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Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois (Municipality, Essonne, France)

Last modified: 2017-08-09 by ivan sache
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Flag of Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois - Image by Ivan Sache, 21 March 2017


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Presentation of Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois

The municipality of Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois (35,877 inhabitants in 2014, 927 ha; municipal website) is located 25 km south-west of Paris.

Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois was allegedly established around a miraculous source. The legend says that, in 448, St. Genevieve (423-502/512), the patron saint on Paris, heading to Troyes to visit Bishop St. Loup (383-478), quenched her thirst in a source that had gushed forth at her feet. The saint subsequently healed the inhabitants of a neighbouring town with the water of the source, which became a popular place of pilgrimage. organized on the second Sunday after Easter; the pilgrims invoked the saint for rain and children's healing. The artificial cave erected in the 18th century to protect the source is still there, housing a statue of the saint and several ex-votos.

Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois experienced a demographic boom in the second half of the 20th century. Once a small village (648 inh. in 1901) in the woods (bois), Sainte-Geneviève grew up to a small town after the Second World War (10,675 inh. in 1946). The establishment of the housing estate of Les Aunettes even boosted the demographic increase in the 1960s (23,684 inh. in 1968).
The business park of La Croix-Blanche, shared with the neighbouring municipality of Fleury-Mérogis, is the biggest in Île-de-France, including more than 160 shops located on more than 700,000 sq. m). The Carrefour group established there on 15 June 1963 the first French hypermarket (2,500 sq. m).

Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois is famous for the Russian Orthodox section of the municipal cemetery, which forms the biggest Russian necropolis out of Russia. The English philanthropist Dorothy Paget purchased the manor of La Cossonerie and offered it to Princess Vera Mestchersky, a former official of the Russian Red Cross; the "Russian House" was established in 1927 as a retirement house for exiled Russians. The next year, the first inhabitant of the Russian House was buried in the municipal cemetery. Attracted by the Russian House and the St. Nicholas chapel, more and more exiled Russians settled in Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois and in the neighbouring town of Saint-Michel-sur-Orge. A new church, designed in the 15th century Novgorod style by the architect Albert Alexandrovitch Bénois (1888-1960) was consecrated in October 1939.
Ignored during the Soviet period, the Russian cemetery of Sainte-Geneviève was reincorporated into the official national history in the 1980s; it was visited in 2000 by President Valdimir Putin and in 2007 by Patriarch Alexis II.
The Russian cemetery welcomes 30,000 visitors every year, mostly Russian tourists, but also French tourists attracted by the unusual landscape of the cemetery and the tombs of celebrities, such as the painter Konstantin Korovin (1861-1939), the writer Ivan Bunin (1870-1953; Nobel Prize in Literature, 1933), Prince Felix Yusupof (1887-1967; organizer of the assassination of Rasputin), the movie director Andrei Tarkovski (1932-1986), and the ballet dancers and choreographers Serge Lifar (1905-1986) and Rudolf Nureyev (1938-1993).
[V. Pnevmatikakis. 2015. Le cimetière russe de Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois : histoire et enjeux identitaires d'un coin de Russie en France. Cahiers du MIMMOC (Mémoire(s), identité(s), marginalité(s) dans le monde occidental contemporain), No. 13]

Ivan Sache, 21 March 2017


Flag of Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois

The flag of Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois (photo) is white with the municipal emblem and the name of the municipality in blue letters.

The municipal emblem features the Donjon's tower, after the municipal coat of arms, on a blue circular background representing the woods.
The municipal arms are "Azure a donjon or surmounted by a campanile surrounded by two turrets windows sable all or masoned sable in chief two fleurs-de-lis or. Inescutcheon gules a bust of St. Genevieve argent haloed or".
The Donjon is a group of buildings of different ages and styles located in a landscaped park, once part of a castle disappeared long ago. The Donjon is named for the big, circular tower, which was registered in 1923 as an historical monument. The stables, the servant's quarters, the moats and the wash house were registered on the supplementary inventory of historical monuments in 1961.
[Municipal website].

The arms, designed by Louis Mourgeon, author of the book Une commune française. Monographie historique de Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois (1936), were adopted in April 1943 by the Municipal Council and inscribed in 1959 on the Register of Arms of Seine-et-Oise.

Ivan Sache, 21 May 2015