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Sainte-Adresse (Municipality, Seine-Maritime, France)

Last modified: 2021-06-26 by ivan sache
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Flag of Sainte-Adresse - Image by Ivan Sache, 12 October 2003

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Presentation of Sainte-Adresse

The municipality of Sainte-Adresse (7,731 inhabitants in 2007; 226 ha; municipal website) is adjacent to Le Havre, at the southern end of Pays de Caux, a chalky plateau limited by river Seine in the south and high cliffs in the west. In the south, the cliff line ends at Cap de la Hève.
A popular sea resort, Sainte-Adresse is one of the most famous windsurf spots in Europe.

Around 1370, a fishing village called Saint-Denis-Chef-de-Caux (here, chef means "a cape," both words having the same Latin root, caput, "the head") was destroyed by a huge tidal wave. The name of the inhabitants of the destroyed village, Dyonisiens, was kept for the newly built village of Sainte-Adresse. Since there is no saint called Adresse, the name of Sainte-Adresse was probably invented by seamen to express their great relief when reaching the estuary of Seine and its ports.
Navigation was indeed dangerous in the area; the inhabitants of Sainte-Adresse were committed to maintain a big fire on the cliffs of Cap de la Hève, which has been used as an observation post since the Roman times.
In the 16th century, King of France Francis I built Le Havre, and Sainte-Adresse benefited the economic development of its big neighbour. The building of the port of Le Havre attracted workers from Spain, Basque County and Gascony, who settled in Sainte-Adresse.

In the 19th century, maritime commerce flourished in Le Havre. The popular writer and journalist Alphonse Karr (1808-1890) bought a house in Sainte-Adresse, which was still a small rural village. Elected Municipal Councillor, Karr invited to Sainte-Adresse several writers and artists. Like several other (then) small towns of the coast of Normandy (Étretat, Trouville, Houlgate, Cabourg...), Sainte-Adresse became one of the prefered vacation places of the intelligentsia. The rich merchants and shipowners from Le Havre also built or bought vacation houses in Sainte-Adresse.
A promenade was built as the continuation of the promenade of Le Havre until Land's End. Sainte-Adresse was renowned for the regattas organized by the Sociéte des Régates du Havre (SRH), which still owns a big clubhouse on the promenade. The promenade and its landing stage were immortalized by the painters Claude Monet, Raoul Dufy and Albert Marquet.

The first Gilded Age of Sainte-Adresse, which ended when Karr left the town, was immediatly succeeded ny a second Gilded Age inaugurated by Georges Dufayel. To challenge the posh sea resort of Deauville, created by Duke of Morny under the Second Empire, Dufayel built in 1906 a housing estate. Since the site was protected from the northern winds by the cliffs of Cap de la Hève, Dufayel named his estate the "Nice havrais", as a reference to the town of Nice, located on the French Riviera.
In 1914, the Belgian government in exile was invited by the French government to settle in the "Nice havrais", where it remained until the end of the war.
During the Second World War, while Le Havre was completely destroyed, Sainte-Adresse also suffered from bombings targeted to the fortifications established by the Germans on Cap de la Hève. In spite of the destructions, Sainte-Adresse has kept an interesting historical heritage, including the oldest manor in the Pays de Caux, built by the English during the Hundred Years' War; the chapel Notre-Dame-des-Flots, with a big collection of ex-votos, and still a seamen's pilgrimage; and the Sugar Loaf, a conic white seamark built by General Lefèvre-Desnouette's widow after the death of her husband off the coasts of Ireland in 1822.

Ivan Sache, 12 October 2003

Flag of Sainte-Adresse

The flag of Sainte-Adresse, as hoisted on the main squares of the town, is white, charged in the center with the municipal coat of arms, "Quarterly by a cross or, 1. and 4. A tower argent masoned sable, 2. and 3. Gules a scallop or, an escutcheon tierced per pal sable, or and gules in the center".

The tower probably refers to the observation posts on Cap de la Héve and the scallops to scallop fishing, which is still an important activity in Normandy. The Belgian escutcheon was added after the First World War to recall the Belgian government in exile in Sainte-Adress. Similarly, a Belgian lion was added in the chief of the arms of Le Havre at the same time and for the same reason.
On the flags, the middle stripe of the Belgian escutcheon is orange instead of yellow on the coat of arms, probably to increase the contrast with the yellow cross.

Ivan Sache, 12 October 2003

Flag in Claude Monet's painting Terrasse à Sainte-Adresse (1867)


Flag depicted in Terrasse à Sainte-Adresse - Image by Ivan Sache, 12 October 2003

In 1867, young Claude Monet (1840-1926) spent a few months in her aunt's house on the promenade of Sainte-Adresse. His painting Terrasse à Sainte-Adresse (98 x 130 cm, now in the Metropolitan Museum, New York) depicts a French tricolor flag and a triangular flag vertically divided red-yellow.

Ivan Sache, 12 October 2003

The same red and yellow bicoloured pennant is shown as "France, Commerce, Pendant 4", being the description of flag illustration 328 in Vlaggen van alle Natien, edited by Steenbergen and published in Amsterdam 1865 [stb65]. I don't have information to identify the signal meaning of Pendant 4 at that time. This would however be consistent with the 1867 date of the painting.
Vlaggen van alle Natien does further note that Pendant 4 was part of the Reynold signal system, which it states was "the same as Marryat's signals, besides the pendants". Marryat's Code of Signals for the Merchant Service was a system of 10 numerical pendants used to make a range of 4 digit numbers, each of was assigned a meaning. As the Marryat system, and presumably the Reynold system usually hoist several flags and pennants together as a grouped signal, the use of a solitary signal flag on the shore is either "decorative", one of a series of signals (unlikely in a private garden) or the single flag had a local meaning, such as a private yacht club racing signal. As the pennant was part of a signaling system, it is equally valid to use such flags as part of a signal form shore-to-sea as from ship-to-shore.

Ralph Kelly, 6 November 2004

Belgian government in exile in Sainte-Adresse (1914-1918)

During the First World War (1914-1918), Sainte-Adresse lived under two national flags. After the invasion of Belgium by the German troops, the Belgian government fled and looked for a place of exile. The property developer Dufayel had decided just before the war to transform Sainte-Adresse in a posh sea resort. When the war begun, several big houses had already been built, but they remained of course empty. At the invitation of the French government, the Belgian government and its administration settled in these buildings for the rest of the war. The buildings had a status of extraterritoriality.

At the entrance of the town of Sainte-Adresse, the statue of Albert I, King of the Belgians (1909-1934) is decorated with two French and Belgian national flags. The Belgian flag was also added as an escutcheon to the municipal arms of Sainte-Adresse.

Ivan Sache, 10 July 2003