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Saint-Cyr-sur-Mer (Municipality, Var, France)

Last modified: 2018-06-26 by ivan sache
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Flag of Saint-Cyr-sur-Mer - Image by Ivan Sache, 11 April 2018

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Presentation of Saint-Cyr-sur-Mer

The municipality of Saint-Cyr-sur-Mer (12,103 inhabitants in 2015; 2,115 ha) is located on the Mediterranean coast, half-distance (10 km) of La Ciotat (west) and Bandol (east). The westernmost coastal municipality in the department of Var, the municipality is made of the inland village of Saint-Cyr, the main port and sea resort of Les Lecques, and the borough of La Madrague, established around the Petit Port (Smaller Port) de Saint-Cyr).

Saint-Cyr was already settled in the Neolithic (c. 4000 BP), as evidenced by flints and debris of pottery pieces found in different sites in La Madrague.
In the early 20th century, excavations yielded several amphorae, dolia and other pieces of potteries, indicating the presence of industrial centers and specialized workshops. The settlement included a rural estate (villa maritima; the Tauroentum Museum since 1969) and a port that allowed export of wine. The town collapsed in the 3rd century, following a cataclysm; the survivors abandoned the ruined, unsafe shore and relocated the town inland.

In the 5th-6th centuries, the villagers moved further inland, to Cathedra (today, La Cadière), to escape pirate raids; the shore remained sparsely populated until the 10th century. At the time, Cathedra included two coastal hamlets, Bendorium (Bandol) and Sanctus Cyrus (Saint-Cyr), named for St. Cyrus, the son of St. Juliet. Offered by Conrad the Pacific, King of Burgundy and Arles, to Count of Provence William I after he had expelled the Saracens from the area, the domain was transferred by William II to his second wife and his brother-in-law Honorius, Bishop of Marseilles. In October 966, the domain was taken over by the Saint-Victor abbey in Marseilles.

Saint-Cyr, hardly mentioned in old documents, entered history only on 6 July 1825, when the hamlets of San-Céri, then counting 1,300 inhabitants living in 55 houses scattered over 2,100 ha, Les Lecques (33 houses) and La Madrague (6 houses) were separated from La Cadière to form a new municipality. Known in 1838 as Saint-Cyr-de-Provence, the municipality was renamed to Saint-Cyr-sur-Mer by a Presidential Decree signed on 21 October 1907.
In 1865, vineyards covered 1,038 ha. After the Second War, the production area decreased to 350 ha scattered over 11 domains. In 2014, Saint-Cyr produced 11,655 hl wines, 6,015 hl being registered as Bandol wines. On 25 May 2002, the municipality acquired the Moulin de Marini domain, named for a former oil mill (moulin). Saint-Cyr is therefore one of the few municipalities that produce their own wines - Colmar (Alsace) is another famous example of municipal vineyard and winery.

Portalis Square, located in the center of the inland village, is decorated with one of the four small-sized replicas of the Statue of Liberty found in France.
[Municipal website]

Ivan Sache, 11 April 2018

Flag of Saint-Cyr-sur-Mer

The flag of Saint-Cyr-sur-Mer (photo) is white with the municipal coat of arms, surmounted by the name of the municipality in black capital letters.
The arms of Saint-Cyr-sur-Mer are "Argent a base wavy sable a Greek sailboat with the hull or and the sail gules two pallets argent sailing on four fesses wavy azure. The shield surrounded dexter by a branch of grapevine and sinister by a branch of olive the two vert fructed sable and surmounted by a bull sable. Beneath the shield a scroll argent inscribed "DINSSAN-CERI / TAURENTO / A REFLOURI" (Provençal, "Saint-Cyr re-flourished from Tauroentum").

