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Cargèse (Municipality, Corse-du-Sud, France)


Last modified: 2012-04-13 by ivan sache
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[Flag of Cargese]

Flag seen in Cargèse (undertain status) - Image by Ivan Sache, 29 January 2005

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Presentation of Cargèse

The municipality of Cargèse (Corsican, Carghjese; 1,159 inhabitants in 2008; 4,599 ha) is located on the west coast of Corsica, on the northern shore of the Gulf of Sagone, some 50 km north of Ajaccio.

Cargèse has two churches built opposite each other in the village, a Latin Catholic church, which is usual in France, and a Greek Catholic church, which is less usual, especially for such a small town.
The origin of the Greek community in Cargèse dates back to the 17th century. Greece was then under Ottoman rule, which was particularly severe in the region of Mani (Laconia, south-east of Peloponnesis, near the ancient town of Sparta). Some 800 Greeks decided to leave the town of Vitylo (aka Otylos). In 1663, His Grace Parthenios Calcandis, the Greek Catholic Bishop of Vitylo, started negotiations with the Republic of Genoa, then ruling Corsica. Genoa promised to grant the Greeks the territory of Paomia (from Italian pavone, peacock) , whereas the Greeks promised to pay a small fee to Genoa and to recognize the religious authority of the Pope. On 25 June 1665, Calcandis officially thanked the Genoese government for its offer. However, it took another ten years to organize the emigration of the Greeks to Corsica.
On 25 September 1675, after the return of a Greek commission that had visited Paomia, a contract was signed with Captain Daniel, commissioned to transport the 800 Greek emigrants from Greece to Leghorn or Genoa. The journey was expected to take 10 days. Boarding took place during the night of 3 to 4 October 1675 but the ship reached Genoa only on 1 January 1676. More than 120 out of the 800 emigrants died during the journey. On 13 February 1676, the Genoese authorities interviewed His Grace Parthenios, who had joined the emigrants with six monks and priests, about the reason of the emigration. The names of the emigrants were Italianized before they left Genoa for Corsica: for instance, Papadakis was changed to Papadacci.
On 14 May 1676, three Genoese galleys moored near Paomia in the cove dei Monachi (Monk's cove), probably the today's Fornis Bay. Within one year, the Greeks built the five hamlets of Pancone, Corone, Rondolini, Salici and Monte Rosso. The main church was achieved in Rondolini in 1678. In the next 50 years, the Greeks transformed the area in one of the richest agricultural lands in Corsica, living in peace with their Corsican neighbours.
In 1729, Corsica rose up against Genoa. After the Greeks had refused to support the insurrection against their benefactors, their estates in Paomia were loted by the Corsicans. The next year, the Corsicans attacked the inhabitants of Paomia, who were advized by the Genoans to move to Ajaccio, except 50 men who would defend the village. The last defenders of Paomia had to walk to the end of the paeninsula of Olminia and entranched themselves in the Genoese watch tower built there. In late April 1731, the besieged lacked food; they broke the siege during night and could eventually walk to Ajaccio. The Greeks stayed in Ajaccio until 1774.

In 1768, France took over Corsica. The Greeks formed a regiment incorporated into Count Marbœuf's troops. In 1774, Marbœuf granted the Greeks the territory of Cargèse as a compensation for the loss of Paomia. George Stephanopoli, nicknamed Capitan Giorgio, accepted the proposal on behalf of the Greek community. The Army Engineers built 120 identical houses 250 m from the sea and a castle for Marbœuf, who took the title of Marquis de Cargèse.
In 1793, the Jacobins from the neighbouring villages of Vico burned the castle of Cargèse to ashes but the village was hardly damaged. The men who had entranched themselves into the two towers watching the Pero cove were allowed to move to Ajaccio with women and children. The Greeks had to stay once again Ajaccio, for another four year. Upon order of the Directoire government, General Casabianca allowed to Greeks to settle back Cargèse; the two-third of them, c. 800, accepted, whereas the remaining ones stayed in Ajaccio or moved to French mainland.
In 1804, the 1,000 inhabitants in Cargèse included 350 Corsicans. The two communities have been living in peace since then. Barracks able to house 800 soldiers were built in 1808. In 1814, the inhabitants of Vico raided again Cargèse; King Charles X forced them later to give back most of their booty. Greeks and Corsicans in Cargèse strenghtened their alliance against Vico, which stopped its attempts.

The two churches of Cargèse are built opposite each other.
In 1853, the Greek community decided to build a new church to replace the original one, deemed to small. The devotees worked on the building site every Sunday after the mass until sundown.
The iconostasis, the wooden partition decorated with saint images that isolates the altar from the nave in Greek churches, was given to the church by the Brotherhood of Propaganda in 1886. The lateral chapel located on the left side of the church is decidated to the Panaghia, the patron of the Blessed Virgin's Brotherhood. The lateral right chapel is dedicated to Saint Spiridion. At birth, all Greek newborne of Cargese, as well as several non-Greek ones, are enrolled in the St. Spiridion's Brotherhood.
The ritual in use in the church is nearly identical to the ritual of Athens and Constantinople, in use by the Greek Catholic churches of Paris, Lyon and Marseilles. Ancient Greek is the church language, whereas modern Greek is less and less spoken among the community. Missals have the Greek text written in Latin characters, facing the traduction in French. The most important festivals are Easter Monday, with the blessing of the fields, and St. Spiridion's Day, celebrated on 12 December. There are today c. 300 parishioners following the Greek ritual in Cargèse.
In 1817, the chiefs of the non-Greek families decided to build a Latin ritual church. Antoine Andreani gave a plot of land, but the building site started only eight years later. The church was achieved in 1828, with the help of the Ministry of Religious Affairs. In 1835, wind removed the roof of the church; its bell tower was built only in 1847. In the 19th century, the Greek priest Elie Papadacci adopted the Latin ritual and was followed by the Petrolacci family and a part of the Dagracci family.

Source: Municipal website

Ivan Sache, 29 January 2005

Flag seen in Cargèse

A white flag with a dark blue stripe along the hoist, the rest of the flag forming a white square divided by a red cross, can be seen on photos of Cargèse shown in two books:
- Corse, by Christophe Boisvieux & Jean-Xavier Orsini (EDL, Paris, 2004);
- GEO - La Corse authentique, by Eve Sivadjian (Solar, Paris, 2002).

A member of the Cargèse tourist office stated that the flag was not the municipal flag of Cargèse and might be the flag of the Greek town of Vitylo, the origin of the Greek community of Cargèse, the two towns being twinned. The municipal administration confirmed that Cargèse has no official flag. A third local source of information claimed the flag is the flag of Genoa.
The red cross on the white field indeed recalls the flag of Genoa (also used for instance by the Corsican town of Calvi). The blue stripe most probably recalls the Greek flag.

Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 29 January 2005