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Sainte-Maxime (Municipality, Var, France)

Last modified: 2021-01-15 by ivan sache
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Flag of Sainte-Maxime - Image by Ivan Sache, 2 April 2018

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Presentation of Sainte-Maxime

The municipality of Sainte-Maxime (14,103 inhabitants in 2016, 8,161 ha; municipal website, tourism office website) is located in the Gulf of Saint-Tropez, half-distance (60 km) of Hyères and Cannes. Sainte-Maxime is a popular sea resort, with 12 km of shore and seven beaches, from east to west: La Garonnette, Les Éléphants - portrayed in Le voyage de Babar (image), a strip comic published in 1932 by Jean de Brunhoff (1899-1937), who stayed nearby -, La Nartelle, Pointe des Sardinaux, La Madrague, Downtown, and La Croisette.
The port of Sainte-Maxime offers a convenient way to go to Saint-Tropez by boat. Scheduled shuttles cross the gulf in 15 minutes, while one to two hours are required by car, using the very busy coastal road.

Sainte-Maxime was first mentioned in the 11th century, as the seat of a priory established by the monks of the abbey of Lérins. The local legend says that Maxime, daughter of the Count of Grasse and lord of Antibes, lived between 650 and 750. She rejected riches and glory to serve God, and took the coat in the St. Cassien monastery, another dependency of the abbey of Lérins. She was subsequently appointed abbess of the monastery of Callian, where she died in sanctity. There is, however, no historical record of the saint.
In 1520, François de la Rivière, Abbot of Le Thoronet, ordered the building of a stone tower on the waterfront, to secure the coast and favor the re-settlement of the place. In 1560, Abbot Jacques Ursins, decided to add two floors to the tower; scared by pirates, the workers left after having built only one floor, the second one being eventually built in 1856. Successively used as the lord's manor, a watch tower equipped with cannons, a grain barn, a jail, a school and the Town Hall (from the French Revolution to 1935), the Square Tower houses the Museum of Local traditions.
Sainte-Maxime was erected a parish in 1672. In 1774, the bishop of Fréjus sealed the relics of the saint into the pedestal of the reliquary-bust, which is carried in procession during the patron saint's festival (bravade), celebrated on 14-15 May. In the 18th century, the town thrived around a busy port of commerce. Wine, olive oil, cork, and wood produced in the hinterland were shipped on tartans, the traditional sailboats used for port-to-port, coastal trade.

At the end of the 19th century, the building of the coastal road and of the railway line initiated the development of winter tourism in Sainte-Maxime. The former Grand Hôc;tel was built in the late 19th century by the Compagnie des Terrasses du Littoral and acquired in 1895 by the Swiss maître d' Henri Saudan.
The architectural boom of Sainte-Maxime, however, is credited to Henri Darde (1883-1960). Hired in 1912 by the architects Sauvage and Sarazin to supervise the building of Hôtel Beauvallon in Grimaud, Darde stayed in Sainte-Maxime, where he met and married in 1913 Alberte-Marie Satin, whose father owned several plots. Darde, appointed municipal architect-urban planner and in charge of the development of the emerging town, designed more than 100 buildings in Sainte-Maxime, for instance, Villa La Croisette (1913), the Miramar ballroom (1922), Clos de la Madrague (1923), the casino (1929, replacing Miramar) and Hôtel Arbois (1935). Fond of cars, he created in 1929 with Count Edme de Rohan-Chabot (1904-1972) the women's race Paris-Saint-Raphaël, which would be organized until the count's death. After the Second World War, Henri Darde served as an expert at the Ministry of Reconstruction; owner of agencies in Saint-Raphaël and Cannes, he designed mansions on the French Riviera until his death.
The town's landmark, the bridge crossing river Préconil, erected in 1935, is one of the last bowstring viaducts from the early 20th century.

The pioneer of motion picture industry Léon Gaumont (1876-1946) acquired in Sainte-Maxime the mansion Les Tourelles. He used the mansion to shoot some movies he produced, for instance Judex (directed by Louis Feuillade, 1916). After his forced retirement from business in 1930, he spent most of his time in Sainte-Maxime, where he enjoyed yachting and organized brilliant receptions; one of his regular guests was another pioneer of cinema, Louis Lumière (1864-1948) (photo).

At the end of the Second World War, Sainte-Maxime was a site of the Provence landings (Operation Dragoon), the Allied invasion of Southern France. On 15 August 1944, Force Delta, a part of the US 45th Infantry Division commanded by General William W. Eagles (1895-1988), landed on the beach of La Nartelle, followed the next night by the Combat Command 1 of the 1st Armored Division of the Free French Forces, commanded by General Aimé Sudre (1890-1980).

Sainte-Maxime was transformed into a modern town and sea resort during the term of office (1971-1977) of mayor of Aymeric Simon-Lorière (1944-1977). The seafront promenades and beaches were completely revamped, while the municipal port was increased to 800 moorings. A private port, with 375 moorings, was subsequently created, adjacent to the municipal port.
Simon-Lorière's career was meteoric: elected Representative in the 1973 general election, the ambitious mayor of Sainte-Maxime was the youngest member of the National Assembly. In 1977, he challenged the controversial Mayor of Toulon, Maurice Arreckx (1917-2001, suspected of connection with organized crime and eventually sentenced to jail in 1997 for corruption) but could not defeat him at the municipal election. Severely injured in a car accident the same year, Simon-Lorière was found dead in his Paris flat. It was concluded that he had committed suicide, but the presence of two bullets in his body shed some doubts on the cause of his death. Arreckx and other local politicians were accused to have ordered the execution of their ambitious rival, but no evidence was ever produced.

