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Louhans-Châteaurenaud (Municipality, Saône-et-Loire, France)

Last modified: 2006-12-23 by ivan sache
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[Flag of Louhans]

Flag of Louhans-Châteaurenaud - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 1 January 2006

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Presentation of Louhans-Châteaurenaud

The municipality of Louhans-Châteaurenaud (10,946 inhabitants in 1999) is made of the two neighbouring cities of Louhans and Châteaurenaud. In 1973, Louhans merged with the neighbouring municipalities of Branges, Châteaurenaud and Sornay. Branges and Sornay seceded in 1979. Louhans is located 35 km south-west of Chalon-sur-Saône and 70 km of Dijon and Besançon. It is a sous-préfecture of the department of Saône-et-Loire and the former capital of the small region known as Bresse bourguignonne, a component of the natural region of Bresse.

In spite of its geographical and cultural unity, the region of Bresse has been administratively divided since the Middle Ages. Northern Bresse (Bresse bourguignonne) belonged to Burgundy whereas central and southern Bresse (Bresse savoyarde) was an autonomous feudal state ruled by the lord of Bâgé, sometimes called Count of Bresse. In the XVIIIth century, Sibille de Bâgé married the Count of Savoy, which ceded median Bresse (domains of Cuisery and Sagy) to the Duke of Burgundy, already owner of northern Bresse. The separation between the two Bresses matches the line formerly separating the countries ruled by customary law (north) and by written law (south). A third, lesser part of Bresse, called Finage, belonged to the former County of Burgundy, later part of the traditional province of Franche-Comté. The kings of France progressively incorporated the whole Bresse to their domain, with the successive incorporation of the Duchy of Burgundy (1482) and of Bresse Savoyarde (1601).
After the French Revolution, the two Bresses, still often locally called les Bresses, were split among different departments. Bresse bourguignonne was divided into Bresse chalonnaise, incorporated to the arrondissement of Chalon-sur-Saône, and Bresse louhanaise, incorporated into the arrondissement of Louhans. Bresse savoyarde formed the arrondissement of Bourg-en-Bresse, in the department of Ain, except a triangle-shaped piece of land incorporated into the arrondissement of Mâcon (Saône-et-Loire) and later known as Bresse mâconnaise. Finage was incorporated into the department of Jura.

Louhans is located on the confluency of the rivers Seille and Solnon. It was called Lowing, that is "a pleasant place", by the Burgunds who founded it, a name later changed to the Lower Latin form Lovincum. Charles le Bègue, the son of King of Francia Occidentalis Charles le Chauve, ceded the town to the St. Philibert abbey in Tournus around 900. Louhans was used by the monks as a resupplying place for the salt extracted from the saltworks in Jura. The monks built a port, which attracted merchants and craftmen. At the end of the XIIth century, the abbey ceded Louhans to the Bishop of Besançon, who appointed a lord to run the domain in his name.
In 1269, Henri d'Antigny, lord of Louhans and Sainte-Croix, granted a chart to the town, allowing the set up of the market and fairs which would make the wealth of the city in the next centuries. The domain was ceded in 1289 by the Count of Savoy to the Duke of Burgundy, and Louhans later followed the fate of the Duchy of Burgundy.

The wealth of Louhans increased dramatically in the XVI-XVIIth century, in spite of the wars and epidemics: the income increased twenty-fold during the century, which favoured the building of the wealthy houses and arcades of the downtown. The town is nicknamed Cité des Arcades, referring to the 157 arches which line the Grand-Rue on more than 400 m The arches and the houses constitute the biggest homogenous urban remains from the XVth century in France. These houses definitively linked the lower and upper cities of Louhans. Hôtel-Dieu is another important historical building in Louhans. From 1682 to 1977, it was ran by the nuns from the St. Martha order. The invalids and the poor were housed in rows of box beds placed in huge halls. An even more famous Hôtel-Dieu was built in Beaune, also in Burgundy, by Chancellor Nicolas Rolin (1376-1462) to bring relieve to the poor and probably to expiate all his crimes. Like in Beaune, Hôtel-Dieu of Louhans has kept its old apothicairerie, with a unique collection of earthenware pharmacy pots from the XV-XVIth century, maybe the oldest in the world.

