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Bruges (Municipality, Gironde, France)

Last modified: 2024-04-06 by olivier touzeau
Keywords: gironde | bruges |
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Flag of Bruges - Image by Olivier Touzeau, 24 April 2022

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Presentation of Bruges

Bruges (20,215 inhabitants in 2021; 1,422 ha) is a commune in the Gironde department, north of Bordeaux.

The homography with Bruges (Belgium) is purely coincidental. The name of the locality is attested under the forms Broia (1126-1147) / Bruia, Bruja (1311). The meaning of the toponym remains conjectural, because a derivative of the Celtic stem vroika / Gallo-Roman *brūca "heather" would have given in Gascon Brugà and not Bruge(s).

A marsh area until the 16th century, Bruges developed on the axis which linked from south to north the fountain of Audège and the Gallo-Roman aqueduct which conveyed the waters towards Bordeaux center. Located on the road to Compostela, the territory of Bruges already housed a hermitage in the Middle Ages intended to welcome pilgrims on the road to Tours. It was Henri IV who began to drain the marsh area by having dikes built to hold back the floods of the Garonne. Water drainage works continued until the reign of Louis XIII in the middle of the 17th century. The draining of the marshes allowed the city of Bordeaux to expand towards the north, and Bruges to develop an economy based on viticulture. The arrival in France around 1860 of the vine-ravaging insect Phylloxera put an end to the viticultural destiny of Bruges. Market gardening and horticulture gradually replaced the vineyards. The urbanization of Bruges took place particularly during the second half of the 20th century.

Bruges has several listed buildings: the 13th century Saint-Pierre church the castle of Treulon and its park, the castle of Borges, or even the chapels of Saint-Germaine and Saint-Marie. In terms of nature, the national nature reserve of the marshes of Bruges covers 270 hectares. It constitutes what remains of the large marshes of Bordeaux since the drainage operations of the left bank, and is home to a wide variety of birds.

Olivier Touzeau, 24 April 2022

Coat of arms of Bruges

The arms are blazoned: Quaterly, 1. Argent, a cow contournee Gules, 2., Gules, three bunches of grape placed side by side, stalked and leaved Argent, 3. Gules, three annulets Argent, 4. Azure, three lapwings Argent set per bend sinister ; overall, a lozengy escutcheon Or with a reversed key Argent with the bit on sinister ; all supporting a chief Azure charged with three fleur-de-lis Argent.

Olivier Touzeau, 24 April 2022

The fleurs-de-lis recalls allegiance of Bruges to the kingdom of France. The cow represents livestock historically bred in the marshes once located north of Bordeaux and in Bruges. The bunches of grapes symbolize the Bruges vineyards, which were the main source of income for the municipality until the second half of the 19th century. The three well edges represent the "puisottes" (from French "puits", "a well") once used to irrigate vegetable crops. The three birds, locally presented as lapwings, recall traditional hunting. The key is the emblem of St. Quiteria [source: La Mémoire de Bruges].

Quiteria was, according to different religious sources, the daughter of Catilius, the Visigoth lord of Adura (Aire-sur-l'Adour, in Gascony). Converted to the Christian religion, Quiteria refused the marriage imposed by her father and fled southwards; captured near a fountain, she was beheaded and waled, holding her head in the hands, on 13 km to the Mas d'Aire, where she is buried in a crypt erected in the 11th century by Benedictine monks. The event happened, depending on sources, in June 471 or 478.
The cult of St. Quiteria spread in the whole South-West of France and in Spain, where the Gascon saint was "usurped" in several places. The saint is mostly represented carrying her head; in Andernos, however, mural paintings from the 15th century depict the saint with a dog. In 1569, Christophe de Foix-Candale, Bishop of Aire-sur-l'Adour, ordered the transfer of the head reliquary of the saint to the church of Bruges. The St. Peter church in Bruges keeps an altar painting representing St. Quiteria pointing a key to a pilgrim and a dog. The report of the visit paid on 12 May 1659 to Bruges by Henri de Béthune (1604-1680), Archbishop of Bordeaux (1646-1680), mentions a "honest painting", without further details; accordingly, its identification with the painting shown in the church is probable, but still tentative. More interestingly, the report explains Quiteria's key as follows: "Vicar Jean Prégnan showed two old keys used by old custom and tradition to touch, one people beaten by rapid dogs, the other cattle, while chanting St. Quiteria's gospel with prayer. At the time, the St. Quiteria Brotherhood owned an altar in the church and organized on 22 May, the saint's day, a popular festival that upset the archbishop: "The St. Quiteria Brotherhood causes scandal, on the festival's day, a king and a queen are elected with fifers and drums, no devotion at all".
The report also states that parishioners complained about the transfer of the saint's relics to Le Taillan. The relics were subsequently lost. The painting was inscribed on the register of historic monuments on 18 January 2017. Completely restored and submitted to thorough scientific analysis in Toulouse, the painting was re-installed in the church on 5 April 2018 [source: La Mémoire de Bruges].

Ivan Sache, 25 April 2022

Flag of Bruges

The flag is vertically divided R/B, with the coat of arms in the center of the flag: photo (2012), photo (2015), photo (2020), photo (2020).

Olivier Touzeau, 23 April 2022