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Saintonge (Traditional province, France)

Last modified: 2004-07-03 by ivan sache
Keywords: saintonge | mitre: bishop (white) | fleur-de-lys: 3 (yellow) |
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[Poitou]by Pierre Gay

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History of Saintonge

The name of Saintonge comes from Latin Santonia, which was used to designate the area inhabited by the tribe of Santones. Their capital city, Mediolanum Santonum, now Saintes, was an important city in the Roman times. The amphitheater and the votive arch, built on the bridge over the river Charente in year 19 by Caius Julius Rufus as a tribute to Germanicus, Tiber and Drusus, are the most important remains of the Roman city. The city was still important when the Roman Empire collapsed, and was celebrated by the local poet Ausonius (c. 310 - c. 395), appointed count and consul by emperor Gratian.

In the Middle Ages, Saintonge had no specific administrative status. The area was divided in small domains for which the count of Poitou and the duke of Aquitaine competed. In the XIII-XIVth centuries, the north of Saintonge was part of the Capetian royal domain, whereas the south was part of the Plantagenet Anglo-Normand kingdom. In 1204, Saintonge was among John Lackland's domains which were confiscated by king of France Phillipe-Auguste, who could keep only the Upper Saintonge. In 1259, Louis IX (St. Louis) ceded to king of England Henry III the duchy of Guyenne, which included Saintonge.

In 1360, by the treaty of Brétigny, Saintonge was incorporated with Aquitaine, Aunis and Angoumois to the kingdom of England. Reconquered by constable Duguesclin in 1371, Saintonge was definitively incorporated to the kingdom of France by Charles V in 1375.

Ivan Sache, 13 December 2003

Description of the flag of Saintonge

The banner of arms of Saintonge is (GASO):

D'azur à la mitre d'argent accompagnée de trois fleurs de lys d'or

In English (Brian Timms):

Azure a bishop's mitre argent between three fleurs de lys or two in chief and one in base

The mitre refers to St. Eutrope, first bishop of Saintes and apostle of Saintonge, martyrized in the IIIrd century. Saintes was later an important stopping place on the pilgrim road to Santiago. In 1047, Agnès de Bourgogne, the wife of Geoffroy Martel, count of Anjou and suzereign of Saintes, funded the St. Mary's abbey, aka abbaye aux dames. This Benedcitine abbey was ruled by members of the French noble families, who were given the title of Madame de Saintes. The St. Eutrope's church, built in the XIth century, was made of two superposed churchs, the upper church being for the monks and the lower church the parish church. King of France Louis XI revered the saint as Monsieur de Saint-Eutrope, because he had cured his dropsy, and offered a new bell tower to the church.

Ivan Sache, 13 December 2003