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Bagnolet (Municipality, Seine-Saint-Denis, France)

Last modified: 2015-04-25 by ivan sache
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Flag of Bagnolet - Image by Olivier Touzeau, 28 May 2014

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Presentation of Bagnolet

The municipality of Bagnolet (29,127 inhabitants in 2008; 395 ha; municipal website) is located on the eastern border of Paris.

Bagnolet was mentioned for the first time in 1256 in a document of the Saint-Maur-des-Fossés abbey. Beforehand, the village appears to have formed a single domain with Montreuil. There are no archeological remains of the first parish church of Bagnolet, which is known, however, by the name of two priests (Regnault, 1377; Roger de la Hate, 1385).
In the second half of the 15th century, the farce Le monologue du franc-archer de Bagnolet, credited, without any serious evidence, to François Villon, shed some unexpected light on Bagnolet. The farce flays the cowardice of the archery militia established in 1448 by King Charles VII. The militia was, however, a first step towards the set up of a professional army; constituted of commoners exonerated from tax (francs, that is, "free"), the militia, progressively increased from 8,000 to 16,000 men, allowed Charles VII to reconquer most of his kingdom, Calais excepted. Defeated in Guinegatte in 1479 by Maximilian I, the militia was disbanded in 1481 and replaced by Swiss guards.

The castle of Bagnolet was built in 1719 for Marie-Françoise de Bourbon, Duchess of Orléans and wife of Regent Philippe d'Orléans. Surrounded by a 60-ha park, the castle was sold in 1769 to François Ageron, the last lord of Bagnolet. Sold again in 1781, the castle was eventually demolished.
In 1792, the hamlet of Ménilmontant was transferred from Bagnolet to Belleville, subsequently incorporated to Paris. Further transfers would dramatically reduce the size of the municipal territory of Bagnolet.

The industrialization of Paris in the second half of the 20th century transformed Bagnolet into a worker's town. Population boomed from 2,600 inhabitants in 1875 to 16,000 in 1910. Bagnolet became a Communist stronghold, part of the "red belt" of Paris. Paul Coudert was Mayor from 1928 to 1939 and 1944 to 1959. He was succeeded by Jacqueline Chonavel (b. 1924), the first woman elected mayor of a French municipality of more than 30,000 inhabitants, also Representative at the National Assembly from 1968 to 1981, and another two Communist mayors, until 2014, when the Parti Socialiste won the municipal election.
The urbanization of the eastern outskirts of Paris in the 1960s dramatically changed the appearance of Bagnolet. The town is divided into two parts by the A3 highway, inaugurated in December 1969, and connected in January 1970 to the the boulevard périphérique via the porte de Bagnolet. Eventually fulfilling a wish first expressed by the inhabitants in 1902, the metro was increased until the Gallieni station, inaugurated on 2 April 1971; the Gallieni coach station is the main hub in Paris of the Eurolines company, which offers cheap tickets to all European towns. Built in the 1970s to house offices, the Gallieni (1975) and Mercuriales (1977) towers are emblematic elements of the Bagnoler skyline.

The Alsace de Bagnolet basketball club, established in 1924, won the national championship in 1961, 1962 and 1967. Its most famous players are the brothers Maxime (b. 1936) and Laurent (b. 1943) Dorigo, of Italian origin. Maxime Dorigo played all his career with Bagnolet (1957-1972 ) and played 71 times with the national team (1958-1966, 851 points). Dorigo refused to leave Bagnolet in spite of offers by the most famous Italian clubs - and by the national team - of the time. He was enthroned in 2004 in the French basketball academy (hall of fame).

Ivan Sache, 28 May 2014

Flag of Bagnolet

The flag of Bagnolet (photo) is dark yellow with a branch of peach tree. The branch and the six leaves are black, while the three peaches peaches are dark yellow with a black border.
The flag is derived from the municipal logo, itself derived from the municipal arms, "Or a branch of peach tree vert fructed of three gules".

Bagnolet and Montreuil were once famous for their peaches, produced on "peach walls" (murs à pêches). In this specific cropping system, peach trees are grown in espalier against high stone walls layered with plaster; accordingly, heat stored during daytime by the walls is returned during night time to the trees. The tradition says that the first peach walls were designed by Edmée Girardot, owner of the orchard of Malassis, located on the border of Montreuil and Bagnolet. Helped by the King's gardener, La Quintinie, Girardot offered peaches to King Louis XIV, who asked to visit the orchard. Since then, the peaches of Bagnolet and Montreuil were enjoyed by the European nobles and courts. The large-scale cultivation of peach in southern France and the establishment of railway caused the decline of the peach walls: the southern peaches could reach the Paris market before ripening of the local peaches. While some of the walls have been preserved in Montreuil, although still threatened by urbanization, all the Bagnolet walls were suppressed, until the re-planting of the Clos à Pêches orchard in 1994 (website; photos).
The peach varieties grown against the walls bear nice names, such as the Grosse mignonne, the Téton de Vénus, the Belle impériale and the Belle de Beauce.

Olivier Touzeau & Ivan Sache, 28 May 2014