Last modified: 2005-02-19 by ivan sache
Keywords: lorraine | eagles: 3 (white) | alerion | cross: lorraine |
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by Arnaud Leroy
The Frankish times
Lorraine was inhabited by two Celtic tribes called Mediomatriques and Leuques, which had their capital city in Metz and Toul, respectively. During the Roman era, Lorraine was an important crossroad: two main Roman ways, Lyon-Trier and Reims-Strasbourg, crossed in Metz. The Romans withdrew from Lorraine in 407 under the pressure of the Alamans and the Franks.
In 511, the Frankish Kingdom of Austrasia was founded in Metz, and lasted until 751. Austrasia spread from the left bank of the Rhine river to the North Sea. King Sigebert I (561-575) and his wife Brunehaut (534-613) developed a brilliant civilisation and preserved the Latin culture in their kingdom. They faught against the neighbouring Kingdom of Neustria. Frédegonde, Queen of Neustria (545-597) married King Chilpéric I (561-584) after he had strangled his wife Galswinthe (540-568). Brunehaut was Galswinthe's sister and fought against Frédegonde, who murdered Sigebert. Chilpéric was also murdered and his son Clothaire II (584-629) captured Brunehaut. The old queen was tortured for three days and tied by her hair to a horse put into a gallop.
In 751, Pépin le Bref (715-768), the root of the Arnulfian dynasty, unified the Frankish kingdom after having deposed the last Merovingian king Childéric III. Pépin started the Carolingian renaissance, which was later developed by his son Charlemagne. Lorraine was the center of the Carolingian kingdom. Bishop Chrodegang (742-766) proposed in Metz a liturgical reform that quickly spread all over western Europe and Abbot Smaragde wrote in Saint-Mihiel his famous spiritual treatises.
Charlemagne's son and successor, Louis le Pieux (778-840, Emperor
in 814) had three sons, Lothaire (795-855), Pépin (803-838)
and Louis le Germanique (805-876). By the Ordinatio Imperii
(817), he decided on his succession. Lothaire was appointed Associate
Emperor, Pépin was granted the Kingdom of
Aquitaine and Louis the Kingdom of the
In 819, Louis le Pieux married again with Judith of Bavaria and they had a son in 823, Charles le Chauve (823-877). Charles' birth drastically changed Louis le Pieux' succession. Pépin revolted against his father but he died in 838. In 840, Lothaire was crowned Emperor after Louis le Pieux's death. Charles le Chauve allied to Louis le Germanique and they defeated Lothaire in Fontenoy-en-Puisaye in 841. The alliance was confirmed in 842 by the Strasbourg Oath, which is the oldest text written both in Romanic and Germanic languages. In 843, Lothaire was forced to sign the treaty of Verdun. Charles le Chauve was allocated Francia occidentalis, Louis le Germanique Germania, and Lothaire the land located between France and Germany, which constituted later the kingdom of Lotharingia (Lotharii regnum, later known as Lorraine in French and Lothringen in German).
In 870, Lothaire II (835-869), Lothaire's son and King of Lotharingia, died. By the treaty of Mersen, his kingdom was divided between his uncles, Charles le Chauve and Louis le Germanique. Louis died in 876 and Charles was defeated by his nephew Louis in Andernach. In 895, Arnulf (?-899), Louis le Germanique's grand son, King of Germania (887-899) and Emperor (896-899) appointed his natural son Zwentibold King of Lotharingia. The king was killed in 900, and King of France Charles le Simple (898-923) appointed Count of Hainaut Renier-Renaud Duke of Lotharingia. Renier's son, Gislebert, acknowledged in 925 the suzerainty of Emperor Henri I and married his daughter Gerberge. When Gislebert died in 940, King Othon (936-973, Emperor in 962), gave the Duchy to Gislebert's son, then to Conrad le Roux, whom he deposed in 953, and eventually to his brother Brunas, Archbishop of Cologne.
The Duchy of Lorraine
In 959, Lotharingia was divided into Lower-Lotharingia, or Duchy of Lothier, which spread from Luxembourg to the river Rhine, and Upper-Lotharingia, which progressively took the name of Lorraine. The Duchy of Lorraine was de facto independent and the dynasty of Gérard de Châtenois (Duke in 1048) ruled it until the XVth century.
