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Mantes-la-Jolie (Municipality, Yvelines, France)

Last modified: 2022-07-30 by ivan sache
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Flag of Mantes-la-Jolie, current and former versions - Images by Olivier Touzeau, 13 September 2020

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Presentation of Mantes-la-Jolie

The municipality of Mantes-la-Jolie (43,921 inhabitants in 2019; 938 ha; municipal website) is located 60 km west of Paris. The original municipality of Mantes-sur-Seine merged with the municipality of Gassicourt in 1930 to form Mantes-Gassicourt; which was renamed on 7 May 1953 to Mantes-la-Jolie ("Mantes-the-Pretty"), an alleged reference to a letter of King Henry IV to his mistress Gabrielle d'Estrées, who resided in Mantes: "Je viens à Mantes, ma jolie" ("I am heading to Mantes, my pretty".

Mantes emerged in the Middle Ages as a fishers' village known as Mante / Medunta. Around 1006, Gauthier II the White (944-1027), Count of Vexin, Mantes, Amiens and Valois, built a castle to watch river Seine and the border with Normandy, on behalf of King Louis VI.
Jeanne de France and Phillipe d'Évreux established their residence in Mantes in 1328; to increase the castle, they borrowed 1,000 guilders to the municipality of Mantes, which had been chartered in 1110 by King Louis VI as a free municipality. Their son, Charles the Bad (1332-1387), King of Navarre, often stayed in the castle, which he fortified in 1353, including the Notre-Dame church within the castle's outer wall. In the aftermath of the sack of Mantes in 1365 by the Anglo-Navarrese party, King of France Charles V (1338-1380) completely restored the castle, transforming the feudal fortress into a pleasant manor.
Henry IV (1553-1610) often stayed in Mantes, for the last time in March 1609 with Marie de' Medici, saying "Madam, if you could you know how much I cherish this town! Mantes was once my Paris, this castle my Louvre, and this garden my Tuileries, where I took very good resolutions". The castle ceased to be a royal residence in 1615 and was transformed into a silk cloth mill. Subsequently used until 1700 to house troops transiting through the town, the castle was eventually demolished in 1719. The Ganne tower, adjacent to the castle, was allegedly erected around 912 by the Norsemen to defend the access of he castle via the Seine. The rectangular (18 m x 12 m) tower was composed of five floors. Coins are said to have been minted in the tower in the 11th-12th centuries. The tower crushed down in 1710, its last remains being demolished in 1719.

The collegiate church of Mantes, damaged in 1087 during the siege of the town by William the Conqueror, was rebuilt from 1140 to the 14th century, using the cathedrals of Paris, Laon, Senlis and Rouen as models. Titled as royal, the church was the seat of the wealthy Assumption merchant's guild. Philip II Augustus (1165-1223) appointed himself abbot of Mantes and died in the town. With towers culminating at 61 m, the collegiate church is considered as the "younger sister" of Notre-Dame de Paris, although its building probably started earlier. Registered in 1840 as an historical monument, the church was fully restored from 1846 to 1873 by local architect Alphonse Durand (1813-1881).

Olivier Touzeau & Ivan Sache, 11 July 2022

Flag of Mantes-la-Jolie

The flag of Mantes-la-Jolie (photo, photo, photo) is white with the municipal logo derived from the municipal coat of arms, "Per pale, 1. Azure a demi-fleur-de-lis or, 2. Or a demi-oak eradicated vert fructed or". The logo was modified in 2009, the font of the word "Mantes" being changed, but the flag with the older logo was used until 2016 (photo, photo).

