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Sainte-Adresse (Municipality, Seine-Maritime, France)

Last modified: 2004-01-17 by ivan sache
Keywords: seine-maritime | sainte-adresse | cross (yellow) | towers: 2 (white) | scallops: 2 (yellow) | monet | terrasse a sainte-adresse |
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[Flag of Sainte-Adresse]by Ivan Sache

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Presentation of Sainte-Adresse


Sainte-Adresse is a city of 8,000 inhabitants located between the big port city of Le Havre and the edge of the pays de Caux. Pays de Caux is a chalky plateau limited by the river Seine in the south and high cliffs in the west. The cliffs are gashed by (now) dry valleys locally called valleuses, in which fishing ports and beaches have been established, such as Etretat, Yport, Fécamp and Dieppe. In the south, the cliff line ends at Cap de la Hève.

The coast between Le Havre and Dieppe is called Côte d'Albâtre.

Sainte-Adresse was built in a depression located below Cap de la Hève. The city is adjacent to Le Havre.

Ivan Sache, 12 October 2003


Around 1370, a fishing village called Saint-Denis-Chef-de-Caux (here, chef means cape, both words having the same Latin root, caput, the head) was destroyed by a huge tidal wave. The name of the inhabitants of the Saint-Denis, the Dyonisiens, was kept for the newly built village of Sainte-Adresse. There is no saint called Adresse, and the name of Sainte-Adresse was probably invented by seamen to express their great relief when reaching the estuary of Seine and its ports.

Navigation was indeed dangerous in the area, and the inhabitants of Sainte-Adresse were committed to maintain a big fire on the cliffs of Cap de la Hève. The cape has been used as an observation post since the Roman times.

In the XVIth century, king of France François I built Le Havre, and Sainte-Adresse followed the economic development of its big neighbouring city. The building of the port of Le Havre required the coming of workers from Spain, Pays Basque and Gascony, who settled in Sainte-Adresse.

In the XIXth century, the maritime commerce flourished in Le Havre. Alphonse Karr (1808-1890), writer and journalist, bought a house in Sainte-Adresse, which was then a small rural village. Karr was elected municipal councillor and invited to Sainte-Adresse several writers and artists. As it was the case for several other (then) small cities of the Norman coast (Etretat, Trouville, Houlgate, Cabourg), Sainte-Adresse became one of the prefered vacation places of the intelligentsia. The rich merchants and ship owners from Le Havre also built or bought vacation houses in Sainte-Adresse.
A promenade was built as the continuation of the promenade of Le Havre until Land's End (le Bout du Monde). Sainte-Adresse was renowned for the regattas organized by the Sociéte des Régates du Havre (SRH), which still owns a big club-house on the promenade. The promenade and its landing stage (estacade) were immortalized by the painters Claude Monet, Raoul Dufy and Albert Marquet.

The first golden age of Sainte-Adresse ended when Karr left the city, but a second golden age was immediatly opened by Georges Dufayel. In order to challenge Deauville, created by duke of Morny under the Second Empire, Dufayel built in 1906 a housing estate. The site was protected from the northern wind by the cliffs of Cap de la Hève and Dufayel named his estate the Nice havrais, as a reference to the city of Nice, located on the French Riviera (Côte d'Azur).
In 1914, the Belgian government in exile was invited by the French government to settle in the Nice havrais, where it remained until the end of the war.

During the Second World War, Le Havre was completely destroyed. Sainte-Adresse also suffered from bombings targeted to the fortifications established by the Germans on Cap de la Hève. In spite of the destructions, Sainte-Adresse has kept an interesting historical heritage, including the oldest manor in the Pays de Caux, built by the English during the Hundred Years' War; the chapel Notre-Dame-des-Flots, with a big collection of ex-votos, and still a seamen's pilgrimage; and the Sugar Loaf (Pain de Sucre), a conic white seamark built by general Lefèvre-Desnouette's widow after the death of her husband off the coasts of Ireland in 1822.

Sainte-Adresse is now one of the most famous windsurf spots in Europe.


Ivan Sache, 12 October 2003

Description of the flag

The municipal flag of Sainte-Adresse is white with the municipal coat of armsin hte middle. This pattern seems to be common in that part of Normandy (see Le Havre, Honfleur and Trouville for other examples). The flag is hoisted on the main squares of the city

The municipal coat of arms of Sainte-Adresse is:

A cross or, I and IV, azure a tower argent, II and III, gules a scallop or, escutcheon of Belgium

The tower probably refers to the observation posts on Cap de la Héve and the scallops to scallop fishing, which is still an important activity in Normandy. The Belgian escutcheon was added after the First World War to recall the Belgian government in exile in Sainte-Adress. Similarly, a Belgian lion was added in the chief of the arms of Le Havre at the same time and for the same reason.

On the flags, the middle stripe of the Belgian escutcheon is orange instead of yellow on the coat of arms, probably to increase the contrast with the yellow cross.

Ivan Sache, 12 October 2003

Claude Monet's Terrasse à Sainte-Adresse (1867)

[Unidentified flag]by Ivan Sache

Another flag related to Sainte-Adresse is shown on Claude Monet's painting Terrasse à Sainte-Adresse. In 1867, young Claude Monet spent a few months in her aunt's house on the promenade of Sainte-Adresse. His painting (98 x 130 cm, now in the Metropolitan Museum, New York) shows - inter alia - a French tricolor flag and a triangular flag vertically divided red-yellow. This flag is not the flag of the Société des Régates du Havre, which then organized regattas in Sainte-Adresse. Red and yellow are traditional colours for Normandy and appear on the coat of arms of Sainte-Adresse, but I have not been able to find more information on the flag painted by Monet - which, therefore, might be one of the most famous unidentified flags.

The painting can see for instance on that website.

Ivan Sache, 12 October 2003

Belgian government in exile in Sainte-Adresse (1914-1918)

At the entrance of the city of Sainte-Adresse, there is a statue of Albert I, King of the Belgians (1909-1934), and two French and Belgian national flags. The Belgian flag was also added as an escutcheon to the municipal arms of Sainte-Adresse.

During the First World War (1914-1918), Sainte-Adresse lived under both national flags. After the invasion of Belgium by the German troops, the Belgian government fled and looked for a place of exile. The property developer Dufayel had decided just before the war to transform Sainte-Adresse in a posh sea resort. When the war begun, several big houses had already been built, but they remained of course empty. At the invitation of the French government, the Belgian government and its administration settled in these buildings for the rest of the war. The buildings had a status of extraterritoriality.

Source: Municipal website

Ivan Sache, 10 July 2003