In 1431, the Duchy of Lorraine, except the Three Bishoprics (Metz, Toul and Verdun) was ceded to the house of Anjou. The Three Bishoprics were favoured by the Emperor to limit the powers of the princely dynasties. In 1473, the Duchy was retroceded to the House of Vaudémont, which was related to the ancient dukes. Duke René II defeated and killed Duke of Burgundy Charles le Téméraire in Nancy in 1477. Charles had attempted to restore the ancient Lotharingia by linking his Burgundian and Flemish possessions.
The takeover by France
In 1552, France seized Metz, Toul and Verdun and incorporated the
Three Bishoprics to the Kingdom of France. This was the first step of
the takeover of Lorraine by France. However, Duke Antoine I
(1508-1544) preserved the independence of Lorraine and got rid of the
imperial trusteeship by the treaty of Nuremberg in 1542. His grand
son Charles III (1559-1608) promoted the ultra-Catholic Holy League
and presented Lorraine as a main defense of Catholicism against
the Protestants. In 1630, during the Thirty Years' War, Lorraine rallied
the Imperial and Catholic cause. Accordingly, Louis XIII invaded
and trashed the Duchy in 1631-1637 and destroyed most of its
fortresses. The Duchy was invaded again by Louis XIV in 1670.
The full independence of Lorraine was reestablished by the treaty of Ryswick in 1697. In 1737, the last Duke of Lorraine, François II, exchanged his Duchy for Tuscany. Stanislas Leszczynski (1677-1766) was appointed Duke of Lorraine. Stanislas was King of Poland but abdicated in 1738 following the Polish Succession War. He was the father-in-law of King of France Louis XV. In 1766, the Duchy of Lorraine was incorporated into the kingdom of France.
After the French defeat in 1870, the treaty of Francfort split
Lorraine into two parts by creating the
Imperial Land of Alsace-Lorraine
(Reichsland Elsass-Lothringen), which included the north-east
of Lorraine. This area was reincorporated to France in 1919 by the
treaty of Versailles.
In 1940, Germany incorporated the department of Moselle to the Third Reich. The territorial unity of Lorraine was reestablished in 1945 after the German capitulation.
Ivan Sache, 10 May 2003
The banner of arms of Lorraine is blazoned as follows (GASO):
D'or à la bande de gueules chargée de trois alérions d'argent
in English (Brian Timms):
Or on a bend gules three alerions bendwise argent
The history of the emblems of Lorraine is described in great detail, with images, by Pascal Vagnat on the website of the Regional Council of Lorraine (7 pages), and can be summarized as follows:
Simon II, Duke of Lorraine, already used these arms on a seal
dated 1183. All further dukes used them until the incorporation to
France in 1766. A legend says that the dukes of Lorraine are
descendants of Godefroi de Bouillon (1061-1100), who was Duke of
Lower-Lorraine (Lothier) from 1089 to 1095. During the siege of
Jerusalem in 1099, Godefroi is said to have killed three birds with
the same arrow. This event was a good omen and predicted that
Godefroi would become King of Jerusalem. Therefore, Godefroi added
the three alerions to the red bend of his shield. The legend seems to
be based on epics written in the middle of the XIIIth century.
The historians of the Renaissance magnified the legend and 'established' that the Dukes of Lorraine were Godefroi's descendants.
The seal of Ferri de Bitche, Simon II's brother, shows a pennant of the arms of Lorraine. The seal is dated 1196. Later, the banners, standards and flags used in Lorraine were fairly diverse. Some of these flags were banner of arms or were charged with the greater arms of the Duchy, whereas other flags were charged with the cross of Lorraine or a representation of the Annunciation. In 1766, the banner of arms was no longer in common use in the Duchy. Note that none of those flags ever had the status of state flag.
The arms of Lorraine disappeared during the French Revolution and resurfaced in Nancy on 9 November 1826, during the Bourbonic Restauration. On that day, the ashes of the Dukes of Lorraine were returned into the dynasty vault located in the Round Chapel, which had been desecrated during the Revolution. Banners charged with alerions and crosses of Lorraine were seen everywhere in the city.
