly argent and the first".
    Garino's introduction to the Armorial says that most municipal coats of arms in the County of Nice are of recent design and that "some arms, heraldically totally fanciful, are not reproduced here". Since there is no caption given under the coat of arms, it is not known if the red-yellow coat of arms was assigned to Roquebrune as more "heraldically correct" than the coat of arms shown on the town hall.

    Ivan Sache, 14 December 2008