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Lançon-de-Provence (Municipality, Bouches-du-Rhône, France)

Last modified: 2011-06-11 by ivan sache
Keywords: bouches-du-rhone | lancon-de-provence | star: 16 points (yellow) | baux-de-provence (les) |
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[Flag of Lancon]

Municipal flag of Lançon-de-Provence - Image by Arnaud Leroy

See also:

Presentation of Lançon-de-Provence

The municipality of Lançon-de-Provence (6,786 inhabitants in 1999; 6,892 hectares, one of the largest French municipalities by its area, including 153 ha of woods and 3,000 hectares of garrigue very prone to fire in summer) is located close to Salon-de-Provence, some 40 km north of Marseilles and 25 km west of Aix-en-Provence. The Air Force Base of Salon, the home of the Patrouille de France is partially located on the municipal territory of Lançon.
Lançon is located near an important highway bifurcation. Highway A7, coming from the north of France via Lyon and the valley of Rhône, divides a few kilometers south of the huge and crowdy toll gate of Lançon into the A7, going southwards to Marseilles, and A8, going eastwards to Aix-en-Provence, Nice and Italy.

The name of the municipality was definitively fixed by the Municipal Council on 30 March 1999. From 1919 to 1999, the municipality was called Lançon-Provence, which is grammatically not correct and was not pleased by the local people. In the earlier ages, the village was known as Alonzo, Alanzo, Alantho, Alanthio, Alansio, Alanzone, Lancione, Lancoenum, Alanso, Alansonum, Allanssion, Lansson, and eventually Lançon.
The Celto-Ligurian toponym lan recalls a flat-topped mountain or promontory used as an oppidum (fortified camp). The root lan is found in several Alpine toponyms, for instance Lans-en-Vercors and Villars-de-Lans. However, the Provencal toponymist Francois Masselot believes than lan comes from aulan, itself coming from the Provencal word aule, a place with small plots of grass scattered among rocks. The suffixe con probably comes from Latin coenum, marshes, and Lançon would therefore mean the oppidum dominating the marshes, here the marshes of river Touloubre.

Settlement in Lançon is very ancient. Excavations made in Le Coudouneu yielded garlic cloves dated from the second quarter of the Vth century BP. According to their botanical characteristics, these cloves seem to belong to cultivated garlic. The Lançon garlic would then be the oldest cultivated garlic ever found. Before having been found in Lançon, garlic was known in Western Europe not before the Roman times (Ist century AD in Neuss, Germany; late Empire in Lyon and Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux, France).
There are two Ligurian oppida on the territory of Lançon, Constantine and Les Escalettes. The oppidum of Constantine dominates the pond of Berre; it was probably the biggest Ligurian oppidum in Provence. It was famous for its treasure, as reported by three documents kept in the library of Carpentras. A letter written in Aix-en-Provence on 2 April 1621 gives the oldest known description of the oppidum and relates the gold rush that took place there. The ancient round temple of the oppidum, built over a natural cave, attracted several hunters. Monsieur de Guyse expected to find there three golden statues and several coffers filled up with golden coins but spent 7,000 crowns for nothing; among the three poor peasants he sent down into the cave, two died and the third one came back to the surface with a "crazy brain". Antoine de Conna, from Milano, was allowed by the King to make excavations; he would pay all expenses but keep one third of the booty for himself. Conna lost all his goods, including his silverware, and several of his employees died of suffocation in the cave. In a third text, a messer Fricasse gives a very detailed description of the cave; he recognized he found there only human bones and an "imperial medal" made of brass, which was unfortunately lost during the excavations.

The earlier village of Lançon was built around the XIth century in the plain, around the St. Cyr's chapel. This Romanic chapel, restored in 1869, is one of the most beautiful rural chapels in Provence; its very simple architecture, with a cul-de-four-shaped apse, a slate roof and a minimalist decoration inside and outside the chapel, recalls the famous Cistercian abbey of Silvacane.
In 1116, Lançon was incorporated into the domain of Les Baux, ruled by a very powerful feudal family. They built a feudal castle, probably on the ruins of an earlier fort, in the XIIth century; the castle (now ruined) was elliptic in shape, with square towers protecting the walls and linked by an arched machicolation. A similar defensive architecture can be seen in the Popes' Palace in Avignon and in the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris. Lançon had a big castle: when Countess Jeanne de Provence seized it in 1377, it was deemed un château imposant, robuste, commode et fort (an imposing, robust, convenient and strong castle).
In the XIVth century, Provence was devasted by the civil war between the Anjou and Durazzo parties; the inhabitants of Lançon moved uphill from the plain to the neighborhood of the feudal castle. In 1545, King of France François I allowed the rebuilding of the city walls. The community of Lançon signed in 1559 a contract with engineer Adam de Craponne (1527-1576), the builder of the canal de Craponne, which allowed them to receive water from the river Durance. Craponne built his canal in 1554; he used the former bed of the Durance and a narrow pass called pertuis de Lamanon. In 1563, the community of Lançon purchased the last feudal rights and was incorporated into the Kingdom of France as a direct vassal of the King.

In the XVIIIth century, Lançon was a wealthy village living mostly from irrigated agriculture. Peace and the rise of trade boosted the local bourgeoisie, which explains why such a small village has so many beautiful houses. The main products of Lançon were grains, wine, olive oil, almonds, sheep and silkworms. They were 1,325 inhabitants and an hospital with four beds in Lançon in 1898; in 1926, population dropped to 947. In 1962, population was 1,664. From 1982 to 1990, it rose from 4,000 to more than 6,000.
High quality olive oil and wine (Château Calissane - AOC Côteaux d'Aix) are produced today in Lançon-de-Provence.

Source: Municipal website

Ivan Sache, 6 February 2005

Municipal flag of Lançon-de-Provence

The municipal flag of Lançon-de-Provence, as seen on the facade of the city hall and photographied there by Dominique Cureau, is blue with a yellow 16-pointed star.
This flag is a simple but elegant banner of the municipal arms of Lançon, which are recorded in the Armorial General as:

D'azur à une étoile à 16 raies d'or. (Arm. I, 1080; bl. II, 1932; registration fee, 20 louis).

That is:
Azure an estoile of sixteen rays or.

According to Bresc [bjs94], Achard (Géographie de Provence) mentions slightly different municipal arms for Lançon:

D'azur, à une étoile d'or à six pointes (Azure an estoile of six rays or) with COMMUNAUTE DE LANCON written around the shield. Achard claims that the old arms of Lancon were:

Une ombre de soleil d'or, ayant seize rayons unis.

Ombre is a shadow, but I cannot figure out what a golden sun's shadow or a sun's golden shadow could be.

The 16-pointed star is directly derived from the arms of Les Baux, the feudal suzereign of Les Baux.

Ivan Sache, 6 February 2005

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