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Gémenos (Municipality, Bouches-du-Rhône, France)

Last modified: 2015-04-25 by ivan sache
Keywords: gémenos |
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Flag of Gémenos - Image by Ivan Sache, 2 June 2014

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Presentation of Gémenos

The municipality of Gémenos (6,245 inhabitants in 2013; 3,275 ha; municipal website) is located 25 km east of Marseilles and 35 km south-east of Aix-en-Provence.

Gémenos was settled long before the Roman colonization, as evidences by several archeological remains. The borough of Saint-Jean-de- Garguier is the oldest settlement mentioned in written sources, as locus Gargarius, "the place named Gargarius". This name appears on a Latin epigraphic inscription engraved on a marble stone that was subsequently re-used as the altar of a small chapel located close to Gémenos; transferred to Marseilles in 1753 upon request of bishop Belzunce, the stone was lost during the French Revolution. The writing, however, is known by the transcription made in the 17th century by the local erudite Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc (1580-1637), which was further commented and corrected by several scholars. The stone honours Quintus Cornelius Zosimus, a freedman of the Iulia Paterna colony in Arles. Zosimus supported, at his own expense, the claim of the inhabitants of Gargarius for free access to the local thermae, which had been suppressed after 40 years of fair use. After having demanded redress to the provincial governor, to no avail, Zosimus sent, three times, an emissary to Emperor Antonine the Pious (138-161), who eventually fulfilled the request of the inhabitants of Gargarius [J. Gascou. 2000. L'inscription de Saint-Jean-de-Garguier en l'honneur du sévir augustal Q. Cornelius Zosimus. Mélanges de l'École française de Rome. Antiquité, 112, 279-295 (PDF); J.B. Feraud. 1987. Découvertes de Spatheia â Saint-Jean-de-Garguier "Locus Gargarius". Archéologie du Midi médiéval, 5, 181-182 (PDF)].
Erected on the ruins of an early temple, the priory of Saint-Jean-de- Garguier contains a unique collection of more than 300 painted ex voto dedicated to St. John the Baptist. Early and late Christian necropolis have been excavated on the site.

Gémenos was mentioned for the first time, as Castrum Gemini, on a document signed on 9 February 984 by Count of Provence William I the Liberator (950-993). The fortified village was located close to the entrance of the valley of the Fauge. The St. Martin chapel, mentioned for the first time in 1080 and rebuilt in late Romanesque style in the 13th century, was the parish church of the old village. In 1205, Dame Garcende founded the St. Pons abbey, close to the St. Pons source, on a domain belonging to the powerful St. Victor abbey of Marseilles; the abbey was incorporated in 1223 to the Cistercian Order. Merged in 1407 with the St. Peter abbey of Hyères, the St. Pons abbey was abandoned in 1426. The chapel and the ruins of the abbey are now part o the Saint-Pons departmental park, owned by the General Council of Bouches-du-Rhône.
The domain of Gémenos was acquired in 1563 by the Marquis d'Albertas, who established the modern village and developed agriculture on drained plots. The Marquis increased the domain in the 18th century by purchasing the domain of Saint-Pons. The progressivist Jean-Baptiste d'Albertas increased the industrialization started by the Cistercian nuns by setting up small factories all along the Saint-Pons valley, such as the Paradou paper mill.

The three business parks of Gémenos, Aubagne and La Ciotat, were established in 1989 by the Ministry of Industry; the aim was to re-industrialize the region after the closure of the shipyards of La Ciotat and La Seyne-sur-Mer. The business park of Gémenos (website) includes today some 200 companies employing more than 4,000 workers. Its flagship was Gemplus, a company established in 1988 by Marc Lassus.
Once the world's leader in the production of smart cards. Gemplus was relocated in 2000 in Luxembourg and renamed Gemplus International. The company was merged in 2006 with Axalto to form Gemalto, which still employs 900 workers in Gémenos.

Ivan Sache, 2 June 2014

Flag of Gémenos

The flag of Gémenos (photo) is white with the greater municipal arms in the middle (with a blue instead of white field).

The arms of Gémenos are "Argent a tree vert on a base of the same surrounded by two small children seated or conversing".
On the greater arms, the shield is surmounted by a mural crown or and surrounded by a branch of laurel and a branch of oak the two vert fructed or and tied by a knot of the same.
These arms were ascribed by the Armorial Général (text, I, 504; illustration, II, 1475; registration fee, 20 pounds). The arms are canting, the two children being twins, in Latin, gemini.

Dominique Cureau & Ivan Sache, 2 June 2014

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