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Gassin (Municipality, Var, France)

Last modified: 2018-06-24 by ivan sache
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Flag of Gassin - Image by Ivan Sache, 8 April 2018

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Presentation of Gassin

The municipality of Gassin (2,576 inhabitants in 2015, 2,474 ha; municipal website) is located 10 km south-west of Saint-Tropez. The municipality is composed of the village of Gassin, built atop a hill overlooking the Gulf of Saint-Tropez and the Bay of Cavalaire, and several hamlets scattered in the plain. The Saint-Tropez hospital, secondary school and golf course are located on the municipal territory of Gassin.

Gassin, first documented, as Garcin, in 1234-1235, adopted its current name in 1750. The chartulary of the St. Victor abbey in Marseilles lists Arnulfus de Garcino, Aicardus de Garcin, Gaufrion de Garci and Guilelmus Garcinus, but there is no evidence of a connection of any of these lords with the village.
The etymology of Gassin is disputed. A common explanation, referring to the location of the medieval village, claims that Gassin was derived from Gardia Sinus, the Guard of the Gulf. Charles Rostaing (Essai sur la toponymie de la Provence, 1950) calls for pre-Indo-European roots, *kar, "an elevated stone", and *sed / *sen, "a seat, "a hill", "a place built on a rock".

Gassin is known as the witches' village. A local legend recalls that during an epidemic of black plague, the village was deserted by all its inhabitants but an old woman. To repel thieves and to maintain the image of a lively village, she went every evening from house to house, setting fire in the hearth. Reported to carry embers in her naked hands without any sign of pain, she was soon considered as a witch.
The names of the streets of the old village (Watch Passage, Saracens' Gate, Fort Street, Templar's' Passage) recalls that the place was very safe; the village does not appear to have been ever seized, even during Saracen raids or the Wars of Religion. Androuno is claimed to be the narrowest street in the world, offering passage for only one (slim) person.

In the 20th century, Gassin lost a significant part of its territory and 2/3 of its population, due to the establishment of the coastal municipalities of Cavalaire (1929) and La Croix-Valmer (1934). Like the neighboring village of Ramatuelle, Gassin turned to a shelter for celebrities who wanted to escape the busy life in Saint-Tropez.
At the end of the 1980s, several inhabitants of the old village left to the more convenient borough of La Foux, located in the plain. To prevent desertification of the village, Mayor Robert Dho (1977-2002) commissioned Fran├žois Spoerry (1924-1999), the designer of the Port Grimaud lacustrine city, to establish a new village adjacent to the old one. Inaugurated on 10 September 1993, the new village, composed of 124 dwellings, was awarded the Prince of Wales Prize from Harvard University and the Philippe Rotthier European Prize for Architecture (1998).
[Golfe de Saint-Tropez tourism website]

Ivan Sache, 8 April 2004

Flag of Gassin

The flag of Gassin is white with the municipal coat of arms, "Azure a three-towered castle argent masoned sable. The shield surrounded by two palms vert tied by a ribbon azure inscribed 'May d'honour que d'honours' in letters argent and surmounted by a mural crown or masoned sable", and the writing "COMMUNE DE" (top, in an arched pattern) / "GASSIN" (bottom, horizontal) in black letters.
The arms and the motto, which reads "Better honor than honors", belonged to the Castellane-Saint-Juers lineage, once lords of Gassin.
[ Municipal website]

Claude de Castellane acquired the Barony of Saint-Juers on 31 January 1509. His grand-son, Honoré de Castellane, was Baron of Gassin. His grand-son, Fran├žois de Castellane, was Marquis of Grimaud and Saint-Juers. The Castellane family, claiming a Castilian origin, was one of the oldest noble lineages in Provence.

Ivan Sache, 8 April 2004