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Nogent-sur-Marne (Municipality, Val-de-Marne, France)

Last modified: 2021-03-27 by ivan sache
Keywords: nogent-sur-marne |
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Flag of Nogent-sur-Marne, two versions in use - Images by Olivier Touzeau, 1 December 2004, after his photos

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Presentation of Nogent-sur-Marne

The municipality of Nogent-sur-Marne (31,947 inhabitants in 2016; 286 ha; municipal website) is located 10 km east of the center of Paris; the municipal territory of Nogent borders the municipal territory of Paris via the wood of Vincennes. The river Marne flows into the Seine in Alfortville, a few kilometers downstream from Nogent-sur-Marne.
There are several places called Nogent (from Latin Novigentum, "New Settlement") in France, therefore the need of a longer name to distinguish them: Nogent-en-Othe, Nogent-l'Abbesse, Nogent-l'Artaud, Nogent-le-Bernard, Nogent-le-Phaye, Nogent-le-Roi, Nogent-le-Rotrou, Nogent-le-Sec, Nogent-les-Montbard, Nogent-sur-Aube, Nogent-sur-Eure, Nogent-sur-Loir, Nogent-sur-Marne, Nogent-sur-Oise, Nogent-sur-Seine, Nogent-sur-Vernisson, and ... Nogent.

Ivan Sache, 1 December 2004

History of Nogent-sur-Marne

Although Nogent is one of the oldest Gallo-Roman settlements around Paris, there is no trace of the name of the town before the 6th century. In his "History of the Franks", St. Gregory of Tours (c. 538-594) writes that the Merovingian King Chilperic I (539-584) met the Roman Eastern Emperor Tiberius in his royal villa in Nogent. Chilperic's successors Chlothar II II (584-629) and Dagobert I (? - 638) seems to have also stayed in Nogent. Not all historians believe that the king's residence was in Nogent, but a Merovingian cemetery found in the town proves that an early settlement existed there. In the Middle Ages, Nogent depended on the neighboring abbey of Saint-Maur, whose monks cleared the area and planted grapevine on the hills of the Marne.
The St. Saturnin church was built in the 12th-13th centuries, starting with a tower in Romanic style and ending with a nave in Gothic style, and revamped in the 17th and 20th centuries. The cult of St. Saturnin, one of the patron saints of Toulouse, in the south-west of France, was probably brought to Nogent by pilgrims. The first village of Nogent probably developed at that time around a main street.

Kings of France Philip V (c. 1293-1322, King in 1316) and Charles IV (1295-1328, King in 1322) often stayed in Nogent in the manor of Plaisance, built by Jehan de Plaisance at the end of the 13th century. The manor later belonged to the royal architect Philibert Delorme (1514-1570) and the farmer general Paris Duvernet purchased it in 1726. The manor was demolished in 1820 and its park was divided into several plots.
King Charles V (1338-1380, King in 1364) built in 1375 at the other end of Nogent the castle of Beauté, where he died in 1380; Charles VII (1403-1461, King in 1422) offered the castle to Agnès Sorel (c. 1422-1450), the first official royal mistress in the French history, who was nicknamed "Dame de Beauté", and was . The castle of Beauté was completely demolished in the early 17th century.

At the end of the Ancient Regime, Nogent was a small village inhabited by farmers and wine-growers.
The development of Nogent started under the Second Empire, with the opening of the railway lines Paris-Mulhouse (1854) and of the Bastille (1859). A 800 m long viaduct with 34 archs was built, which marked the border between Nogent and the neighbouring domain of Le Perreux, which became an independent municipality in 1887.
During the Franco-Prussian war in 1870, the inhabitants of Nogent moved to Paris, where the Municipal Vouncil had its seat on boulevard Voltaire. After the war, the town thrived with the building of schools, a college and a colonial garden. Marshal Jean-Baptiste Vaillant (1790-1872), Minister of War (1854-1859) and Commander-in-Chief of Napoléon III's army in Italy (1859), gave his estate to the municipality, which transformed it into a Town Hall (1877-1879). The vineyards progressively disappeared but the new streets of the town were modelled on the former wine-growers' paths.

During the Second World War, Nogent was a center of the anti-German Resistance. On 24 August 1944 at 11:00, the local Committee of Liberation took the control of the Town Hall. During the next night, the Germans blew up the archs of the viaduct of Nogent and carried on the fight near the fort of Nogent. Eleven patriots were killed and solemnely buried on 29 August.

