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Saint-Martin-d'Hères (Municipality, Isère, France)

Last modified: 2012-04-13 by ivan sache
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[Flag of Saint-Martin-d'Heres]

Flag of Saint-Martin-d'Hères - Image by Ivan Sache, 14 November 2011

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Presentation of Saint-Martin-d'Hères

The municipality of Saint-Martin-d'Hères (35,857 inhabitants in 2008; 926 ha) is located just east of Grenoble.

Saint-Martin-d'Hères emerged most probably along the Roman way linking Grenoble to Briançon; the early settlement was located on safe place above a marshy area often flooded by rivers Isère and Drac. The St. Martin parish appeared around 1100. In the 13th century, the Bishops of Grenoble established mills and a manor they would inhabit in summertime until the middle of the 14th century. At the end of the 15th century, Bishop Laurent Alleman, the uncle of Knight Bayard, met St. Francis of Paola, the founder of the Order of Minims at the court of Louis XI; a few years later, he built near the castle a convent that was used by the Minims as their provincial seat. The General Chapter of the Order was organized in the convent in 1529. Mostly destroyed by a blaze in 1714, the convent was abandoned in the middle of the 18th century.
In 1729, a flood suppressed a curve of the Isère. The "liberated" territory was transferred in 1837 from the neighboring municipality of Meylan to Saint-Martin-d'Hères. Another catastrophic flood that occurred in 1783 prompted the erection of dykes; the draining of the marshes was achieved in the 19th century while some rivers were canalized underground in the 20th century.

Eugène Chavant (1894-1969) was Mayor of Saint-Martin-d'Hères in 1938-1941. Sacked by the Vichy regime, Chavant joined the anti-German Resistance, being, as "Clement", the civil leader of the Vercors maquis. He proclaimed on 14 July 1944 the Republic of Vercors. After the suppression of the maquis by the German troops and the slaughter of the civil population, he criticized the lack of support by the allied powers and refused any official charge after the Liberation. Appointed Member of the Order of the Liberation by General de Gaulle on 20 November 1944, Chavant asked to be buried in the Saint-Nizier-du- Moucherotte memorial, together with his brothers in arms of the Vercors maquis.

Saint-Martin is the site of the university campus of Grenoble. The Grenoble University was created in 1339, closed in 1367, open and close again several times until Napoléon I reestablished it in 1808 as an Imperial University. In 1959-1969, all faculties but the Medicine Faculty were transfered to the Saint-Martin-d'Hères-Gières campus. The campus includes the Joseph-Fourier University, the Stendhal University, the Grenoble Polytechnic Institute and the Grenoble Institute of Political Studies.

Saint-Martin-d'Hères was once the world's capitals of hydraulic turbine production. In 1832, the engineer Benoît Fourneyron invented the hydraulic turbine. Casimir Brenier, founder in 1854 of a mechanic workshop in La Tronche, near Grenoble, started the production of hydraulic turbines in 1867. In 1869, Aristide Bergès invented the "white coal" (hydroelectricity), installing in Lancey, also near Grenoble, a turbine powered by a waterfall of 200 m, then 500 m, in height. Brenier was succeeded in 1900 by his son-in-law André Neyret, who founded with the engineer Charles Beylier the Neyret-Beylier company, whose factory was relocated to Saint-Martin-d'Hères. Their main production was new turbines able to resist the strong pressure and high speed exerted by the falling water. In 1917 Neyret-Beylier merged with the Swiss company Piccard-Pictet, the resulting NBPP company being renamed Neyrpic in 1947. The company employed 3,250 workers in 1963. In the 1970s, Neyrpic was absorbed by the Alstom group and renamed Alstom Power Hydro. At the time, the French national electricity company EDF put emphasis on thermic and nuclear power plants, which "forced" Alstom to fire Neyrpic workers. Employment decreased from 2,000 in 1974 to 430 in 2005, while the workshops and the technologies were transfered to Brazil, China and India.
The Neyrpic giant turbines have been used to equip most hydroelectric dams established in France, including the tidal barrage built on the estuary of river Rance in Brittany. They also equip the Itaipu (Brazil- Paraguay), Tucuruí (Brazil) and Three Gorges (China; partially) dams.

Saint-Martin-d'Hères was the cradle of the Brun biscuits. In 1883, Pierre-Jean-Félix Brun opened a biscuit factory in Grenoble, mostly aimed at supplying the French army with "soldier's biscuit". In 1915, the factory was transfered to Saint-Martin-d'Hères by Gaëtan Brun, Pierre-Jean-Félix' son. Gaëtan Brun modernized the production, introducing electric ovens, so that the Brun biscuits became famous for their fine taste and quality. When Gaëtan Brun died in November 1923, the biscuit factory and the companion distillery / yeast factory employed 500 workers producing 40 tons of biscuits per day.
In 1969, Brun joined the LU (Lefèvre-Utile) group and five smaller companies to form the LU-Brun et associés group. Renamed Générale Biscuits after the absorption of other companies, the group was purchased in 1987 by BSN, renamed Danone in 1994. In the meantime, the Brun biscuit factory was eventually closed in 1989, causing a great distress in the fans of Petit Brun Extra biscuits.

Source: Municipal website

Ivan Sache, 14 November 2011

Flag of Saint-Martin-d'Hères

The flag of Saint-Martin-d'Hères, hoisted over the town hall (photo), is vertically divided blue-yellow-green.

The colors are the "colors of the town", blue for space, green for the land and yellow for the intellectual resources and life. They are used in the municipal arms (municipal website), "Azure a three-peaked mount argent a young deer standing on a terrace vert charged with an open book or and a quill of the same". The shield is surrounded by reeds and flowered branches of flax.
The arms, designed by the Société nationale d'arts graphiques, from Paris, were adopted on 29 May 1964 by the Municipal Council. The reeds recall the once marshy municipal territory, where flax was grown. The arms are canting since the animal represented is a young deer, aged 6-12 months, called a hère (but there is no evidence that the municipality was named for such an animal, hères could rather refer to the poor helped by St. Martin or to a marsh). The mountain represents the Belledonne massif and recalls that the town was renamed Montagne (Mountain) in 1794. The book and the quill represents the Grenoble University.

Ivan Sache, 14 November 2011