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Chablis (Municipality, Yonne, France)

Last modified: 2011-11-11 by ivan sache
Keywords: yonne | chablis | fleurs-de-lis (yellow) | st. martin (yellow) |
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[Flag of Chablis]

Flag of Chablis - Image by Ivan Sache & Pascal Vagnat, 6 March 2010

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Presentation of Chablis

The municipality of Chablis (2,594 inhabitants in 1999; 3,883 ha) is located 20 km west of Auxerre. The town is the center of one of the most famous French white wine producing areas, therefore its nickname of "Golden Gate of Burgundy".

Chablis appeared in the history as "cella capleiam", a monastery transferred in 887 - together with its church, houses, vinyards and peasants - by King Charles the Bold to the Canons of the St. Martin abbey of Tours; expelled by the Northmen, the canons had settled in 854 in the St. German abbey of Auxerre.
In 1367, Chablis was incorporated to the Royal domain by King Charles VI, with the rank of Royal Town. Chablis was then ruled by two provosts, one appointed by the abbey (St. Martin Grand Provost) and the other one by the king (King's Provost).

The Chablis wines, highly prized in the French Royal Court and mentioned in Tolstoi's Anna Karenin, were already famous in the Middle Ages, being exported to England via Rouen and to Flanders via Compiègne. The logbook of the Compagnies françaises, dated 1455, lists 67 barrels of Chablis wine purchased by a merchant "from Maubeuge or Hénault [Hainaut]". A map established in 1537 shows 700 wine growers, while they were only 450 in 1328.
Chablis developed as a wealthy town, made of the upper town, built around the St. Peter church, the Hôtel-Dieu and the St. Cosmas priory, and of the lower town, built around the St. Martin collegiate church. The whole town was surrounded in the 15th century by a wall defended by 29 towers, three gates and three posterns. In 1478, printer Pierre Lerouge was granted the privilege of setting up a printhouse, the fifth allowed in the Kingdom of France. The first Gilded Age of Chablis ended in 1568, when the town was seized, partially burned and ransomed by the Huguenots.

The phylloxera crisis and the First World War nearly suppressed wine- growing in the region. Severely damaged by a German air raid on 15 June 1940 (90 lives were claimed and more than 100 houses were destroyed), the town was rebuilt after the Liberation. Reorganized, wine trade resumed in 1949. In the 1960s, systematic protection against spring frost, that had destroyed all the production in 1957, was implemented, allowing the boost of the Chablis wines. The outstanding 1970 vintage confirmed the rebirth of the Chablis vineyard.
The Chablis vineyard covers 6,830 ha spread over 24 villages; only Chardonnay grapes are allowed. The top wines, called Chablis Grand Cru are produced exclusively in Chablis and Fyé, on seven "climates" (Blanchot, Bougros, Les Clos, Grenouilles, Preuses, Valmur and Vaudésirs; 103 ha) mentioned on the bottle label; yield is limited to 54 hl/ha. Chablis Premier Cru wines are produced on 40 "climates" (745 ha), with yield limited to 58 hl/ha. The yield of Chablis (4,420 ha) wines is limited to 60 hl/ha, as it is the case for Petit Chablis (1,562 ha) wines.


Ivan Sache, 6 March 2010

Flag of Chablis

The flag of Chablis, as seen hoisted over the town hall in July 2005 (photo), is white with the municipal arms surmonted by the name of the municipality in black capital letters.
The arms of Chablis are Parti, au premier d'azur semé de fleurs de lis d'or; au deuxième de gueules au Saint-Martin à cheval coupant la moitié de son manteau pour le donner à un pauvre, le tout d'or ("Per fess, 1. Azure semy of fleurs-de-lis or, 2. Gules a St. Martin riding cutting half of his cloak to give it to a poor, all or").

The arms are modelled on the ancient seals of the municipality, recalling the share of the power between the King of France and the St. Martin monks. To prevent competition between the two provosts (see above), they exerted the power in turn and used a common seal. Before reincorporation to the Royal domain in 1367, the dexter part of the seal showed the arms of the lord of Chablis.
GASO erroneously shows the arms of Chablis with St. Martin and the poor argent, a rendition spread on several Wikipedia pages. However, the aforementioned photo of the flag has clearly St. Martin and the poor or. So does another photo of the town hall with the flag.

Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 6 March 2010