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Aubusson (Municipality, Creuse, France)

Last modified: 2015-05-02 by ivan sache
Keywords: aubusson |
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Flag of Aubusson - Image by Pascal Vagnat, 7 October 2014

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Presentation of Aubusson

The municipality of Aubusson (3,716 inhabitants in 2011, 1,921 ha) is located half-distance (90 km) of Limoges and Clermont-Ferrand.

Aubusson originates in the erection of a castle on a rocky spur watching the valley of river Creuse and a crossing of roads of local significance. The early ages of Aubusson are documented mostly by unreliable sources and local traditions blindly spread by scholars since the 17th century.
The genealogists of the 17th century, including the one who redacted the Letters Patented who erected in April 1667 the Duchy of Roannais for François d'Aubusson La Feuillade, claim that the house of Aubusson was one of the oldest and the most qualified of the kingdom. They title the lords of Aubusson "Princes", which means that they fully owned their domain and were only nominal vassals of the king, mentioning Ebbo and Turpio, listed on charters dated 751 and 794, respectively. Further studies revealed that the two charters had been concocted in the 11th century. In the 18th century, Joullietton (Histoire de la Marche et du Pays de Combraille) added another bunch of historical unplausabilities, which were repeated in the 19th century by famous scholars such as Victor Malte-Brun (1816-1889).
Joullietton claimed that Aubusson had been first established by two Roman legions commissioned by Caesar to watch the border between the Arvernes and Lemovices tribes, as "evidenced" by the "Roman donjon" of the castle (indeed erected in the 11th century) and several archeological and toponymic clues (indeed of little specific value). The town, ruined during the Great Invasions, would have been re- founded by Saracens withdrawing southwards after having been defeated in Poitiers by Charles Martel in 732. Charles Martel would eventually have appointed Ebbo's father to rule the town.

The feudal system emerged in the region in the 9th century. Sources are once again sparse and conflicting. Odo (875-918), Duke of Aquitaine, Count of Toulouse and Count of Limoges, is usually credited the division of the County of Limoges into Viscounties. The Chronicles written in the 11th century by Adémar de Chavannes state that Odo divided in 887 the County into the three Viscounties of Upper Limousin (Limoges), Lower Limousin (Tulle), and Marche (Aubusson), granted to Ranulf I. However, it appears that this paragraph of the Chronicle was subsequently interpolated. Indeed, Odo would have appointed Aldebert as Viscount of Limoges in 876; his son Hidelgar, appointed Viscount of Limoges in 884, would have shared the domain between his relatives, establishing the Viscounties of Aubusson and Comborn.
The territorial extent of the Viscounty of Aubusson and the relations of the viscounts with the other local lords are matters of dispute among scholars. The Viscounts of Aubusson were soon challenged by their powerful neighbours, the Counts of Marche, and had to drop the title of Viscounts of Marche. They managed to maintain a de facto independence until 1226, when King of France Louis VIII ordered Ranald VI, Viscount of Aubusson, to submit to Hugh X of Lusignan, Count of Marche. The Viscounty of Aubusson was acquired in 1260 by the Counts of Marche, who took over the title of lords of Aubusson. The County of Marche was eventually incorporated to the Kingdom of France in 1314.
Although no longer Viscounts, the lords of Aubusson (genealogy) maintained their local significance over the ages. The most famous representative of the lineage is Pierre d'Aubusson (1423-1503), elected in 1476 the 40th Grand Master of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem. His heroic behaviour during the "Grand Siege" of Rhodes by the Ottomans (1480), when hardly 3,000 Christians repelled 100,000 Turks, yielded him the nickname of "Shield of Christendom".
[C. Pérathon. 1886. Histoire d'Aubusson. La vicomté, la ville, les tapisseries, la maison d'Aubusson]

Aubusson is mostly known as the Capital of Tapestry (website). The Aubusson tapestry was inscribed in 2009 by UNESCO on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, with the following description:

A centuries-old tradition, the craft of Aubusson tapestry consists of weaving an image using processes practised in Aubusson and a number of other localities in the Creuse region of France. This craft produces mainly large decorative wall hangings but also rugs and pieces of furniture. Aubusson tapestry can be based on an image in any artistic style, prepared by a paper "cartoon" (template) designer. Weaving is done manually by a lissier, or weaver, on a loom positioned horizontally, working on the reverse side of the tapestry, and using yarns that are hand-dyed in house. This process is time-consuming and expensive. The Aubusson tapestries are a gold standard throughout the world, to the extent that Aubusson has become a common noun in some languages. The production of tapestries in Aubusson and Felletin provides enough work for three small businesses and ten or so freelance artisan weavers, thus creating a significant volume of related work (wool production and spinning, marketing, by-products, museum, exhibitions and tourism). To stabilize the level of activity and avoid breaking the line of transmission, the interest of the young must be stimulated and this heritage promoted.

