Last modified: 2004-07-31 by ivan sache
Keywords: eure-et-loir | nogent-le-rotrou | lion (white) | fleur-de-lys: 2 (yellow) |
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by Olivier Touzeau
Nogent-le-Rotrou (11,500 inhabitants), located on the river Huisne, is a sous-préfecture of the department of Eure-et-Loir.
Nogent is the former capital city of the county of Perche. The Perche was named in the Middle Ages sylva pertica, sylva refering to forests and pertica to pole, stick, probably the long trunks of the trees. The Perche is traditionally divided into the Grand Perche, in the north, with the small cities of Nogent-le-Rotrou, Mortagne-au-Perche, Bellême and Châteauneuf-en-Thymerais, and the Bas-Perche or Perche Gouët in the south, with the villages of Authon-du-Perche and la Bazoche-Gouët. The Parc Naturel Régional du Perche was created in 1998, involving 118 municipalities and an area of 182,000 hectares. The original sylva pertica was progressively cleared to establish agricltural settlements but sizeable remains of it, such as the forest of Bellême, are still there. The Perche is the birth place of the Percheron draft horse, which took a notable part in the Conquest of the West of the USA in the XIXth century.
The fortified place of Nogent (Nogent probably means new settlement) was
founded in the Xth century by a knight named Rotroldus. This name was
simplified to Rotrou and added to the name of the place in order to
distinguish it from the 25 other Nogent known in France. Rotrou was sent
to Nogent by the count of Chartres around 960 in order to fortify the
border of his domain. Progressively, Rotrou's successors became
independent lords and took the title of Count of Perche.
In the XIth century, Geoffroy II, Rotrou's grand-son, founded the St. Denis' abbey, which specialized in the production of muslin. Until the middle of the XXth century, Nogent-le-Rotrou was famous for the production of delicat cloth, and especially hat industry. Geoffroy II was murdered at the entrance of the cathedral of Chartres in 1040.
In the XIIth century, Nogent had c. 1,200 inhabitants. Count Rotrou III the Great went to Spain to help the king of Navarra. He seized the city of Tudela and was made lord of it, and took part to the seizure of Pampelona, Toledo and Zaragoza. He came back to France and died during the siege of Rouen in 1144. Count Rotrou IV took part to the Crusades and was killed during the siege of Akkro in 1191. The last count of Perche from the Rotrou house, Guillaume, left the city in 1225 and disappeared without trace, possibly during the Crusades.
In 1233, Thibaud IV, Palatine count of Brie and Champagne, became count of Perche. During the Hundred Years' War, the fortified castle St. John's built by the Rotrou was the aim of English attacks. The 35 m-high donjon was burned by Thomas of Salisbury in 1428, and trashed once again in 1449. The city and the castle were rebuilt in the XVIth century in Renaissance style by Marguerite and Charlotte d'Armagnac, known as the Ladies from Nogent (Les Dames de Nogent). The city streets were cobbled in 1527. Pierre Durand, baillif of the St. Denis' abbey and his wife Blanche Février built the house known as Maison du Bailli in 1542, as said by the canting inscription: De pierre blanche, durant febvrier, je fus faicte, 1542 (Of white stone, during February, I was made, 1542). In 1558, the Coutumes du Perche (Customary) were written in the Baillif's house.
In 1561, the lord of Nogent was prince Louis I of Condé (1530-1569), uncle of king Henri IV and leader of the Calvinist party. He organized in 1566 a great festival in the castle, inviting the famous poets Pierre de Ronsard (1524-1585) and Remi Belleau (1528-1577). The two poets were members of the group called La Pléiade. Ronsard and Belleau, born in Nogent, were very good friends, as written by Ronsard in one of his elegias : Belleau et Ronsard n'estoient qu'un (Belleau and Ronsard were a single one). Belleau's coffin was carried by his local friends Ronsard, Baïf, Desportes and Jamyn.
In 1624, the domain of Nogent was purchased by another famous Calvinist lord, Maximilien de Béthune, baron de Rosny, duke-pair de Sully (1559-1641), king Henri IV' s surintendant des finances and great administrator of the state. The Sully family kept the castle until the Revolution but abandoned it in 1659 after the death of Sully's wife, Rachel de Cochefilet. Victor Hugo planned to buy the castle in 1836 but found it too dilapidated. The castle was bought by the municipality in 1950 and transformed into a municipal museum.
Ivan Sache, 7 March 2004
The flag of Nogent-le-Rotrou is a banner of the municipal arms. It flies in front of the city hall.
Olivier Touzeau, 7 March 2004
The municipal coat of arms of Nogent-le-Rotrou is (GASO):
D'azur au lion d'argent accosté de deux fleurs de lys d'or
Brian Timms gives:
Azure a lion rampant argent between two fleurs de lys or,
and the alternative coat of arms:
Argent three chevrons gules, which is indeed the former coat of arms of the counts of Perche, often used on road signals and tourist leaflets, but not as a flag as far as I am aware.
Ivan Sache, 7 March 2004