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Remiremont (Municipality, Vosges, France)

Last modified: 2021-03-16 by ivan sache
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Flag of Remiremont - Image by Pascal Vagnat, 8 September 2004

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Presentation of Remiremont

The municipality of Remiremont (7,714 inhabitants in 2017; 1,800 ha; municipal website) is the gate to the Upper Vosges and one of the industrial centers of south Lorraine.

In 620, Romaric (d. 653) and Amé founded a monastery on a small mount dominating the confluency of rivers Moselle and Moselotte. Romaric was a leude (a King's direct vassal) from the Kingdom of Austrasia, then the more advanced of the competing Frankish kingdoms. Amé was a predicating monk, disciple of the famous Irish monk St. Columban (c. 540-615). The monastery of Remiremont was the first women's monastery in Lorraine, originally housing 80 noble ladies.
Two centuries later, the monastery, deemed too small, was rebuilt on the sandy left bank of the river Moselle. The town that developed around the new monastery kept the name of the ancient monastery, named after his founder Romarici Mons.

Progressively, the monastery was transformed into a secular, feudal community ruled by canonesses, the Remiremont Chapter. Members of the Chapter had to have eight degrees of noble lineage, four on each parental side. The Abbess of the Chapter bore the title of Empire Princess and obeyed directly to the German Emperor.Religious affairs depended directly on the Pope. The Dukes of Lorraine were "devoted" to the abbey, that is, they had to protect it without being allowed to take any benefit from the wealth of the abbey. Accordingly, the dukes attempted several times to took the control of the abbey, to no avail.
The Chapter of Remiremont had several possessions, stretching far beyond the limits of Lorraine. Elected by the Chapter and living in the abbey palace, the abbess was granted one fourth of the income of the abbey. The remaining income was shared among c. 50 canonesses, all of them being from the noblest families of France, Burgundy, Lorraine and the German Empire. Each canoness lived in a private on-site-accomodation located inside the abbey walls. The life in the Chapter was rich in festivals and celebrations. The canonesses did not take their vows and could leave the Chapter after a few years to marry, but they had to attend religious celebrations.
The canonesses played the role of Lords of Remiremont and were often helpful to the inhabitants of the town, especially during epidemics and starvation periods. They often used part of the abbey income to help the inhabitants.
The canonesses were so beloved that the inhabitants petitioned to keep the abbey alive after the French Revolution. However, the Noble Dames were expelled and seals were affixed to the door of the abbey church on 7 December 1790. Fortunately, the abbey church and palace, as well as several canonness' houses from the 17th-18th centuries have been preserved until now.

The Noble Dames de Remiremont were so famous that a poem honoring them was written in the 12th century, called Concilium Romarici Montis (The Council of Remiremont). This is a story about nuns who are just a little bit naughty and settle down with each other to talk about what sort of men they like, therefore a kind of medieval Sex in the City. The text of the poem was edited and commented by Paul Pascal, from the University of Washington, and published in 1993.

Among the famous people born in Remiremont are:
- Gabriel Bexon (1747-1784), a priest who collaborated to Buffon's Histoire Naturelle and was in charge of the ornithology section (Histoire des Oiseaux);
- General Humbert (1767-1823), who fought in Napoléon's army in Europe and Santo Domingo, where he ended his life as a buccaneer. Humbert is mostly known for having seduced Pauline Bonaparte (1780-1825, Napoléon's sister, later Princess Borghese). Humbert was also the commander of the expedition sent by Bonaparte in 1798 to help the Irish to get rid of the English occupation;
- Jules Méline (1838-1925), Minister of Agriculture (1883-1885 and 1915-1916) and Chief of the Government (1896-1898). Méline promoted the defense of national agriculture and protectionnist measures. He is the founder of the Crédit Agricole (1920), today one of the biggest banks in the world, and of the Ordre du Mérite Agricole (1883);
- His Grace Jean Rodhain (1900-1977), founder of the charities Secours Catholique (1946) and Caritas Internationalis;
- Christian Poncelet (b. 1928), Mayor of Remiremont (1983-2001), President of the General Council of Vosges (1976-2015) and President of the Senate (1998-2008).

Ivan Sache, 8 September 2004

Flag of Remiremont

The flag of Remiremont is red with two white keys crossed in saltire. This is a banner of the municipal arms, "Gules two keys in saltire the wards upwards and outwards argent".
The keys belong to St. Peter, who was the patron saint of Romaric's first monastery. According to Brian Timms, at one time, the wards of the keys faced inwards. The earliest date of known use of these arms in Remiremont is 1645.

Ivan Sache, 8 September 2004

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