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Viroflay (Municipality, Yvelines, France)

Last modified: 2016-12-03 by ivan sache
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Flag of Viroflay - Image by Ivan Sache, 22 March 2016

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Presentation of Viroflay

The municipality of Viroflay (15,734 inhabitants in 2013; 349 ha, 148 ha of forest included; municipal website) is located 10 km of Paris, just west of Versailles.

Viroflay must have been named for a Gallo-Roman estate, Villa Offleni, owned by Offlenus. Lord Herbtus de Villoflein was mentioned in the 13th century. The "ll" of Villoflein were changed to "r" by phonetism, giving Viroflien, Virofle, and, eventually, Viroflay.
Originally ruled by the Paris Hötel-Dieu, Viroflay was transferred in the 14th century to Squire Jehan Lane and to Jean Bureau, Grand Master of Artillery. The Aymery family purchased the domain in the early 16th century and would live there until the French Revolution. The domain was shared in 1661 with Michel Le Tellier, Chancellor of France, who adopted the title of lord of Chaville. His widow, Elizabeth Turpin, sold the expensive domain of Viroflay to King Louis XIV on 8 and 11 December 1695. Viroflay and Chaville remained part of the Royal Domain until the French Revolution.

Viroflay remained a rural village, living from wine-growing and grain cultivation, until the middle of the 19th century. The set up of the railway line heading to Paris-Saint-Lazare dramatically changed the life in Viroflay: cattle-breeding and cultivation of fresh vegetables for the Paris market replaced the old crops. The Vilmorin seed company created in 1880 a giant spinach variety; sold under the name of "Monstrueux de Viroflay", the spinach is a main component of the Viroflay omelette.
Several members of the political, press and arts elite built vacation houses in Viroflay. The Duke of Morny (1811-1865). half-brother of Emperor Napoléon III and President of the Corps législatif, let build the isba-like Grand Chalet for his wife, Princess Sophie Troubetzkoï; acquired in 1926 by the municipality, the Grand Chalet houses the town Hall.

The Bon Repos (Good Rest) domain, built around 1715, was purchased in 1800 by the Mayor of Viroflay, Jean-Pierre Labbé, who was a farmer and a self-taught poet. He welcomed there in 1817 Julie Charles, the wife of the physician Charles, beloved by the poet Alphonse de Lamartine, who immortalized her as "Elvire". In 1843, Bon Repos was acquired by the Dailly family, the last Paris Postmasters, who would keep it for the next 80 years. The tradition says that His Grace Félix Dupanloup (1802-1878), Bishop of Orléans and "hero" of a famous bawdy, anticlerical song (Père Dupanloup), often stayed at Bon Repos. In 1882, the domain was settled by Amélie Dailly and her husband, the historian Anatole Leroy-Beaulieu (1842-1912), a specialist of Russia and a great defender of the Jews and Armenians, also Director of the École des Sciences Politiques. He welcomed in Bon Repos the historian and philosopher Hippolyte Taine (1828-1893), the poet Catulle-Mendès (1841-1909) and the Russian philosopher Vladimir Soloviev (1853-1900). Bon Repos was purchased after 1920 by the engineer Ernest Roger (1864-1943), who realized in 1898 with Eugène Ducretet the first wireless radio transmission between the Eiffel Tower and the Panthéon. His brother, the famous photographer Henri Roger-Viollet (1869-1946), immortalized the buildings and the park, where the opening scenes of the movie Le Colonel Chabert, starring Raimu and Marie Bell, were shot by René Le Hénaff in 1943.
The association "Sauvegarde et Renaissance du Bon-Repos" (website) was set up a few years ago to preserve Bon Repos, abandoned for 30 years, from total ruination.

Ivan Sache, 22 March 2016

Flag of Viroflay

The flag of Viroflay (photo, photo) is vertically divided blue-red with the municipal arms in the center.

The arms of Viroflay are "Per pale, 1. Azure three lizards argent in pale a chief gules three stars or, 2. Gules an oak eradicated or a chief azure a fleur-de-lis or. The shield surmounted by a mural crown or and surrounded by branches of oak of the same."
The dexter quarter represents the arms of François Michel Le Tellier (1641-1691), Marquis of Louvois and lord of Viroflay. Secretary of War (1661-1691) of Louis XIV, Louvois reorganized the army; since he challenged the noble's privileges, he was, according to Voltaire, "more estimated than beloved by the King, bt the Court, and by the public".
The second quarter features the Virgin's Oak, a famous place of pilgrimage to Our Lady of the Oak, and a fleur-de-lis recalling Louis XIV, owner of the domain.
[Municipal website]

The arms of Michel Le Tellier are canting: in Latin, stellio means "a lizard", while stella means "a star". A window of Hôtel des invalides in Paris is surmounted by a wolf looking down to the yard. The other windows are decorated with heraldic symbols, militaria or trophies. The odd wolf has been interpreted as a rebus on Louvois, loup voit, lit. "[the] wolf sees". Louis XIV would have forbidden Louvois to apply his own arms on the window but would have allowed a less prominent allusion to the Hôtel's builder.
[Musée de l'Armée]

The Virgin's Oak (photos) was a place of pilgrimage until 1960, when it was replaced by the Church of Our Lady of the Oak. Veneration started in 1832, when a cholera epidemic killed 52 in a few weeks, ceasing on Assumption's Day. Another epidemic broke out in 1859, which ceased after the priest had implored the Oak's Virgin and wowed to organize a yearly procession.

Ivan Sache, 22 March 2016