Last modified: 2005-03-05 by ivan sache
Keywords: cher | saint-amand-montrond | war cross |
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by Arnaud Leroy
The city of Saint-Amand-Montrond (12,000 inhabitants; 2,000 ha) is located in the south of the department of Cher, in the center of France; it is the capital city of a small region called Boischaut. The municipality of Bruères-Allichamps, located a few kilometers north-west of Saint-Amand, claims to be the geographical center of France.
The early city of Saint-Amand was developed near a monastery said to have been found around year 620 by the monk Theodulf, probably on the site of an earlier Gallo-Roman settlement located on the way between Bourges and Clermont-Ferrand. The first church was dedicated to Saint Amand, an hermit bishop who evangelized France and Flanders. Saint Amand is portrayed on the municipal flag of Sint-Amands, in Belgian Flanders. Nothing has remained from this church but the name of the city. The current church was built in the XIIth century and is a typical example of the Romanic churches in Berry.
In the XIIth century, the fortified city of Saint-Amand-le-Chastel was founded by the family of Déols. In the same period, the castle of Montrond was built on a hill dominating the river Cher. The two settlements merged in the XVth century to form the city of Villeneuve-Saint-Amand, later renamed Saint-Amand-sous-Montrond and eventually Saint-Amand-Montrond. There is still in Saint-Amand a street named rue Entre-les-deux-villes, literally "between the two cities", which recalls the two former settlements.
In 1621, Sully sold the castle of Montrond to the Duke of Bourbon,
father of the Grand Condé (1621-1686). Condé led the revolt of the
princes against the royal power known as Fronde des Princes. In 1652,
his castle was seized after a 11-month siege. The castle was abandoned
and lost its roof some 80 years later. It was transformed into a stone
quarry in 1793. The remains of the castle have been recently cleaned
and revamped by a local association called Cercle d'Histoire et
d'Archéologie du Saint-Amandois.
During the French Revolution, the city was renamed Libreval.
In the XIXth century, the canal of Berry was built, allowing the industrial development of Saint-Amand-Montrond. Printing and jewelry became the two main activities in the city. Today, it is still said that the last book you have read and your golden chain bracelet were probably manufactured in Saint-Amand.
The printing works Bussière and Clerc are two factories of economical
significance at the European level, which employ more than 500.
The Bussière printing was founded in 1832 and operates today four modern Cameron printing presses, processing each year 21,000 tons of paper. Bussière is specialized in the printing of pocket books and novels, especially the books awarded literary prizes requiring huge and quick print runs. The family Bussière recently ceded the company to the group Chevrillon-Philippe Industrie, which also owns the Brodard et Taupin printing.
The Clerc printing was founded in 1878 and is directed by the founder's grand son. Clerc is specialized in offset printing of art and school books with colour plates, and works for big publishers, such as Actes Sud, Albin Michel, Gallimard and Hachette. It produces each year 10 millions books, processing 8,000 tons of papers and 25 tons of ink. Clerc also prints comic books, such as the Astérix series.
The first jewelry workshop was opened in Saint-Amand, rue des Vieilles
Prisons, in 1888. The brothers Moricault, jewellers in Paris, were
advized by one of their workers, coming from Meillant, near
Saint-Amand, to open a workshop in the center of France. Since then,
Saint-Amand is the third French jewelry market after Paris and Lyon,
processing each year 3 tons of gold, that is 3% of the national trade.
In the 1970s, jewelry was hit by the economical crisis and there are
today only 10 factories still active in the city, employing 200. The
traditional products were chain bracelets, chains and bracelets. In the
early 2000s, another four factories opened in Saint-Amand, targeting
the luxury market, and working for instance for Dior and Cartier. The
secondary school Jean-Guéhenno is training jewelry, and created in 2001
a Diplôme des métiers d'art.
The Cité de l'Or is the first museum program dedicated to gold in France, including a museum and a show-room exhibiting local products.
Since 1985, Saint-Amand-Montrond is twinned with the city of Riobamba, in Ecuador (province of Chimborazo), and is the only French city to
have such a partnership with Ecuador. The link between Saint-Amand and
Ecuador dates back to the middle of the XVIIIth century. In 1735,
Charles Marie de la Condamine (1701-1774) led a scientific expedition
to South America, whose aim was to measure the length of an arc of
meridian; the expedition also made several naturalist observations and
brought back rubber to Europe. The scientist Jean Godin des Odonais,
from Saint-Amand, took part to the expedition with his nephew Jean. In
Riobamba, Jean met Isabel de Casamayor, married her and did not return
to France when the expedition was completed. In 1748, Jean was
announced the death of his father and decided to go back to France
alone and prepare there the coming of the rest of his family. The
travel took years and Isabel did not get any news from her husband. In
1769, she decided to go to France with the family; during the crossing
of South America, all the members of the family died but Isabel, which
was helped and healed by Indians. Isabel and Jean eventually met again
after 21 years and both came back to Saint-Amand in 1773. The couple
died in 1792.
Saint-Amand is also twinned with the cities of Otwock (Poland) and Nottuln (Germany).
Ivan Sache, 28 November 2004
The municipal flag of Saint-Amand-Montrond, as seen there by Pascal Vagnat, is white with the municipal coat of arms in the middle.
The municipal coat of arms of Saint-Amand-Montrond, adopted in 1947, is (Brian Timms):
Ecartelé : au premier et au quatrième d'or à trois fasces de gueules ; au deuxième et troisième de gueules plain
Quarterly first and fourth or three bars gules second and third gules.
These arms are those of the family of Ebbes de Charenton, founder of the city in the XIIth century, quartered with the arms of the family of Albret, lord of Saint-Amand in the XVIth century.
In 1924, the town was using:
Azure a sword in pale argent between in chief two fleurs de lis or, which is an erroneous rendition of the arms ascribed to the city of Saint-Amand-les-Eaux, located in the north of France!
The decoration appended below the shield is the War Cross (Croix de Guerre). The Cross is shown without its ribbon, so it is not possible to say for which War Saint-Amand was awarded the decoration. However, the most probable answer is the Second World War, during which Saint-Amand-Montrond was the center of a very important Resistance maquis.
Ivan Sache, 28 November 2004