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Nantes (Municipality, Loire-Atlantique, France)


Last modified: 2022-03-11 by ivan sache
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Flag of Nantes - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 7 January 2002

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Presentation of Nantes

Nantes is the prefecture of the department of Loire-Atlantique and regional prefecture of Region Pays de la Loire. The population of the town, including the outskirts, is ca. 500,000 inhabitants. Nantes is the administrative capital of a Bishopric, of an académie (educational administrative division), and has a university.

Nantes (in Breton, Naoned) was founded by the Gaul tribe of Namnetes on the confluency of three rivers (Loire, Sèvre and Erdre), being therefore both a maritime and mainland town. Strongly disputed between the Frankish kings and the Breton counts and dukes, Nantes was eventually seized by the Normans.
In 939, Alan Barbe-Torte (lit., Alan "with a crooked beard"), the leader of the Breton lords exiled in Britain, came back to Brittany and expelled the Normans. He rebuilt the town of Nantes and established it as the capital of his duchy.
During the Golden Age of the Duchy of Brittany, Nantes competed with Rennes for the title of capital of Brittany. The Parliament was hosted in Rennes, but the ducal castle was in Nantes. The most famous Duke, François II, established in the 15th century in the castle of Nantes a rich court, with five ministers, seventeen chamberlains, and very loose morals.
In 1499, King of France Louis XII married Duchess Ann of Brittany, François II's daughter, in the castle of Nantes, thus preparing the annexation of Brittany to France (1532).

On 13 April 1598, King Henri IV prepared in the castle of Nantes the 92 Articles of the Edict of Nantes. The Edict allowed the Protestants to practice freely their religion in any place where it had been previously authorized, and in at least two towns and villages in every bailiwick. Protestants were granted legal and political rights. Moreover, they were granted about a hundred of military "safe places" in the kingdom. On 18 October 1685, Louis XIV signed in Fontainebleau the Revocation of Edict of Nantes. All rights of the Protestants were abolished, their temples were destroyed and their assemblies were suppressed. Under the pressure of official repression by gendarmerie (dragonnades), 300,000 French Protestants emigrated, mostly to Switzerland and Germany.

In the 16th-18th centuries, Nantes became the main center of maritime trade of sugar and "ebony wood", that is slaves. The port of Nantes was the most important in France, with more than 2,500 vessels and powerful dynasties of shipowners.
In June 1793, Nantes was still controlled by Royalists. The National Convention commissioned Representative Carrier to "cleanse" the area. In order to speed up the "cleansing" process, Carrier ordered to cram the prisonners on barges and to scuttle the barges in the middle of the river Loire. The episode remained infamous as the Nantes drownings. Called back by the Convention, Carrier was sentenced to death and guillotinized.
In 1832, a Royalist episod in Nantes ended into a prank. The Duchess of Berry tried to uprise Brittany against King Louis-Philippe. The attempt failed and the Duchess was given away. The soldiers called to watch the house where she was supposed to hide lighted a fire in the fireplace, in order to warm themselves. The Duchess and three of her fellows promptly went out of the chimney flue, where they had been hiding for more than sixteen hours.

The most important monuments of the town of Nantes are the Sts. Peter and Paul cathedral, with the funeral monument of François II (1507), the Ducal castle, and the Museum of Fine-Arts.

Ivan Sache, 7 January 2002

Flag of Nantes

The flag of Nantes (photo, Town Hall) is divided by a black cross voided throughout. The canton shows a ship, the main charge of the town's arms, "Gules, a vessel or with sails ermine, sailing on a sea vert, a chief ermine".
The other quarters of the flag are white with four ermine spots placed in a lozengy pattern. The general design of the flag of Nantes appeared in the 18th century.
[P. Rault. Les drapeaux bretons de 1188 à nos jours. [rau98]]

Ivan Sache, 7 January 2002


Other flag of Nantes - Image by Olivier Touzeau, 11 January 2019

The municipality also uses a light blue flag with the municipal logo (photo).

Olivier Touzeau, 11 January 2019

Flag used in the 1970s


flag of Nantes, 1970s - Image by Ivan Sache & Arnaud Leroy, 7 January 2002

In the 1970s, a weird flag was used in Nantes: the vertical arms of the cross are wider than the horizontal ones and there is no black fimbriation around the canton.
[P. Rault. Les drapeaux bretons de 1188 à nos jours. [rau98]]

Ivan Sache, 7 January 2002

Breton nationalist variants of the flag

[Flag]         [Flag]

Breton nationalist flags of Nantes - Images by Ivan Sache & Arnaud Leroy, 7 January 2002

Some Breton nationalists claim that the black voided cross is a symbol of the annexation of Brittany by France and would prefer a plain black cross on the flag of Nantes.
Such a flag was seen in Landerneau in 1996, with five ermine spots placed 3 + 2 in the second, third and fourth quarters.
An other variant of the flag of Nantes, dated 1976, shows the ermine chief of the blazon in canton but the second, third and fourth quarters plain white.
[P. Rault. Les drapeaux bretons de 1188 à nos jours. [rau98]]


Proposal for a Breton nationalist flags of Nantes - Image by Ivan Sache & Arnaud Leroy, 7 January 2002

A more aesthetical flag, proposed by Raphaël Vinet, would have a cross resarcelée, that is a black cross with a white fimbriation and another black fimbriation.
[P. Rault. Les drapeaux bretons de 1188 à nos jours. [rau98]]

Ivan Sache, 8 March 2002