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Le Blanc-Mesnil (Municipality, Seine-Saint-Denis, France)

Last modified: 2020-06-28 by ivan sache
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Flag of Le Blanc-Mesnil, two versions - Images by Olivier Touzeau, 22 May 2019

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Presentation of Le Blanc-Mesnil

The municipality of Le Blanc-Mesnil (56,783 inhabitants in 2017; 805 ha; municipal website) is located in the northeastern suburbs of Paris.
The toponym "Mesnil", quite common in Belgium and northern France, means "a rural domain"; the word comes from Lower Latin mansionile, a diminutive form of Latin mansion, "a post on a Roman road".

Le Blanc-Mesnil was already settled in the Neolithic, as evidenced by axes and flintstones found in the 1970s. The town was first mentioned in 1060, when King Philip I granted the rural domain of Blanc-Mesnil to the St. Vincent abbey in Senlis, which had been founded by his mother, Ann of Kiev.
In the middle of the 14th century, Le Blanc-Mesnil grew up as a small village built around a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of the Annunciation, the patron saint of the wealthy guild of the Paris goldsmiths.

Counting only 110 inhabitants, three farms, a mill, a pub, a blacksmith and a carter in the beginning of the French Revolution, Le Blanc-Mesnil had its growth boosted by the inauguration of the Paris-Soissons railway in 1858 and the set-up of the Molette business park; population increased by a 12-fold between 1880 and 1926.
Destroyed at 45% during the Second World War, Le Blanc-Mesnil was rebuilt on the urbanistic of the times; some 30 cités (housing estates) were established from 1957 to 1974. A second generation of business parks was established in the 1970s.

Ivan Sache, 27 May 2020

Flag of Le Blanc-Mesnil

The flag of Le Blanc Mesnil is white with the municipal logo, which is a stylized version of the municipal coat of arms, all in yellow on blue, with the name of the municipality, either of the same width as the logo's graphic part (photo, photo), or coverting the flag's full length (photo).

The arms of Le Blanc-Mesnil were designed in 1944 by Robert Louis, member of the Heraldry Commission of the department of Seine-et-Oise, as "Azure quartered by a cross engrailed or, 1. Chequy argent and azure, 2. and 3. Azure a de jure dexter hand appaumy or, 4. Azure a ciborium or sweetdish or."

The cross and the ciborium/sweetdish come from the arms of the powerful goldsmith's guild of Paris, once protectors of the Chapel of Our Lady,.
Whether the device represented on the arms is a ciborium or a sweetdish is a matter of debate. The reason why the Paris goldsmiths decided to found the building of a chapel in 1353 is not known either; the miracle that might have happened on the site has not been recorded. Anyway, the chapel soon became a popular place of pilgrimage. Pope Innocent IV granted on 1356 "a general pardon, forever, to those who would visit the chapel in the town of Blancmesnil and pray for the peace of the kingdom and the health of the king". Crowds came to the chapel "from hundred leagues around" until 1679, when the goldsmiths' guild transferred the pilgrimage to its own chapel in Paris. Abandoned, the chapel was destroyed in 1823, its stones being used to build the Notre-Dame farm.
The other charges, the checky quarter and the two hands, are taken from the arms of the Potier, former lords of Blanc-Mesnil.
[Municipal website (archived)]

The Armorial Général shows tha arms of Claude Potier de Novion (1638-1722), aka the Count of Novion, Colonel of the Infantry Regiment of Brittany and Brigadier of the King's Armies, as "Azure two hands or per bend sinister a canton checky argent and azure" (image).
Claude Potier de Novion was the sun of the infamous magistrate Nicolas Potier de Novion (1618-1693). A fierce opponent to Mazarin, he proposed the Parliament to apply an Order that sentenced to death any minister of foreign origin. Appointed First President of the Paris Parliament in 1678, he had to resign in 1689, after, as reported by the memoirist Saint-Simon "it was discovered that Novion has been doctoring the acts he signed, long before someone dared complaining". This did not prevent him to be elected at the Académie française on 17 March 1681, in spite of lacking any literary merit and having not produced any work. His reception address, given on 27 March, was, as recognized by the Académie, "very short, totally ridiculous: Novion is one of the biggest blunders committed by the Academy". Unfortunately, or not, Novion's address has neither been recorded nor published in the Recueil des Harangues.
[Académie française]

Other sources give the arms of Potier de Novion with three hands or, the third hand being nearly completely concealed by the checky canton.
[L. Lainé. 1836. Archives généalogiques et historiques de la noblesse de France]

Olivier Touzeau & Ivan Sache, 27 March 2020