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Saugues (Municipality, Haute-Loire, France)

Last modified: 2019-02-10 by ivan sache
Keywords: saugues |
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Flag of Saugues - Image by Pascal Gross, 23 September 2006

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Presentation of Saugues

The municipality of Saugues (2,013 inhabitants; 7,879 ha; elevation, 960 m) is located on the plateau of Margeride. It is the capital of the region of Gévaudan. The village is famous for its sheep market, the fourth biggest in France.
The lords of Saugues were already known in the 9th century, and they probably built a primitive fortress. The true medieval castle was built in 1151 by the Barons of Mercœur. It was completely destroyed, except the central tower, by the big blaze of 4-5 September 1788. The remains of the walls of the castle were used as a quarry by the inhabitants of the village in order to rebuild their houses.
The tower is known today as the English Tower. After the Peace of Brétigny, signed in 1362, several mercenaries became unemployed and scoured the country, living by plunder and sacking towns, abbeys etc.; they were called routiers (from route, road) or anglais (English). In March 1362, a troop of "English" commanded by Perrin Boais, aka Parcimbourg, seized Saugues by surprise or following betrayal. King of France Charles V commissionned Constable Bertrand Duguesclin to cleanse Gévaudan and Velay. Commanded by Marshal d'Audrehem and helped by local lords such as the Viscount of Polignac, Guérin of Apchier and Eustache of Langeac, the Royal troops besieged Saugues. As it was often the case then, the siege was unsuccessful and the only way to get rid of Perrin was to pay him a ransom and ask him to promise not to come back. During the siege, a French captain, probably Pierre Troys of Hostremente (or Hostevent) was killed. He was built a cenotaph in the neighhbouring village of La Gardette, locally known as the English General's tomb). A cross built near the site of a former gate of Saugues also recalls the captain, and is also erroneously called the English cross).
In the 16 century, Captain Merle seized several towns in the region (Mende, Langogne, Le Malzieu). The municipality increased the town walls and purchased three culverins. One of them is dated 1575, but there is no evidence that they were ever used in wartime.

The St. Médard collegiate church of Saugues has kept its original, 13th-century octogonal gate-tower. The church collapsed in the 16th century and was slowly rebuilt. It houses the shrine of the local saint, St. Benildus. Pierre Romançon (1805-1862; ), known as Humble Brother B Benildus, Friar of the Christian Schools, took the name of a Spanish saint martyrized in Cordoba in 853. He spent all his life as a school teacher in Auvergne, teaching in the towns of Riom, Aurillac, Clermont-Ferrand, Billom and mostly in Saugues. He was beatified in 1948 and canonized in 1967.
The artist Lucien Gires (1937-2002), aka Lulu, significantly contributed to the development of Saugues. He realized a diorama depicting St. Benildus' life, restored the English Tower and set up a museum dedicated to the Beast of Gévaudan, inaugurated in 1989. The famous Beast of Gévaudan scoured the region in 1764-1767, attacking 61 people and killing 31 of them.

Saugues is the birth village of the geologist and paleontologist Joachim Barrande (1799-1883; biography). He was hired as the personal teacher of Henri of Artois, the grandson of King of France Charles X. He followed the royal family in exile in England, Scotland and Prague, where he settled in 1831. Barrande started there a monumental study of the fossils from the Paleozoic era in Bohemia. From 1840 to 1850, he described more than 3,500 fossil species, publishing (at his own expense) 22 volumes from 1852 to 1881. Two more volumes were published after his death. Barrande died in Frohsdorf, Austria, where he had been visiting the Count of Chambord, and bequeathed all his collections and original writings, his notes and his library to the Czech Museum, writing: "Everything comes from the Czech country, everything has to stay in the Czech country". Six months after his death, a rock from the Devonian layer was officially renamed "Barrande rock". A borough and a bridge of Prag were named Barrandov. A room of the National Museum is called Barrandeum and a local geological layer was named Barrandian.

Ivan Sache, 23 September 2006

Flag of Saugues

The flag of Saugues, hoisted over the English Tower, is horizontally divided blue-yellow. The colours of the flag were most probably taken from the municipal coat of arms, "Azure a sun or surmounted by a letter 'S" argent surrounded by two boughs vert".

Pascal Gross & Ivan Sache, 23 September 2006

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