During the celebration of the 100th anniversary of incorporation of Lorraine to France, presided in 1866 by Emperess Eugénie de Montijo and the Imperial Prince 'an incredible profusion of flags, banners and Lorrain heraldical emblems was seen : flags with the three alerions, yellow flags with a red cross of Lorraine, banners showing the greater arms of Lorraine or their quarters.' It is said that the Imperial Prince bore the shield of Lorraine.
In 1871, the Lorrains refused the German annexation and the
black-white-red flag by hosting the French Tricolore flag. Therefore,
the French Tricolore and the Lorraine flags were forbidden. It was
proposed to design new arms for Alsace-Lorraine by combining the
municipal arms of Strasbourg, capital
city of the Reichsland, and Metz, capital city of the German
Lorraine, but this proposal was rejected. The coat of arms officially
granted by the Emperor combined the arms of the two
Alsatian districts with the arms of
Lorraine. The shield was placed on the chest of a crowned Imperial
The Reichsland was also granted a flag by the Emperor. This flag was the German flag, horizontally divided black-white-red with the imperial arms in the middle of the flag and the arms of Alsace-Lorraine in canton. This flag was supposed to be a state flag but it was also used as a civil flag.
The Emperor did not recognized any civil flag for the Reichsland, which did not have a sovereignty status. However, unofficial local flags were used by the Alsatians-Lorrains. The flag used in Alsace was horizontally divided red-white and the flag used in Lorraine was horizontally divided blue-white. The origin of the latter flag is unknown. It might have been a truncated Tricolore flag used as a sign of protest.
In 1911, the Reichsland was granted a Constitution allowing more autonomy. The deputees of the local assembly selected a new flag, the Alsatian red-white flag with a yellow cross of Lorraine in canton. The flag was supposed to highlight the new status of the territory and its right similar to those of the other German states. This flag was, however, never officialized by the Emperor.
In 1919, the French Tricolore was reestablished and the emblems of the Reichsland were forbidden. The banner of arms of Lorraine was tolerated and probably prefered by the authorities to the red and white Alsatian flag, deemed too German.
In 1940, all French and Lorrain emblems were forbidden by the Germans.
In 1986, the Regional Council of Lorraine used a logo which had no reference to the arms of Lorraine. In 1993, a new logo was created by the Lorrain artist CharlElie Couture (now called simply CharlElie), on the basis of Godefroi's alerions. The arms of Lorraine have no official status but can be seen on the facade of the Saint-Clément's Abbey, see of the Regional Council. There is no specific flag used by the Regional Council but the banner of arms of Lorraine.
Ivan Sache, 10 May 2003
The history of the cross of Lorraine is summarized by Michel Pastoureau in Les emblèmes de la France [pst98].
The patriarchal, double cross-pieced cross was one of the pre-heraldical emblems of the Kingdom of Hungary. At the end of the XIIth century, this cross was used on Hungarian coins. It was later included in the Royal arms. At the same time in Anjou (west of France), a reliquary of the True Cross was an object of specific devotion. This reliquary had the shape of the double cross-pieced cross. It was most probably of Byzantine origin and was kept in the castle of the counts of Anjou. In the XIIth and XIIIth centuries, the double cross-pieced cross was considered as the image of the True Cross all over the eastern Christian countries. The upper cross-piece, usually shorter than the lower one, recalled the titulus, on which the writing I.N.R.I. (Jhesus Nazareus Rex Iudeorum) had been written. This representation was less common in the western Christian countries.
In the XIVth and XVth centuries, the Dukes of the second House of Anjou made a specific cult of the double cross-pieced cross. Coins and seals, as well as artworks such as the Apocalypse Tapestry (c. 1380), were decorated with the cross, which was then called 'cross of Anjou' or, less frequently, 'cross of Jerusalem'. René of Anjou, Duke of Lorraine in 1431, introduced the 'cross of Anjou' in the east of France. With time, the cross was adopted as the emblem of the Duchy of Lorraine and of all the Lorrains.
In 1477, during the siege of Nancy, Duke René II de Vaudémont, used the cross as a rallying symbol. René defeated and killed Duke of Burgundy Charles le Téméraire and ended the siege of Nancy. The cross, associated with this victory, became extremely popular in Lorraine. In the XVIth century, heraldists dropped the name 'cross of Anjou' and coined the current name 'cross of Lorraine' (croix de Lorraine).
