Last modified: 2016-04-02 by ivan sache
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Flag of Nernier - Image by Ivan Sache, 13 November 2011
The municipality of Nernier (477 inhabitants in 2012; 182 ha) is located on Lake Geneva, 30 km north-east of Geneva. Much less known and more isolated than the medieval village of Yvoire, located 3 km eastwards, Nernier still looks like a small fisher's village, although there is not a single professional fisher left there. Its small port was established in the late 19th century, after the incorporation of Savoy to France. The other traditional source of income in the village, a tannery established in 1839 by the Duchesne family, was closed in 1949.
Nernier was the site of a Gallo-Roman villa. On 3 September 1899, the
local newspaper Démocratie Savoisienne reported the excavation of the remains of the villa, and, especially, of a plaque of white marble sculpted with laurel branches.
Nernier once belonged to the lords of Gex, who sold the castle and the domain to the Count of Savoy in the 13th century. A local noble family is mentioned in 1302, as co-owner of the domain, and in 1343, as full owner. Girard, lord of Nernier, bequeathed in 1428 the domain to the Counts of Savoy, who sold again in 1432 one half of the domain to Jean de Neuvecelle and granted the next year the other half and jurisdiction to Nicod de Menthon. After Nicod's death, his possessions were reincorporated into the domain of the Dukes of Savoy.
In 1552, during the rule of Bern on Savoy, the ducal part of Nernier was granted to François de Saint-Jeoire, dit d'Antioche, and Bernard de Neuvecelle, whose ownership of the second part of Nernier was confirmed. Marguerite de Wateville successively married the two lords, transferring the domain to her daughter Percevaude de Sainte-Jeoire, dite d'Antioche, who would successively marry Charles de Brotty and Charles Fornier. In 1579, she became Dame of Nernier by sharing with her daughter Françoise, Dame of Yvoire; she transferred the ownership of the castle of Nernier to her first husband, whose 8th direct descendant, Count Adhémar de Brotty d'Antioche, still owned the castle at the end of the 19th century. The domain of Nernier was successively owned by the Fornier, the Chissé, and the Costa de Beauregard.
[Monuments historiques de France publiés par départements : Haute-Savoie, by A. Rouget, 1895]
The French writer and politician Alphonse de Lamartine, exiled in Switzerland during Napoléon's short-lived return to the power (Cent- Jours), stayed for a while in Nernier, which he described as follows:
The most ideal natural environment, the mildest season, the most silent loneliness, the most innocent and stubborn society: the boatman's daughter, a room, a swallow, a dog, a lake as the horizon, a loose and fuzzy hope as a perspective, and the youth's blood to vivify all of that, everything mankind could aspire to. I never lived days that could have been at par with Nernier's day. Melancholy and desert will not find another time such a paradise.
Self-styled "The Pearl of Lake Geneva", Nernier is also known as "The
Enrico Vegetti (1863-1951; biography), a painter born in Turin, settled in 1900 in his mother's house (photo) in Nernier. Vegetti, who studied at the Brera Academy in Milan, belonged to the generation of painters who made the transition between the Lombard romanticism and the Italian divisionism. Noted in Italy for his religious and architectural paintings, Vegetti rejected fascism and definitively retired in Nernier in 1930. He portrayed several times Nernier and mountain villages, often in darker shades. Also a skilful engraver, Vegetti is credited more than 1,500 wood and iron matrices from which he derived series of etchings, using his own arm press.
The Swiss watercolorist Ellis Zbinden (b. 1921 in Geneva, still painting), in search of loneliness, established his workshop and his gallery in Nernier in the 1960s. He painted several scenes of Nernier from his boat moored off the port (Actualités artistiques, TSR, 26 June 1966; WebTV Genève, 15 April 2010; Les Nouvelles, 7 January 2015).
Baron Bruno de Leusse de Syon (1916-2009) was Mayor of Nernier from 1987 to 2001. French ambassador to Algeria, Egypt and the Soviet Union, and Secretary General at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Bruno de Leusse was one of the negotiators of the Évian Accords, which led to the independence of Algeria.
Ivan Sache, 3 May 2015
The flag of Nernier, hoisted on the port's wharf, is white with the
municipal coat of arms in the middle.
The coat of arms is "Azure two pikes argent addorsed". The shield is surmounted with a white scroll inscribed with the village's name in black, old-styled letters.
The arms were borne by the first lords of Nernier in the 13th century, and "adopted" by the branch of the Fornier family, from Thonon, which was subsequently granted the domain of Nernier. Mere coincidence, or not, the two pikes are also featured on the arms of the Leusse family, "Gules two pikes addorsed or surrounded by three Maltese crosses argent 1 and 2" [Guy Allard, Nobiliaire du Dauphiné (1671)].
Ivan Sache, 3 May 2015