Armand Cassan (Statistique de l'arrondissement de Mantes, Seine-et-Oise, 1833) writes that the arms of Mantes "known since immemorial time, feature a branch of oak with three acorns, with the later addition of a demi-fleur-de-lis". Cassan further quotes Simon Fatoul (d. 1659), Dean of Mantes: "The oak was considered by the elder as a symbol of love and loyalty that should not been either undermined or taken down for whatever disgrace or adversity, but should remain ever blossoming and persevering [...] Thus it perfectly fits to Mantes' people, who during civil and foreign wars always let known how they were eager to serve and obey their kings."
Alphonse Durand & Eugène Grave (La chronique de Mantes ou histoire de Mantes depuis le IXe siècle jusqu'à la Révolution, 1993) are more specific, quoting Aube's manuscript: "The oak represents love and loyalty; therefore, Louis [VII] the Young [1120-1180] offered to Mantes' people his own arms composed of a single fleur-de-lis on a field azure". The grant of arms is dated 1150, "at the time, the kings of France bore a single fleur-de-lis on their arms". Durand & Grave further state that "the arms featured on the great basin of the fountain (1520) are more accurate, but the colors are lost [...] The best representation of the arms is found on tokens from the 16th and 17th centuries. The demi-oak is eradicated, but there are no colors." During the visit paid to Mantes on 1 March 1534 by Eleanor of Austria (1498-1558), Charles V's sister and Francis I's second wife, "the Mayor, the pairs and the councillors [...] were dressed with the colors of the town, blue and red, which where at the time those of the field of the arms of Mantes."

The Heraldry Commission of the Department of Seine-et-Oise, composed of Henri Lemoine (1889-1968), archivist; Jacques Meurgey de Turpigny (1891-1973), Curator at the National Archives; Gaston Reaubourg (1879-1952), Mayor of Vétheuil; Maurice Poncelet, member of the Antiquities Commission; Robert Louis (1902-1965), heraldic designer; and Émile Houth (1893-1978), Bachelor of Arts, prescribed the arms of Mantes as follows: "Per pale, 1. Azure a demi-fleur-de-lis or, 2. Or a demi-oak eradicated vert fructed or. Arms of very old possession reproducing municipal seals (16th century)". The Armorial of Seine-et-Oise features the oak branch with seven across.
The substitution of gules by or in the sinister field is controversial; it was first mentioned, elusively, by Auguste Moutié in 1852 (Mantes. Histoire, monuments, environs). Durand & Grave claim that the sinister field or "seems to be unknown to Mantes' people". Clérisse (Promenade dans Mantes, 1958) describes the arms as "Per pale, 1. Azure a demi-fleur-de-lis or, 2. Gules a demi-oak eradicated vert fructed of three acorns or". The back side of the War Memorial designed in 1921 by local sculptors Lerouge and Levard shows the arms with conventional hatching representing azure and gules, respectively. A sculpted stone once part of the Town Hall destroyed in 1944 bears the same hatching.
Unfortunately, no report or minutes of the Heraldry Commission that could have explained the substitution have been preserved.
[P. Roche. 1975.
Les armes de Mantes-la-Jolie. Bulletin de la Société Les Amis du Mantois (New Series) 26, 10-14]

Conrad Malte-Brun (Précis de la géographie universelle..., 1829) claims that the old arms of the town feature oak mistletoe; together with the town's old name, Petro Mantalum (oak stone), this provides "evidence" that the town was established by druids who venerated sacred stones.
The identification of Petromantalum, a post listed in the Antonine Itinerary, with Mantes is no longer considered by historians, since it does not match the old name of the town, Medanta / Meanta. Moreover, the most accepted meaning of Petromantalum is "a four-road junction", probably Saint-Clair-sur-Epte.
[M. Roblin. 1976. Petromantalum, Saint-Clair et le Vexin. Journal des Savants 1, 3-31]

Olivier Touzeau & Ivan Sache, 11 July 2022

Older flag of Mantes-la-Jolie


Older possible flag of Mantes-la-Jolie - Image by Olivier Touzeau, 13 September 2020

In 2006, the white flag with the logo was flown together with a vertically divided yellow and light blue flag, maybe cgarged with the municipal coat of arms (photo).

Pascal Vagnat, 3 September 2020