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Épinal (Municipality, Vosges, France)

Last modified: 2021-03-16 by ivan sache
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Flag of Épinal - Image by Olivier Touzeau, 7 September 2020


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Presentation of Épinal

The municipality of Épinal (32,223 inhabitants in 2018; 5,924 ha) is located 70 km south of Nancy.

Épinal was founded in the 10th century by Thierry I, Bishop of Metz, who built a monastery, as well as a castle to protect the area from Burgundian looters. From 1466 Épinal belonged to the Duchy of Lorraine. From the 17th century, the town lived on the textile and paper industries.

Épinal was devastated by black plague in summer 1629. Soon afterwards, the town was attacked by the Swedish army (1632), then taken by the French Field Marshal Caumont (1633), besieged by Charles IV of Lorraine (1635), and hit again by plague (1636). At the end of the epidemic, only 1,000 people were left in Épinal, whose recovery took decades.
The Duke of Lorraine recaptured Épinal in October 1636, but ceded it back to France after the Peace of Saint-Germain, signed on 21 March 1641 with Louis XIII. French troops occupied the town until August 1650, when Épinal was freed by Charles IV of Lorraine. Louis XIV then occupied it again from 1653 to 1661. In 1670, the French took Nancy, forcing Charles IV to withdraw to Épinal. The town was taken again by the troops of Louis XIV, who subsequently ordered the destruction of the castle.

In 1796, Jean-Charles Pellerin (1756-1836) founded the iaageire d'Épinal, which produced printed images depicting historical or religious subjects in bright sharp colours. Épinal prints were extremely popular throughout France in the 19th century. The company still uses hand-operated presses toproduce the antique images.
The expression "image d'Épinal" has become proverbial in French and refers to an emphatically traditionalist and naïve depiction of something, showing only its good aspects.

After the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871) and the German occupation of Alsace, many industrialists from Mulhouse flocked into Épinal, giving a major boost to the local textile industry. Épinal then became one of the four strongholds (along with Verdun,Toul and Belfort) of the Sérééde Rivières system of defence aimed at protecting France from a German invasion.

Olivier Touzeau, 7 September 2020


Flag of Épinal

The flag of Épinal (photo, photo, photo, photo, photo) is a banner of the municipal arms, "Gules a tower argent masoned port and windows sable between two fleur-de-lis or".

The arms proposed by Robert Louis in the 1950s were more compliant with the "norms of heraldry". The main difference with the design in actual use is the gate, represented closed by Robert Louis.
In the Armorial des villes, bourgs et villages de la Lorraine, du Barrois et des Trois-Évêchés, published in 1868, the heraldic engraver Constant Lapaix gives the arms of Épinal as "Gules a tower argent masoned sable". As a source, Lapaix refers to the Livre d'hérauderie, a manuscript designed between 1698 and 1724 by Claude Charles (1661-1744). Official painter of Duke Leopold and King of Arms of Lorraine and Barrois, Charles recorded the arms of nobles, towns and provostships of Lorraine and Barrois found in charters. Nicolas Durival (Mémoire sur la Lorraine et le Barrois, 1753) gives the same arms (p. 177).
The tower probably refers to the town's old fortifications, especially the tower nicknamed Boudiou.

The Boudiou tower was originally known as the Rualménil tower; of strategic significance, it watched the main entrance of the fortified town, at the junction of main roads heading to Nancy, Mirecourt, Plombières and Franche-Comté. The two sides of the tower were each equipped with a clock. The clock facing the town was decorated in azure and gold in the 17th century by the noted local painter Nicolas Bellot. Like most clocks of the time, the "Grand Rualménil watch" was not accurate; accordingly, the people of Épinal nicknamed it Boudiou, for a local world meaning "a liar".
The Boudiou tower and most of the town's fortifications were demolished in 1840.
[Au fil des mots et de l'histoire, 9 July 2009]

In conflict with the bishop of Metz, the burghers of Épinal plead allegiance to René d'Anjou, Duke of Bar and husband of the heiress of the Duchy of Lorraine. In 1444, during the visit paid to Lorraine by King of France Charles VII, the representatives of Épinal went to Nancy and offered the town to the king. Charles VII solemnly entered Épinal; on his behalf, the burghers plead allegiance to the Duke of Lorraine. As a reward, Charles VII added two fleurs-de-lis on the arms.
A seal appended to a charter dated 10 September 1444, confirming the donation of the town to the king of France, was, against all odds, the model used by Robert Louis to design his version of the arms.
[Armorial des villes et des villages de France]

Olivier Touzeau & , 9 September 2020