In the XIXth century, the cross of Lorraine was included among the
iconographical attributes of Joan of
Arc, who was from Lorraine. After the incorporation of a great
part of Lorraine to Germany following the 1870 war, the cross of
Lorraine became a symbol of memory and resistance.
The hill of Sion-Vaudémont, located 20 km south of Nancy, is the most important symbol of Lorrain patriotism. The hill has the shape of a horseshoe and is therefore considered as a good omen. In the Middle-Ages, the hill was a place of prayer for the Crusaders, and received the name of Zion (in French, Sion). It is said that René de Vaudémont defeated Charles le Téméraire under the banner of Notre-Dame de Sion.
On 10 September 1873, the last Prussian soldiers left the part of Lorraine which would remain French. A broken cross of Lorraine was placed in the basilica of Sion, with the writing in Lorraine patois Ce n'a me po tojo (Ce n'est pas pour toujours - This is not forever). On 24 June 1920, a golden palm was added to hide the break of the cross, and a new motto was added, Ce n'ato me po tojo (Ce n'était pas pour toujours - This was not forever). In 1946, the end of the Second World War was celebrated by a new cross with the motto Estour inc po tojo (Maintenant c'est pour toujours - Now it is forever). On 9 September 1973, the Peace Day involved 10,000 pilgrims, including former German war prisoners. A marble scroll charged with the word Réconciliation was placed on the altar beside the other symbols.
The hill of Sion is better known as the 'inspired hill' (la colline inspirée). This nickname was coined in 1913 by the writer and politician Maurice Barrès (1862-1923), born in Charmes, c. 25 km from Vaudémont. Barrès was the leader of the nationalist movement in France before the First World War. He attempted to reconciliate romantism and a kind of patriotic regionalism, and was therefore a warm partisan of the First World War and the revenge over Germany. His work is now mostly forgotten, but he dramatically influenced the next generation of French writers, including those who did not share his political views. Mauriac, Bernanos and even the Communist Aragon have acknowledged his influence, whereas Proust, his contemporary, expressed a strong admiration for his work in spite of being in total disagreemnt with Barrès' political views.
The cross of Lorraine resurfaced in June 1940, when it was adopted
as the emblem of the Free France, the small
group of soldiers who had refused the capitulation and rallied
General de Gaulle in London. Vice Admiral Muselier, the first
Commander-in-Chief of the Free French Naval
Forces, is most probably the inventor of the symbol of the Free
France. The naval and airborne forces which had rallied de Gaulle
were asked to use the cross of Lorraine as their emblem. Since
Pétain's French State had kept the
Tricolore as the national flag, it was necessary to add a charge to
the Tricolor flag used by the Free France. An emblem with a strong
historical meaning was required to be opposed to the German
Hakenkreuz. Muselier recalled the cross of Lorraine he had
seen several times as a patriotic symbol during his childhood in
Lorraine. It took de Gaulle several months to officially adopt the
cross of Lorraine as the emblem of the Free France.
On 29 January 1941, de Gaulle created the Order of Liberation. The badge of the Order is a shield bearing a sword charged with a small cross of Lorraine. The ribbon is bicolor, black and green for mourning and hope, respectively. The motto (Patriam servando victoriam tulit) proclaims the fatherland service and announces the victory.
The cross of Lorraine was officially prescribed as the emblem of the Free France (later the Fighting France) by a regulation of 5 June 1941. At the end of the war, it was often associated with the V of Victory.
After the war, the cross of Lorraine was used by the successive Gaullist parties under the Fourth and Fifth Republics. It was used by the RPF (Rassemblement du Peuple Français) in April 1947, then by the UNR (Union pour la Nouvelle République) in October 1958, by the UDR (Union des Démocrates pour la République) in June 1967, and eventually by the RPR (Rassemblement pour la République) in December 1976. When the RPR morphed into the UMP in 2002, the cross of Lorraine was dropped from its emblem. More and more people, not necessarily from the opposition parties, had claimed that the RPR and then the UMP were no longer representative of de Gaulle's ideas and should therefore drop his emblem.
Ivan Sache, 10 May 2003