Agricultural production flourished in Bresse in the XVIIIth century, so that three kinds of markets were set up in Louhans:
- the ordinary markets, on Monday, dedicated to resupplying of the farmers with usual goods and the resupplying of the urbanites with butter and eggs.
- the small fairs, on the first and third Mondays of the month, dedicated to the resupplying of the wholesalers of Louhans with farm products they would store locally for reselling outside the region. The involved products were mostly poultry and grain at certain dates.
- the four yearly fairs, during which products were traded with foreign merchants buying local products and resupplying the local wholesalers with foreign products. These fairs were so important for Louhans that the inhabitants of the city funded the maintenance of roads and the building of the three bridges of the city, including the big stone bridge on the Seille, destroyed by the Germans during the Second World War. The city hall was built at the same period, and Hôtel-Dieu and the church were revamped.
In the XIXth century, Louhans was one of the main markets in France, attracting several foreigners, mostly from Switzerland. Louhans was the place where all kinds of products se donnent à Louhans comme un rendez-vous (arranged in Louhans something like an appointment). Fresh products (meat, grain, poultry, butter, eggs and vegetables) resupplied the towns of Lyon, Dijon, Tournus, Chalons, Lons-le-Saunier and Geneva.
Agriculture was improved after the foundation of the local Society of Agriculture in 1838, aimed at disseminating good practices, organizing contests and awarding the best farmers. The golden age of the market of Louhans lasted until the Second World War. Beside the poultry markets, there were famous pig, calf, ox and horse markets. The market of Louhans was resurrected in the 1950-1960s. In the 1970s, the atmosphere changed and the balls and cinema shows associated with the social role of the poultry market disappeared. People had less time to waste in Louhans and the market was progressively colonized by non-agricultural products. However, the market, presented as "a culture and tourism monument of Bresse", has preserved some of its ancient features, and still shows several live animals (poultry but also ducks, rabbits, geese, goats, sheep, small dogs, cows, pigs and sometimes horses).

The flag product on the market of Louhans is the famous volaille de Bresse (Bresse poultry), a breed called Bresse-Gauloise, probably one of the oldest poultry breeds in France. The Bresse poultry was already mentioned in the archives of Bourg-en-Bresse dated 1591. It is a specific local production, favoured by the local availability of maize and dairy by-products used to feed poultry. At the end of the XIXth century, unfortunate crosses were attempted with the Brahma and Cochin breeds and the Bresse-Gauloise was about to disappear. Poultry breeding was then (and remained so until the 1950s) a secondary but very beneficial production carefully managed on farm by women, as well as egg and butter (the so-called farmer's wife's part - la part de la fermière). Around 1900, thousands of chicken were sold on the local markets as Bresse poultry. On 22 December 1936, the civil court of Bourg-en-Bresse limited the area of production of the Bresse poultry to specified areas in the departments of Ain, Jura and Saône-et-Loire. A Law voted on 1 August 1957, promoted by the breeders, defined an appellation d'origine contrôlée protecting the name of volaille de Bresse, still the only of that kind in the world for poultry. The Law prohibits the use of the word Bresse and its derived forms (bressan...) for any poultry not coming from the defined area. An animal leaving this area losts its name. It was therefore needed to find another name for a poultry exported out of Bresse. The Bresse-Club proposed to use the name of Caussade, a similar breed, but the Caussade breeders got the protection of the name (the breed is today extincted). The Bresse-Gauloise name was adopted since the genuine Gauloise breed is very rare nowadays. The Bresse-Gauloise is one of the most commonly bred poultry, in France and abroad. The genuine Bresse poultry is divided into three main varieties according to the colour of the feathers: the Bresse grise (grey, bred near Bourg-en-Bresse), the Bresse blanche (white, bred near Beny-Marloz) and the Bresse noire (black, bred in Louhans). The Bresse bleue (blue) appeared more recently.

Louhans is also known for the football-club Club Sportif Louhans-Cuiseaux 71, formed in 1970 in partnership with the neighbouring city of Cuiseaux. The club played once in the Second League and won the National Championship (that is the Third League) in 1999.


Ivan Sache, 1 January 2006

Flag of Louhans-Châteaurenaud

The flag of Louhans was seen in the evening TV news on France 2 on 15 December 2005, reporting the contest of chapons de Bresse (Bresse capons) hold in Louhans. The contest hall was decorated with vertical banners made of two vertical yellow and red stripes surmonted by a white square charged with the municipal coat of arms.

The municipal coat of arms of Louhans is:
De gueules aux deux clefs d'argent passées en sautoir, accompagnées en chef d'une fleur de lys d'or (GASO).
Brian Timms gives a more detailed blazon:
De gueules à deux clefs d'argent passées en sautoir, les anneaux en pointe et accompagnées en chef d'une fleur de lys d'or (Gules two keys in saltire the wards upwards and outwards argent in chief a fleur de lis or).
In the French blazon, emphasis is put on the rings of the keys, whereas in the English blazon it is put on the wards.
D'argent à trois barres de sinople (Argent three bars vert).

The arms of Louhans, placed in an oval shield, are sculpted on the pediment of the market hall. These arms represent only the city of Louhans and not the municipality of Louhans-Châteaurenaud, as probably does the flag: the municipal website shows the letterhead used by the municipal administration entitled Ville de Louhans-Châteaurenaud with the coats of arms of the two components of the municipality.

Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache