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Luxeuil-les-Bains (Municipality, Haute-Saône, France)

Last modified: 2015-01-17 by ivan sache
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[Flag of Luxeuil]

Flag of Luxeuil - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 11 December 2004

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Presentation of Luxeuil-les-Bains

The municipality of Luxeuil-les-Bains (7,370 inhabitants - Luxoviens - in 2009; 2,181 ha) is located on the south-western border of the Vosges mountains.

Luseuil developed around an abbey founded by St. Columbanus in the 6th century. In Vita Colombani (Columbanus's Life), written in Luxeuil c. 640, the monk Jonas claims that Luxeuil was called Luxovium by the Romans, a name linked to two Celtic words, lixo, "the hot water", and liqchoul, "the sun's water". After the conquest of Gaul, the Romans indeed built town around thermal springs for the rest of soldiers, for instance, in eastern Gaul, Luxeuil, Plombières and Bourbonne. Luxovium was in the 2nd century a significant town with at least three pottery workshops. The town was destroyed during the Barbarian Invasions, since the town is no longer mentioned in any administrative document or map later than the 4th century.
At the end of the 6th century, the Irish monk St. Columbanus (c. 540-615) left the monastery of Bangore with 12 disciples and sailed to Gaul, where pagan cults had replaced the Christian religion. Columbanus asked King Gontram a place to build a monastery and was granted an isolated and uninhabited plot in the Vosges mountains, where he founded the monastery of Annegray. Since Annegray was deemed too small, Columbanus moved in 590 to the ruins of Luxovium, where he founded a new monastery.
In 610, Columbanus criticized King Theuderic II, his grand-mother Brunehaut and the local bishops for their dissoluteness; he had to exile with a few Irish disciples in Bobbio (Italy), where he died after having founded an other abbey. Columbanus was succeded in Luxeuil by St. Eustace (610-625) and St. Waldebert (625-670), who set up a renowned school in the abbey. Protected and and funded by King Dagobert, the abbey housed between 600 and 900 monks. The Luxeuil School contributed to the renewal and rechristianization of the Burgundian Kingdom and gave several bishops and abbots to Gaul.
Columbanus's disciples and students founded several abbeys, so that the influence of Luxeuil extended very far away from the original abbey. There were foundations in Franche-Comté (Lure, by St. Desle; Cusance, by St. Ermenfroy), Alsace and Lorraine (Marmoutier, by St. Léobard; Remiremont, by Sts. Amé and Romaris; Moyenmoutier, by St. Hidulph; Sénones, by St. Gondelbert), Île-de-France and Champagne (Faremoutiers, by St. Fara; Jouarre by St, Adon; Reuil, by St. Radon; Hautvillers, by St. Bercharius), Normandy (Coutances, by St. Potentin; Fontenelle, by St. Wandresgisel, later renamed Saint Wandrille after him; Jumièges, by St. Philibert), Flanders (Leuconaüs, by St. Valery, later renamed after him; Centule, by St. Riquier; Sithu by Sts. Omer and Bertin; Maastricht, by St. Amand; Stavelot and Malmedy, by St. Remaclus), Limousin and Auvergne.
The most famous foundation abroad was the abbey of Saint Gall, in Switzerland. Protected by the Carolingian princes, the abbey was the intellectual center of the German world, renowned for its library.
For a long time, the two Rules of St. Columbanus and St. Benedict were observed together, one supplying what was lacking to the other. By the end of the 8th century, the Rule of St. Columbanus had given up. It is said that "St. Benedict only reaped where St. Columbanus had sown". The only foundation that has been occupied without interruption down to the present day by the sons of St. Columbanus and St. Benedict is Dessentis, founded in the Grischun (Szitwerland) by St. Sigisbert.
The abbey of Luxeuil was destroyed by the Saracens in 731. One of the only remains of that period is the Luxeuil minuscule font, used in the 7th-8th centuries as a variant of the Merovingian minuscule font. Rebuilt, the abbey was destroyed again by the Normans in 888 and the Hungarians in 934. There were less monks in the abbey than in its early ages, but the abbey was placed under the direct rule of the Holy See. A town developed around the abbey, whixh became a the capital of a principality in the County of Burgundy, itself loosely dependent on the Holy Roman Empire.