Tapestry flourished in the late 15th in Aubusson. At the same period or slightly later, cutlery, paper, arms, silk, and lace industry flourished in the central region of France. In 1601, King Henry IV restricted the importation of Flemish tapestry, which boosted the industry in Aubusson and in the neighbouring towns, such as Felletin and Bellegarde. The weavers of Aubusson organized their guild around 1652, with St. Barbara as their patron.
In 1664, Colbert granted the status of Royal Manufacture to the Aubusson workshops. A similar status was granted to Felletin in 1689. The Royal Manufacture of Aubusson was not organized as a single, centralized factory on the model of the Gobelins of Paris. Rather, the workshops scattered in the Terrade borough were all allowed to print "Manufacture Royale de Tapisseries" above their entrance door.
The revocation of the Edict of Tolerance (1685) caused the exile of several local weavers to Germany and the decline of tapestry in Aubusson. The painter Jean-Joseph Dumons (1687-1779), director of the manufacture from 1731 to 1755, revived the Aubusson manufacture; with the advice of the famous painter Jean-Baptiste Oudry (1686-1755), he imposed the verdure and chinoiserie styles, designing himself some 20 templates.
In the 19th century, tapestry developed as an industry in Aubusson. The famous manufactures (Braquenié, Hamot, Sallandrouze) became the main source of income in the town, employing 2,260 workers in 1860. Tapestry was then mostly used for furniture. The Aubusson National School of Decorative Arts was established in 1884. His director, Auguste Louvrier de Lajolais (1829-1908) renovated the pedagogic methods and commissioned famous artists to design templates, such as Pierre-Victor Galland (1822-1892), Charles Genuys (1852-1928 - Chief architect of Historical Monuments), and Henry de Waroquier (1881-1970), His successors, Antoine Marius-Martin (1869-1955) and Élie Maingonnat (1892-1966) modernized the production techniques and developed the concept of "woven art". The revival of the Aubusson tapestry in the second half of the 20th century is credited to three template painters: Jean Lurçat (1892-1966), Marcel Gromaire (1892-1971), and the Benedictine monk Dom Robert (1907-1997).

Ivan Sache, 7 October 2014

Municipal flag of Aubusson

The flag of Aubusson is horizontally divided red-white-green. The red stripe is charged with a crescent surrounded by two stars, all white, while the white stripe is charged with a tree. On photos showing the flag, the white stripe appears to be broader, but this needs to be confirmed.
The flag is a banner of the municipal arms, "Argent a bush vert on a base of the same a chief gules charged with a crescent surrounded by two stars all argent". The arms are canting, a bush being in French a buisson.

The flag was hoisted on 6 June 2014 on the building known as "Chapitre", a part of the ruined medieval castle of Aubusson, once used to hoist the Tapestry Museum (municipal website).
Four flags are hoisted, from left to right:
- the banner of arms of Limousin;
- the banner of arms of Aubusson;
- the banner of arms of Charles Antoine de la Roche-Aymon* ("Sable semé of stars or a lion of the same");
- the banner of arms of Marche
A fifth flag is expected to be hoisted soon:, the banner of arms of Pierre d'Aubusson ("Quarterly, 1. and 4. Gules a cross argent, 2. and 3. Or a cross moline gules").

*Charles Antoine de la Roche-Aymon (1697-1777) was born in Mainsat, a village located 30 km northwest of Aubusson. He was successively Bishop of Tarbes (1729), Archbishop of Toulouse (1740), Archbishop of Narbonne and President of the States of Languedoc (1752), and, eventually, Archbishop-Duke of Reims and Premier Peer of France (1763), also Grand Almoner of France (1760) and Cardinal (1771). On 16 May 1770, he celebrated in Versailles the marriage of Louis, Dauphin of France, and Marie-Antoinette, Archduchess of Austria; he sacred Louis XVI King of France in Reims on 11 June 1775.

Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 7 October 2014

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