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Sens (Municipality, Yonne, France)

Last modified: 2012-08-01 by ivan sache
Keywords: yonne | sens | tower (white) | fleurs-de-lis: 6 (yellow) | cathedral |
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[Flag of Sens]

Flag of Sens - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 29 March 2006

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Presentation of Sens

The municipality of Sens (25,885 inhabitants in 2009; 2,191 ha) is located in north-western Burgundy, on the river Yonne; Sens is the capital of the region of Senonais.
The region and the town are named after the Gaul tribe of Senons, which invaded Italy and seized Rome in 390 BC, led by Brennus. After the conquest of Gaul, Sens, then called Agedincum or Agendicum, was an important administrative town located on the main north-south Roman road. In the 4th century, it was the capital of the Province of Gallia Lugdunensis IV (Senonia). The town was then surrounded by walls, which were increased by King Charles V (1364-1380) and completely suppressed in the beginning of the 20th century.

Sens was very early a main religious center in Gaul. The Archbishopric, founded in the 5th century, ruled the Bishoprics of Chartres, Auxerre, Paris, Orléans and Troyes, to which Nevers and Meaux were added in the 6th century. The Archbishop of Sens was then the Primate of the Gauls. Under the Merovingian rule, he was also Count of Sens; in 731, Archbishop Ebbo organized the resistance to the Saracens. Under the Carolingian rule, the Archbishop was strongly involved in the administration of the Empire. At the end of the 9th century, his duties included the crowning of the sovereigns, the diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the Empire, and the organization of synodes. In the 11th century, the see of the Primate of the Gauls was transferred to Lyon. King of France Robert the Pious (996-1031) incorporated Sens to the Royal domain in 1015. Municipal rights were granted to the town by Louis VII (1137-1180) in 1146 and confirmed by Philip II Augustus (1180-1223) in 1189.
In 1140, the Council of Sens condemned the book Theologia scholarium written by the philosoph, logician and theologian Pierre Abélard (1079-1142), better known for his romance with Héloïse (1101-1164) that ended with an emasculation ordered by Canon Fulbert, Héloïse's uncle. Pope Alexander III (Rolando Bandinelli, 1159-1181) exiled in Sens in 1163-1164. Soon after his election by the anti-German party, the Pope was challenged by the anti-Pope Victor IV, supported by the German and Italian cardinals (Council of Pavia) and Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa (1155-1190). Supported by France, England, Sicily and the Iberian kingdoms, Alexander III excommunicated the Emperor in March 1160 and had to flee to France. After a long dispute, Alexander III was eventually recognized by Barbarossa in 1177 (Treaty of Venise).

The building of the St. Stephen cathedral was initiated by Archbishop Henri Sanglier c. 1130, but most of the work was done in 1140-1168; Sens has therefore the earliest Gothic cathedral in France. Its architecture was used as a template for several churches, for instance the choir of the cathedral of Canterbury, rebuilt in 1175-1192 by the architect Guillaume de Sens. The cathedral of Sens is famous for its early Gothic statues, made at the end of the 12th century, its 12th-17th stained-glass windows and its treasure, one of the richest in France. The marriage of King Louis IX (Saint Louis, 1226-1270) and Marguerite of Provence (1221-1295) was celebrated in the cathedral in 1234.
In 1622, Bishop Henri de Gondi obtaineed the creation of the Archbishopric of Paris, which was officialized by the bull Universi Orbis. The Archbishopric of Sens lost the Bishoprics of Chartres, Meaux, Orléans and Paris and its religious importance started to decline.

The Senonian stratigraphic layer was defined in 1842 by Alcide d'Orbigny (1802-1857) as the upper layer of Upper Cretaceous, after white chalky layers found in the region of Sens. The exact limits of the Senonian have been fiercely disputed; d'Orbigny's definition, today widely accepted, includes all the layers placed between Turonian and Danian. Most of the chalk layers of the Paris Basin, of Lower Provence, of Belgium and England belong to the Senonian. Fossils commonly found in Senonian layers are ammonites and rudists (big oysters).

Source: Municipal website

Ivan Sache, 29 March 2006

Flag of Sens

The flag of Sens (photo) is white with the municipal coat of arms surmounting the lettering "Sens / en Bourgogne".
The coat of arms of Sens is "Azure a tower argent between six fleurs-de-lis or three in chief two in flanks and one in base".

Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 29 March 2006

Flag over the Sens cathedral

The Law on the Separation of the Churches and State, adopted in 1905 and establishing state secularism, declares that all religious buildings are property of the state and local governments; the government puts such buildings at the disposal of religious organisation at no expense to these, provided that they continue to use the buildings for worship purposes. The Law does not apply to Alsace-Moselle, which was then under German rule, and to French Guyana, whose case was not addressed when the Law was adopted. However, in contrast with other state-owned buildings, the French national flag is rarely hoisted over churches, except in specific circumstances.

Since the end of the 20th century, the municipality of Sens has been hoisting the national flag on the cathedral's South tower (photo) four times a year, on 8 May (capitulation of Germany, 1945), 14 July (National Day), 21 August (liberation of the town, 1945) and 11 November (armistice, 1918). Usually, the flag was usually already hoisted at the end of April, April's last Sunday being the National Deportation Day.
In November 2011, Daniel Paris, Mayor of the town, decided that the flag should not be lowered down after the 11 November celebration and would remain hoisted all the year round. This is very unusual, if not unique, in France.
The main reason for the change is practical: hoisting and lowering the flag is quite tedious, required the municipal employees to climb 365 steps to reach the top of the tower. The flag mast is mostly used as a lightning conductor; when it had to be revamped a few years ago, it was proposed to replace it with a more modern device, but the Mayor decided to keep the mast and flag. He also admitted that the Tricolor flag over the cathedral is an outstanding symbol of state secularism.

Source: L'Yonne républicaine, 30 December 2011

Ivan Sache, 20 May 2012