Prince Regent Bertil of Sweden (1912-1997) acquired the mansion Le Mirage in Sainte-Maxime. With his wife, Princess Lilian, he spent summers in Sainte-Maxime, "drinking pastis, playing pétanque and smoking cigars". Extremely popular in the town and nicknamed "Boulenprins", Prince Bertil is credited the introduction of pétanque in Sweden. The main pétanque field in the town was renamed to "boulodrome Prince Bertil" in summer 1997, shortly after the prince's death, in the presence of the princess and of the Swedish royal family.
Bertil's mansion, inherited by his nephew, King Carl XVI Gustaf, is still used as a summer vacation house by the royal family.
[Royaux Suédois blog]

Ivan Sache, 2 April 2018

Flag of Sainte-Maxime

The flag of Sainte-Maxime (photo, photo, photo, photo; video), which is widely used in the town and in the port, is vertically divided celestial blue-white.
Celestial blue and white are the traditional colors of the patron saint, here a probable reference to the Marian colors. Flags with the same colors are also used during the patron saint's festival. The town flag, therefore, was probably derived from old banners.

Ivan Sache, 2 April 2018

Flags used during the bravade


Flag used during the bravade< - Image by Ivan Sache, 2 April 2018

The bravade (presentation) was re-established in 1968 by Father Lejeune, the parish priest, Mireille de Germond, founder of Lei Magnoti folk group, and Ludovic Bietti, founder of the Corps de Bravade (modelled on the company that escorted the procession in the past) and its first cépoun. The clique, the group of musicians playing fifes and drums (already recorded in the 19th century) was established in 1991 by Gilbert Gazagne. Their red and white striped costume was designed in 1998.
The organization of the bravade procession follows a strict ceremonial, which remains unchanged from year to year. The saint's reliquary leaves the church at 9:30, escorted by the Corps de Bravade, the clique and the religious and civic authorities. The cortege stops in different places where the Corps de Bravade fire muskets (to the ground). The saint's statue is offered flower and a celestial blue-white sash. The cortege stops at the War Memorial, where the Last Post is played and garbs are deposed. The procession ends at 12:30 in front of the Town Hall, where the Lei Magnoti group performs the Stump's Dance and the Mayor gives a speech. At 16:00, the processions resumes, bringing back the reliquary to the church.

The first flag appearing in the procession (video) is diagonally divided white-celestial blue, charged in the middle with the tower from the arms of Sainte-Maxime. This must be the flag of the Corps de Bravade.
Later on, a flag vertically divided celestial blue-white and charged with the arms of Sainte-Maxime, is used in parallel with a flag vertically divided red-white-red (video, video, video, video). This is the flag of Saint-Tropez, whose most famous bravade probably inspired the military component of the Sainte-Maxime I>bravade. This flag must be the town's flag that is offered to the Corps de Bravade on the eve of the procession, while the Major, who will lead the procession, the Holy Guard of the reliquary, and the standard-bearer (a woman) are appointed.
At the end of the procession, the flag is given back to the civic authorities of the town.

The Lei Magnoti folk group uses a square flag (photo; video, video, video, video) quartered by a white cross, 1. Blue with the arms of Sainte-Maxime, 2. White with the group's name, 3. White with the Angevin arms of Provence ("Azure a fleur-de-lis or in chief a label gules"), 4. Blue with the Catalan-Aragonese arms of Provence ("Or four pallets gules"). The quarters are outlined by a golden yellow border.

Ivan Sache, 2 April 2018

Club Nautique de Sainte-Maxime

[Flag]         [Burgee]         [Burgee]

Flag and burgee of YCIPG - Images by Ivan Sache, 3 April 2018

CNSM (website) was established on 10 June 1937 by Eugène Lubert. During the Second World War, the German authorities forbid all kind of navigation in the Gulf of Saint-Tropez, fishing included, so the club winded up.
After the Liberation, the Count de Germond and Albert Hagege organized a regatta every 15 August and CNSM resumed its activity. On 13 March 1967, Paul Bausset (subsequently mayor of Sainte-Maxime from 1977 to 1995), Philippe Lubert, Claude Henri and Michel Roche obtained from the Count the establishment of a sailing school, which should have autonomous management. The sailing school was officially recognized on 13 February 1968 by the French Sailing Federation. Paul Bausset was elected president of the CNSM in late 1968; the new club's Statutes fully integrated the sailing school in to the club.
In the 1970s, CNSM started to be active all the year round (not only in summer) and encouraged competition. A motorboat section was created. In 1978, CNSM was national champion in single-handed dinghies.
Olivier Bausset (b. 1982), the grand-son of Paul Bausset, won the bronze medal with Nicolas Charbonnier (Yacht Club d'Antibes-Juan-les-Pins) in 470 series at the 2008 Summer Olympics (Beijing). In Laser series, Jean-Baptiste Bernaz (b. 1987) ranked 8th at the 2008 Summer Olympics, 10th at the 2012 Summer Olympics (London), and 5th at the 2016 Summer Olympics (Rio).

The flag of CNSM (photo) is horizontally divided blue-white-red-white-blue with the blue writing "CLUB NAUTIQUE" / "SAINTE MAXIME" in the white stripes.
The burgee of CNSM is a triangular version of the flag. The burgee currently hoisted on the CNSM club house (photo) and on boats moored in the port has slanted stripes. The burgee also exists with horizontal stripes (photo).

Ivan Sache, 2 April 2018