The arms recall the identification of Saint-Cyr with the Greek colony of Tauroïs, subsequently the Roman town of Tauroentum, famous for the naval battle fought in 49 BC.
According to several ancient authors, the Roman portus (port) of Taurentum / Taurentium / Tauroentum, protected by a castellum (fortress) was originally founded by Greek colonists from Phokia, either members of the first expedition that founded the town of Massalia (Marseilles) or of the second expedition set up 60 years later by the Greeks expelled by Cyrus. The legend says that the Greek ship heading to Massalia was pushed to the coast by a storm; the colonists settled there, establishing a town named Tauroïs for the ship's figurehead, a bull (tauros).
The Antonine maritime itinerary, redacted around year 150, says that Tauroentum was located 12 Roman miles from Portus Æmines (Les Embiez) and 6 miles from Citharista (La Ciotat), which matches the beach of Les Lecques. Ptolemy's tables, when applied the usual corrections, yield the very same site. This identification was not confirmed by archeological evidence until the 18th century. In a communication presented on 25 April 1781 at the Académie de Marseille, Marin, Lieutenant-General at the Admiralty in La Ciotat, reported the lack of significant findings in excavations conducted on the beach of Les Lecques. In a letter dated 9 June 1781, the famous priest Jean-Jacques Barthélemy (1716-1795, author of Voyage du jeune Anarchasis en Grèce) reported the results of the excavation he conducted on the same site in 1755, which yielded nothing significant either, but "small blocks made of tiny stone cubes like those composing mosaics". Subsequent research yielded the aforementioned remains of the Roman settlement, confirming the possible location of Tauroentum in Les Lecques.
Canon Magloire Giraud (Nouvelle étude sur Saint-Cyr, 1870) gives a very spurious reading of the fragment of an engraved stone, completing "...VROEN..." as "TAVROENT".

Other scholars located Tauroentum in different sites located between Toulon and Marseilles. In 1935, E. Duprat (Tauroentum (Le Brusc-Six Fours)) identified Tauroentum with Le Brusc, based on the several Greek, Roman and Phoenician artifacts (amphorae, bronze statues, coins) found there by H. Héron de Villefosse (1883), L. Flessinger (1898) and Commandant Laflotte (1921, 1928). Emmanuel Davin pointed out that the strong northern wind (mistral) that blows in Le Brusc and Les Lecques would have prevented the establishment of a galley port; he proposed, admittedly without any serious evidence, Bandol and Sanary as more suitable places.

The battle of Tauroentum, a significant episode of the Civil War that opposed Caesar (100-44 BC) to Pompey (106-48 BC), was described in great detail. by Caesar himself (Commentarii de Bello Civili, Book 2, 4-7) and, in more detail, Lucan (Pharsalia / De Bello Civili, book 3).
In June 49 BC, during the Civil War, Julius Caesar headed to Spain in order to defeat the last supporters of Pompey. The town of Massalia took Pompey's party and attempted to block Caesar's progress. In 30 days, 22 galleys modeled on the Breton vessels were built in the Arles shipyard; commanded by Decimus Junius Brutus (c. 85-43 BC, one of the subsequent Caesar's murderers), the Roman fleet defeated off Marseilles the fleet of Massilia, composed of 17 galleys and commanded by Proconsul Domitius Ahenobarbus (98-48 BC). The heavy Roman galleys, manned with inexperienced Roman sailors, were expected to be blocked by the several light ships sent as the vanguard of the Massilia main fleet. The Roman captains, however, stopped the small ships with hooks, allowing the experienced legionaries to board the enemy galleys and to overcome the Massilia seamen. The Massilia fleet eventually withdrew to the port, loosing nine galleys.
During the subsequent siege of the town, the arrival of a fleet of 16 galleys commanded by Lucius Nasidius, one of Pompey's lieutenants, was aired. The remaining Massilia galleys and fishing boats equipped with war machines nightly forced the Roman blockade and joined Nasidius' squadron, which had also been rallied by galleys from Tauroentum. Chasing the three enemy fleets, Brutus met them off Tauroentum. The two Massilia galleys that headed to Brutus' flagship missed the target and rammed each either, being eventually sunk by the Roman galleys. Nasidius shamefully fled to Spain without fighting. Out of the ten Massilia galleys, only one could sail back to the town and announce the defeat; five were sunk, while another four were captured.
[Emmanuel Davin. 1952. Un bimillénaire : Le combat naval de Tauroentum (48 avant J.-C.). Bulletin de l'Association Guillaume Budé 1, 70-83]

Ivan Sache, 11 April 2018

Société Nautique du Golfe des Lecques


Burgee of SNGL - Image by Ivan Sache, 23 December 2003

The burgee of Société Nautique du Golfe des Lecques (website), a yacht club founded in 1948, is orange with two horizontal black stripes and the black letters "SNGL".

Ivan Sache, 23 December 2003