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Erquy (Municipality, Côtes-d'Armor, France)

Last modified: 2019-01-27 by ivan sache
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Flag of Erquy - Image by Ivan Sache, 3 October 2010 - coat of arms after the image contributed to Wikimedia Commons by users "Brieg + Ssire"

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Presentation of Erquy

The municipality of Erquy (3,742 inhabitants in 2006; 2,646 ha) is located on the northern coast of Brittany, 30 km east of Saint-Brieuc. A fishing port specialized in scallop gathering, Erquy is also a popular sea resort, with summer population peaking to 40,000 and enjoying the beautiful beaches and the pink cliffs and moors of Cap d'Erquy.

Erquy was, according to a local legend, a Gallo-Roman town called Nazado. The local women had such a thin skin that wine could be seen flowing in their throat; they attracted the men from the neighbouring garrison, whose desertion was punished by the flooding of the town (a similar, woman-blaming legend explains the flooding of the town of Ys).
More seriously, some historians from the 19th century assumed that Reginea, shown on the Peutinger map of the Roman Empire, was a Gallo- Roman town located on the site of Erquy. They interpreted the name as the "Bay's Queen" (from Latin, regina, "the queen") or considered Regina as a local deity; accordingly, the inhabitants of Erquy are named Réginéens or even Rhoeginéens. Modern historians rather believe that the reading of the map was faultive, and have corrected Reginea to Reginca, that is river Rance.
Erquy was mentioned for the first time in 1167, as the Erque parish, a name probably coming from Welsh argae, "a barrage", or from ancient Breton argeen, "a hedge". Remains of a Roman camp protected by ditches have indeed been found in Erquy.

Erquy is the French capital of scallop gathering, accounting for 50% of the national catches. Gathered from 1 October to 15 May, only two days a week and for 45 minutes period watched with helicopters, the scallops from the Bay of Saint-Brieuc do not have "coral" (roa) and are extremely prized by gastronoms; France is the only country to have banned scallop gathering during the summer, reproduction period. The Erquy fleet, involved in "traditional" fishing out of the scallop season, is made of 70 coastal and 14 deep-sea trawlers, bringing back some 15,000 tons of fish and seafood every year.
The port of Erquy, inaugurated in 1900, was in the beginning of the 20th century a significant port of commerce, exporting agricultural products and, mostly, cobbles of pink sandstone extracted from the nearby quarries. Set up in 1832 as family workshops producing stones for the building houses and paving streets in the village, the Erquy quarries industrialized their production in 1860, following the increasing demand of cobbles to pave the streets of the big towns. The Fosse-Eyrand quarries, which had their own workers' city, were closed in 1960, but their scraps were subsequently used to build the barrage on the river Rance and the new fishing port of Erquy.

Erquy has one of the four bullet kilns still kept in northern Brittany. Built in 1794 upon request of the Ministry of the Navy, the kiln was designed to heat to incandescence bullets, then supplied to the neighbouring battery of three canons; the hot bullets were expected to set fire on the targeted ships. However, the kilns seem to have never been operational, even in 1796, when a naval battle opposed French and English fleets in the Erquy harbor; reaching the incandescence temperature required too much time and the kilns produced a lot of smoke, which dramatically slowed the process.
Although unsuccessful, the bullet kilns have survived in the French colloquial language, through the expression tirer à boulets rouges, "to shoot with red bullets", used when someone is a matter of harsh, generalized criticism.

Source: Municipal website

Erquy is believed to have been the model for the (unnamed) village inhabited by Asterix and his band of merry, irreducible Gauls. For 40 years, Jean-Pierre Allain, a now retired bookseller from Erquy, has been strongly supporting this claim even if all his attempts to have it validated by Albert Uderzo, Asterix' designer, have failed. The similarity between the Erquy landscape and Uderzo's village are indeed striking: on the first page of all Asterix' books, the village shown under a magnifying glass looks like an airborne photo of Erquy, including the Three Stones islets. As said above, there was in Erquy a Roman camp known as "Caesar's Camp", and quarries, even if menhirs were never extracted from them. The lighthouse designed for the book Le Domaine des Dieux matches the real lighthouse of Erquy.
After an invited helicopter trip over Erquy, Uderzo admitted the similarity but said his "reconstruction" of Erquy was everything but deliberate; he indeed spent several of his youth summer vacations in Saint-Brieuc and visited Erquy during that period, and was probably inspired by his souvenirs when the scenarist René Goscinny asked him to design a village "on the coast", a location required by Asterix' travels. There is no particular reason not to believe Uderzo, who never hid his sources; for instance, he recognized that lovely Falbala was modelled on his own wife.
Anyway, we will probably never know and there are a few other places that claim to be the "genuine" Asterix' village.

Source: Asterix' village in Erquy, France-Soir, 21 October 2009

Ivan Sache, 3 October 2010

Flag of Erquy

The flag of Erquy is reported by Philippe Rault (Les drapeaux bretons de 1188 à nos jours [rau98]) as white with the municipal coat of arms in the middle.

The arms of Erquy are given by Marc Plantier (website) as De sinople à une sirène d'or, les cheveux flottant, les bras et la queue tournés vers senestre évoquant la lettre E capitale; au chef d'hermine ("Vert a mermaid her hair streaming in the wind her arms and tail turned to sinister evoking the capital letter "E", a chief ermine).
The arms were designed in 1965 by a Mr. Guyomard; on 12 February 1965, the Head of the Departmental Archives of Côtes-du-Nord informed the municipal administration that the design matched the rules of heraldry and was a suitable municipal coat of arms, which has been used since then by the town of Erquy. The greater arms are supported dexter by a seaman and sinister by a farmer, surmounted by a basket or filled with local products; the motto "Reginea fus" (Latin, "Stays a Queen") must be placed on some sort of scroll beneath the shield.

The Regina mermaid is the emblem of Erquy. In June 2010, the Portuguese-born stone-cutter Manuel Mendès Gerardo offerred to the municipality a sculpture representing the mermaid, as a tribute to the population of Erquy who had warmly welcomed him more than ten years ago (press article).

Ivan Sache, 3 October 2010

Club de Voile de la Baie d'Erquy

[CV Erquy]

Burgee of CVE - Image by Ivan Sache, 13 May 2001

The burgee of Club de Voile de la Baie d'Erquy (until 4 December 2000, Club de Voile d'Erquy) (CVE, website) is red with two black triangles along the hoist and a white fimbriation between the black and red parts. A white "E" letter is placed in the upper triangle.
Every year, the club organizes the Costarmoricaine regatta, ran between different ports of the department of Côtes-d'Armor, whose flag is widely used during the race - for instance by the boat of the Race Committee (photos).

Ivan Sache, 3 October 2010