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Vitry-le-François (Municipality, Marne, France)

Last modified: 2021-03-13 by ivan sache
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Flag of Vitry-le-François - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 13 November 2004

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Presentation of Vitry-le-François

The municipality of Vitry-le-François (11,743 inhabitants in 2018; 646 ha; municipal website) is located 175 km east of Paris and 120 km west of Nancy, at the junction of major communication routes: Paris-Nancy and Châlons-en-Champagne-Reims roads; Paris-Strasbourg and Calais-Lyon-Marseilles railways; canal de la Marne à la Saône, canal de la Marne au Rhin, and canal latéral à la Marne.

Vitrey originates in the Gallo-Roman settlement of Victoriacum, owned by a Victorius. The subsequent history of Vitry is a succession of sieges, blazes and destruction.
King of France Louis VII (1120-1180, King in 1137) attempted to control the appointment of bishops, a main issue at the time. In 1138, Louis VII supported the candidacy of a monk from Cluny to the vacant see of Langres, against the wish of the powerful Bernard of Clairvaux. In 1141, Louis VII expelled Pierre de la Châtre, who had been elected bishop of A HREF="fr-18-bg.html">Bourges by the local chapter, with the support of Pope Innocent II, who excommunicated Louis VII. Pierre de la Châtre fled to Champagne, then a powerful county ruled by Thibaud de Champagne, a potential challenger of the King of France and brother of King of England Étienne of Blois. Louis VII invaded Champagne in 1142 and seized Vitry (then called Vitry-en-Perthois), whose 1,300 inhabitants were burnt alive in the church. To have the excommunication lifted, however, Louis VII had to withdraw from Champagne, acknowledge Pierre de la Châtre's election and promise to go on a crusade, which he did in 1145.

In 1544, King of France Francis I and German Emperor Charles V scoured Champagne. Charles V's army, with 100,000, besieged Saint-Dizier, a town defended by a garrison of 2,500. The garrison resisted while the assaulter's rearguard was harassed by the French troops stationed in Vitry. Charles V counter-attacked and seized Vitry, which was burned down to ashes by Charles V, or maybe by Francis I doing scorched earth policy.
On 29 April 1545, Francis I signed Royal Letters ordering the building of a new town in the neighborhood of Vitry, which would take the name of Vitry-le-François and be granted royal arms. The king appointed the Italian military architect Girolamo Marini, who selected the site of the watermens' village of Maucourt, located a few kilometers south-west of Vitry-en-Perthois. The village of Vitry-en-Perthois has today 920 inhabitants.
Marini designed the new town according to a square (612 m in side) grid pattern, arranged around a central square (117 m in size). Two main streets crossing at right angle on the central square delimited four square boroughs, which were themselves divided into another four square boroughs. All streets were rectilinear, except the Tanners' Street, which lined a sinuous brook. The fortofied town could be entered only by four gates located in the four main compass directions and defended by a draw-bridge. A market hall, with a chestnut skeleton, was built in 1546 (and demolished in 1946); the gates were revamped in 1745: on the road to Paris, a triumphal arch (Bridge Gate) celebrating Louis XIV's military victories was erected in 1748, dismantled in 1939 and rebuilt in 1982 on the road to Châlons; the building of the Notre-Dame church started in 1557, was stopped in 1754, and ewas ventually completed in 1898.

During the First World War, Vitry was the strategic center of the Firstr Battle of the Marne. Joffre set up his headquarters in Vitry on 4 August 1914 and abandoned on 31 August the town, which was entered on 5 September by the Germans. Joffre's counter-attack repelled the Germans 50 km northwards. Vitry would be used all along the war as an hospital town.
On 16 May 1940, a German raid burned down one quarter of the town. After the battle of the 13 June, 90% had been destroyed and swiftly replaced with groups of huts. The allied raid of 28 June 1944 killed 500 and completed the destruction of the town. Vitry was rebuilt after the Liberation, with the support of the town of Toulouse: Marini's plan was kept but the ditches and the canal bordering the town in the north were filled in. The only genuine remains of the 16th century city are one house and parts of the town walls.

Vitry is the birth city of the mathematician Abraham de Moivre (1667-1754), a Protestant who emigrated to London after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. Moivre was a good friend of Isaac Newton and Edmund Halley, and a Fellow of the Royal Society (1697).
De Moivre's formula states that for any real number x and integer n it holds that (cos x + i sin x)n = cos nx + i sin nx, where i is the imaginary unit (i2 = -1).
De Moivre's numbers are the roots of the equation xd = 1, which give the coordinates in the complex plane of the vertices of a regular polygon having d sides and unit radius.
Moivre also developed the probability theory; he showed that the Normal law was a good approximation of the binomial law.

Ivan Sache, 13 November 2020

Flag of Vitry-le-François

The flag of Vitry-le-François (photo, Town Hall) is white with the greater municipal coat of arms, "Azure a salamander crowned or enflamed gules a chief azure three fleurs-de-lis or above a fillet also or".
The Latin motto inscribed on the scroll below the shield (Nutrisco et Exstinguo) reads "I stoke and extinguish", The salamander and the motto belongs to François I. The same salamander and motto can be seen on the greater coat of arms and flag of Le Havre, another town designed by an Italian architect hired by Francis I and completely destroyed during the Second World War.
The War Crosses 1914-1918 and 1939-1944 are hanging to the shield.

Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 13 November 2004