Nogent houses the Pavillon Baltard, which is the only remaining part of the Halles centrales (Central market) of Paris, built by the architect Victor Baltard (1805-1874) for Napoléon III in 1851. The market was relocated in 1969 to Rungis, in the southern outskirts of Paris; all iron-built pavilions (nicknamed parapluies de fer, iron umbrellas) were deemed obsolete and destroyed, except the poultry pavilion, which was rebuilt in Nogent on the site of the former castle of Beauté and is still used as a cultural center.

Ivan Sache, 1 December 2004

The guinguettes in Nogent-sur-Marne

The picturesque site of the banks of the Marne in Nogent has always been highly estimated by the inhabitants from Paris. In her chronicles of the royal court of France, the Venitian writer (and early feminist) Christine de Pizan (1365-1430) already celebrated the fresh air and the festivals given in the island of Beauté.
In the 17th-18th centuries, rich people from Paris built their "house in the country" in Nogent. Coignard, Louis XIV's printer, owned there a manor with a big garden, ornemental lakes and sources. The painter Antoine Watteau (1684-1721), who probably depicted the landscape of Nogent in L'Embarquement pour Cythère (1717, Louvre Museum), died in the house of Philippe Le Febvre, the Queen's treasurer.
In the middle of the 19th century, another flush of "houses in the country" was built on the banks of the Marne by the rich inhabitants of Paris in a castel-like style characterized by turrets.

The railway lines established in the 19th century allowed people from Paris to reach Nogent very quickly, and a specific form of leisure resort called guinguette thrived in Nogent. The guinguettes were not specific of Nogent and were found on several river banks near Paris, but Nogent has remained associated in the collective memory as the birth place of periurban mass leisure. People from all social classes met in Nogent on Sunday, for fishing, bathing, canoeing, dancing etc., especially during the Belle Époque (first years of the 20th century).

The first guinguettes appeared at the end of the 17th century in the villages of Bellevile, Montmartre and Ménilmontant. At that time, these villages were not part of Paris and were located outside the tollgates: the wine sold in the guinguettes was not taxed and therefore much cheaper than in Paris; Île-de-France was then the main wine producing area in France. The local wine was called ginguet or guinguet. Antoine Furetière, in his Dictionnaire Universel, published in 1790, defines guinguet as a young, tasteless wine produced locally in Ivry, Vitry etc., and worth only "to make the goats dance". The name guinguette is found in the Dictionnaire de la Langue Française edited in 1750, and is confirmed in 1882 by Emile Littré in his Dictionnaire de la Langue Française. Related words are bastringue, defined as a bal [dance] de guinguette in the Dictionnaire de l'Académie Française, 1835, and guinche, the name given to the tollgates' dances by the Paris louts according to the Dictionnaire de la langue verte, 1867. Guincher is still used, but old-fashioned, for "to dance".

In 1860, Baron Hausmann 1809-1891) completely revamped Paris, and the neighboring villages were incorporated into the town. The guinguettes moved away on the banks of rivers Seine and Marne, in Robinson, Sannois, Nogent etc..
The development of public transportation promoted the development of the guinguettes. The guinguettes in Robinson were served by the line to Sceaux, whereas the guiguettes on the Marne were served by the line of the Bastille. Special, double-deck trains called "trains du plaisir" were operated on those lines on Sunday. In 1867, a line of boats called "bateaux omnibus" was opened for the Universal Exhibition between Charenton (south-east of Paris) and Suresnes (north-west), with 47 stops, and remained in use until 1934, when it was superseded by cars and bikes. From the stops, local tramways or ferries transported people to the guinguettes.

The first guinguettes were small wooden huts surrounded by a garden. However, dance required a lot of space and the early huts were progressively replaced by well-designed houses, and a specific architectural style developed. Extravagant houses were built in neo-Gothic style. The most famous guinguette, called Les Bibelots du Diable (The Devil's Trinkets), located in Joinville-le-Pont, was recently restored. Several Swiss-like houses ("chalets") were also built such as Chalet de la Pie (The Magpie's Chalet) in Saint-Maur and the Chalet du Vrai Robinson (The Genuine Robinson's Chalet) in Robinson, with the intended pun on the name of Defoe's hero and the name of the town. In the 1920s, the basin of Joinville-Nogent was crowded with even more extravagant guinguettes built in style nouille, a debased version of Art Nouveau. The famous architect Nachbaur built Casino Tanton, whereas Convert prefered the Moorish style. Élysée-Palace was decorated with statues, whereas Pompei-Palace was built in pseudo-Roman style.

