Last modified: 2005-12-24 by ivan sache
Keywords: nord | saint-pol-sur-mer |
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Municipal flag of Saint-Pol-sur-Mer - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 3 July 2005
The municipality of Saint-Pol-sur-Mer (23,832 inhabitants) is located in the western suburbs of Dunkirk, in the north of France, close to the border with Belgium. The city is named after a pub (locally called estaminet, itself named after a famous local corsair!).
In the XVIIIth century, the western side of the port of Dunkirk, that
is the place where Saint-Pol would be later built, was nothing but a
desert land covered by dunes and swamps, bordered by the North Sea in
the north and the canal of Mardyck in the south.
In 1820, Saint-Pol was a hamlet of the municipality of Petite-Synthe, with some 200 inhabitants, then known as Dornegat (the thorns' hole). The population os the hamlet increased up to 1,500 in 1869.
On 29 September 1877, the municipality of Saint-Pol-sur-Mer was created by a Decree signed by Marshal Mac-Mahon, President of the Republic. The new municipality was named after the estaminet located at the entrance of the hamlet and named Le Saint-Pol. The name of the pub was a tribute to Knight Marc-Antoine de Saint-Pol Hercourt, a lieutenant of the famous corsair from Dunkirk Jean Bart (1650-1702). People used to say "I go to Saint-Pol's" or "I go to Saint-Pol" and the name of Saint-Pol progressively replaced Dornegat.
On 13 September 1889, "sur-Mer" (on the sea) was officially added to
the name of the municipality. Saint-Pol-sur-Mer was mostly inhabited by
dockers working in the port of Dunkirk, the third most important port
of commerce in France since 1890. There were 10,258 inhabitants in
Saint-Pol in 1911. In 1912, the municipality of Dunkirk purchased from
Saint-Pol the land bordering the sea in order to increase the port.
Saint-Pol-sur-Mer was no longer located on the sea, but the name of the municipality was not changed. An airfield was built in 1913 near the sea in Saint-Pol. British and French flight squadrons were stationed there during the First World War. The city was bombed several times in 1915-1918. The famous airman Georges Guynemer (1894-1917) stayed in Saint-Pol in 1917. Guynemer commanded the Cigognes (Storks) fight squadron of the French Air Force during the First World War. He is credited 53 victories and was shot down near Poelkapelle, in Belgian Flanders.
Like many cities in the north of France and Belgium, Saint-Pol-sur-Mer
has a belfry, housing a jacquemart. Some 50 cities in France have
kept a jacquemart, half of them being still in use. A jacquemart is
an automaton striking the hour, often representing a man with a stick.
Originally, a jacquemart was a spring part of the pendulum device
used to mint coins and medals. The origin of the jacquemart is
disputed. Some say the clocks with a striking automaton were brought
back from Orient by the Crusaders; an Italian jacquemart dated 1351
wears a Turkish costume. Other say that these clocks are of Flemish
origin; the oldest French jacquemart shows a prisoner captured in
Kortrijk in 1382. The account of the St. Peter's chapter in
London from 1298 lists the repairing of a striking automaton; a book of
hours from an English abbey dating back to the XIIIth century describes
an automaton hitting bells with hammers. Accordingly, the jacquemart
would have been invented in England in the XIIIth century; jacquemarts seem to
have disappeared from England in the XVIIIth century, with a few
exceptions. At that time, grandfather clocks, personal watches and
public clocks with big dials were invented: visual perception of time
replaced auditive perception.
In most cities, the jacquemart was considered as a personification of the city and its glorious history, which explains why several of them were kept in spite of being of little practical use.
Source: Municipal website
Ivan Sache, 3 July 2005
The municipal flag of Saint-Pol-sur-Mer, as reported by Ludovic Leu, is horizontally divided into six horizontal white and
Neither the colours nor the design of the flag have anything to do with the municipal arms, which are (GASO):
De gueules aux trois pals de vair, au chef d'or chargé d'un lambel de sable.
Gules three pales vair a chief or a label sable.
This flag is strikingly similar to the historical flag of the neighbouring city of Dunkirk (six horizontal white and blue stripes).
Arnaud Leroy & Ivan Sache, 3 July 2005