The inhabitants of Luxeuil were granted a chart in 1228, and were allowed to build town walls. In 1291, a magistrat (municipal council) was set up, made of 13 members, ruled by four co-quatre with equal power, and placed under the control of the Abbot. In practice, the magistrat was in permanent struggle with the Abbot for the control of the wealthy town, winning in most cases.
In the 15th century, commendatory abbots were instituted, which caused the decline of discipline and fame in Luxeuil. In the 16th century, Emperor Maximilian sued the abbot in the court of Dôle. The trial lasted 30 years, until the Abbot ceded his rights on the principality against an annuity. In 1534, the inhabitants of Luxeuil, gathered on the main square of the town, swore an oath to the Emperor. In 1634, the St. Hidulph and St. Vanne's reform of the Benedictine order suppressed the commendatory abbots, and the monks were again allowed to elect their Abbot.
At the end of the 18th century, the thermal spa of Luxeuil was built; the co-quatre were replaced by a Mayor. The monks were expelled at the French Revolution but the buildings were not destroyed. However, most of the books of the rich library of the abbey were burned.

In 1914, an airfield was built in Luxeuil. On 18 April 1916, the "American Escadrille", later called the Lafayette Escadrille was constituted at Luxeuil. The air base was transfered to Chartres in 1922 and reopened in 1937. In 1951, the air base of Luxeuil-Saint-Sauveur (Base Aérienne 116) was founded. Two squadrons [1/4 Dauphiné et 2/4 La Fayette] of Mirage 2000N belonging to the 4th Pursuit Squadron are deployed at Luxeuil, under the command of the Strategic Air Command.

The St. Columbanus' former abbey church of Luxeuil, today the St. Peter basilica, was rebuilt in the 13th-14th centuries in Burgundian Gothic style on the remains of an earlier church from the 11th century. From its original three towers, the present-day church kept only the western spire, rebuilt in 1527. The apse of the church was rebuilt by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc in 1860. Three out of the four original galleries of the abbey cloister (13th-16th enturies) have been preserved. The Abbot's palace, today the Town Hall of Luxeuil, dates back to the 16th-18th centuries. Monastic buildings from the same period have also been preserved.
Luxeuil has several beautiful houses built in pink sandstone extracted in the neighbouring Vosges moutains. In the 15th century, Cardinal Jouffroy, Abbot of Luxeuil, Archbishop of Albi (south-west of France) and one of the main councillors of King of France Louis XI (1423-1483, King in 1461), let build a wealthy house in Flamboyant style with a gallery and some elements in Renaissance style, including a corbelled turret crowned with a lantern. Madame de Sévigné (1626-1696), the historian Augustin Thierry (1795-1856) and the writer Alphonse de Lamartine (1790-1869) stayed in that house.
The Francis I 's house, built in Renaissance style, was named for an Abbot of Luxeuil and not for King of France Francis I. The Aldermen's Hotel, also from the 15th century, houses today the Adler Museum, which shows remains from the Gallo-Roman town of Luxovium and paintings by Adler and Vuillard.

In the 19th century, Luxeuil was internationally famous for its lace, called bâtarde, because it used different elements from Italian lace art, mostly from Venice and Milan. A Lace Academy was recently opened in Luxeuil to recreate the bâtarde.
The thermal spa, rebuilt in the 18th century with pink sandstone in the middle of a park, was recently revamped to develop the most modern techniques of hydrotherapy.


Ivan Sache, 11 December 2004

Flag of Luxeuil-les-Bains

The flag of Luxeuil is horizontally divided blue-red with the municipal coat of arms in the middle.

The arms of Luxeuil are "Gules a sun in his splendour or a chief azure billetty a demi-lion rampant or armed and langued gules".
These arms were adopted in 1534. Beforehand, the coat of arms was "Azure a sun or". When the town was incorporated to Franche-Comté, the arms of Franche-Comté were added in chief.
The sun most probably makes the arms canting, from lux, "light" in Latin.

Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 11 December 2004

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