Guinguettes were also built on rivers Loire and Rhône. The period 1880-1938, except the First World War, was the Gilded Age of the guinguettes, especially since the establishement of Sunday as a day of rest in 1906, and also after the social advances promoted by the Front Populaire government in 1936.
The guinguettes were reopened in 1945, with limited success. Most of them disappeared in the 1960s, when leisure was dramatically altered by the increasing urbanization, the development of roads, and the rise of the consumer society. The only guinguette still existing in Nogent is the former Vieux Pêcheur à la Jambe de Bois (Old Fisher with a Wooden Leg), now a restaurant called Le Verger (The Orchard).

In spite of their social importance in the early 20th century, the guinguettes were shown only rarely in movies. The three most famous related movies are La Belle Équipe (1946), directed by Julien Duvivier, starring Viviane Romance and Jean Gabin (with the most famous dance scene in which Gabin waltzes and sings Quand on s'promène au bord de l'eau); Casque d'Or (1952), directed by Jacques Becker, starring Simone Signoret, Serge Reggiani and Michel Simon; and the documentary Nogent, Eldorado du Dimanche (1929), directed by Marcel Carné. There are also guinguette scenes in L'Atalante (1932), directed by Jean Vigo, Boudu sauvé des eaux (1932), directed by Jean Renoir, starring Michel Simon, and Une partie de campagne (1946), directed by Jean Renoir. Jean Delannoy also directed a movie called Guinguette in 1959.
Painters discovered Nogent before the movie directors. After Watteau, Impressionist painters such as Corot, Pissaro and Guillaumin painted landscapes of the banks of the Marne. They were followed by Cézanne, Marquet and Dunoyer de Segonzac. The less-known Ferdinand Gueldry (1858-1945) painted several scenes of rowing and canoeing, whereas Raoul Dufy illustrated Nogent two times, in Canotiers, bords de Marne and Nogent, Pont Rose et Chemin de Fer. The guinguettes are also shown on several postcards from the early 20th century. Most of the original places on the banks of Marne have been preserved (which is not the case for the Seine); the painter's association L'École des Bords de Marne was created in 1990.

Ivan Sache, 1 December 2004

Flag of Nogent-sur-Marne

The flag of Nogent-sur-Marne features the municipal coat of arms surmounted by the name of the municipality. Two different flags, located some 100 m away from each other, have been reported:
- a white flag with the municipal coat of arms surmounted by the name of the municipality in black letters; this flag can be seen near the railway station of Nogent-Le Perreux (and even from the trains).
- a light blue flag with the municipal coat of arms surmounted by the name of the municipality in white letters; this flag can be seen in front of the Town Hall, where it recently replaced the flag described above.

The municipal coat of arms of Nogent-sur-Marne is "Per fess, 1. Azure two wheat ears in saltire cantonned by three fleurs-de-lis and a bunch of grapes slipped and leaved in base all or, 2. Gules two towers argent in fess port and windows and masoned sable a base wavy argent".

The chief of the modern coat of arms is based on the municipal coat of arms of the featured on a seal dated 1790.
The symbolism of the coat of arms is quite straightforward: the wheat ears and the grape stands for the local agricultural products; the three fleurs-de-lis recall Île-de-France and the royal power; the wave in base represents river Marne, as well as the reeds surrounding the shield, and the two towers symbolize the two former royal castles of Beauté and Plaisance. The town of Nogent has retained the names of these castles on its motto "Beauté - Plaisance", written on a white scroll placed below the shield. The motto can be read "Beauty - Leisure".

Olivier Touzeau, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 1 December 2004

Société de la Voile de Nogent-Joinville


Flag of SVN-J - Image by Ivan Sache, 28 December 2020

SVN-J was established in 1888 and renamed to Cercle de la Voile de Nogent-Joinville in 1903. The club's organization, by-laws and racing rules were modeled on the Cercle de la Voile de Paris, then France's most important yacht-club.
The club's founding Vice President was young Albert Glandaz (1870-1943), who subsequently became Vice President of Yacht Club de France, President of the first French Rowing and Sailing Federations< and member of IOC (1913-1943).
In 1925, urbanization of the banks of river Marne resulted in the transfer of the club to Vaires-sur-Marne, to be renamed to Yacht Club de la Marne.
[La voile dans les boucles de la Marne]

The flag of SVN-J was blue with a white star in the center.
[Lloyd's Register of Yachts 1902]

Ivan Sache, 28 December 2020

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