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Tourrette-Levens (Municipality, Alpes-Maritimes, France)

Last modified: 2019-01-12 by ivan sache
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Flag of Tourrette-Levens - Image by Ivan Sache, 12 October 2010

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Presentation of Tourrette-Levens

The municipality of Tourrette-Levens (4,709 inhabitants in 2010, 165 ha; municipal website) is located 10 km north of Nice.

A typical Mediterranean "perched village", Tourrette-Levens was built on a strategic, rocky spur watching the trade road between the port of Nice, the Alps and Piedmont. Archeological findings, kept in the Cimiez Archeology Museum (Nice), have confirmed that a significant settlement existed on the site at the Gallo-Roman times, probably with a temple. In 1905, the wine-grower L&ecute;on Baptiste Bailet excavated from his field a big stone, which was identified by the young Paul Canestrier (1889-1956), later a noted regional historian, as a Roman tombstone dated from the reign of Emperor August, today exhibited in the Municipal Museum set up in the castle. All the early buildings were destroyed at the end of the 6th century during the Lombard invasion.
The place was called Castrum de Turrettus, which indicated that it was indeed a foritifed village (castrum) and not only a fort. The name evolved as Castrum Turritarum, Oppidum Turretarum, Castrum Turritae, subsequently shortened to Torretas, the modern name of Tourrette being adopted after the incorporation of the County of Nice to France in 1860. While there was only one village named Tourrette in the County, the newly formed Department of Alpes-Maritimes included three of them, that had to be differenciated. First named Tourrette de Nice, the village was renamed in 1900 Tourrette-Levens, after the neighbouring village and canton's capital, Levens (for long and still today slightly less inhabited that Tourrette-Levens).

The feudal domain of Tourrette and its fief, Revel, belonged from 1175 to 1684 to the Nice-based Chabaud family. Raymond Chabaud is known for his testament, written on 1 July 1223, a significant contribution to local history. We learn that Raymond was a high-rank lord, owning or co-owning several domains in the Nice hinterland, such as Châteauneuf, Contes, Tourrette, La Roque, Mérindol and Puget-Th&ecute;niers.
Chabaud subsequently went on the 6th Crusade (1228-1229) and brought back the image of the Misraim Virgin, still shown in the village church. To prevent the dismembering of the domain, several Chabaud male heirs took the coat, most of them joining the Order of Malta. Honoré I was Justice Superintendant of the Order, while Jean fought in 1543 during the siege of Nice by the Ottomans. Dismembered, however, the original domain was reunited in 1645 by Henri de Chabaud. His grandson Honoré IV de Chabaud-Tourrette, "the last of the lineage, one of the noblest and oldest of the County of Nice", lord of Tourrette in 1667, was made Count Honoré de Chabaud, de Carnet et Scortinals (two domains in Gascony) by Letters Patented signed on 17 April 1761 by Duke of Savoy Charles-Emmanuel III, validated on 23 May 1671 by the Chamber of Accounting of Turin and confirmed on 9 June 1671 by the Senate of Savoy. The Count died in 1684 without male heirs and was succeeded by the Piedmontese husband of his niece, François Marie Canubio di Torricella; the title of Count of Tourrette, suppressed during the French Revolution, was still used by the Canubio in Piedmont.

The castle of Tourrette was built by the aforementioned Raymond Chabaud; then one of the most powerful in the region, the castle had three square and three circular towers. On 8 May 1829, the heirs of the Canubio family sold the remains of the castle - the donjon, two towers and a wall. The municipality purchased the castle in 1992 and revamped it to house the Entomology Museum, inaugurated in 1993 and subsequently renamed Museum of Natural History. The museum keeps some 12 collections donated by their owners, including 70,000 items; 4,300 butterfly species are presented to the public, therefore the nickname of "Butterfly Castle", as well as naturalized animals shown in reconstituted scenes, rocks, fossiles, and shells. The curator of the museum is the local naturalist Lionel Carlès, helped by his father Gilbert.

Ivan Sache, 12 October 2010

Flag of Tourrette-Levens

The flag of Tourrette-Levens (photos; 2008, 2009) is yellow with the municipal coat of arms in the center, surmounted by the name of the municipality in black capital letters, hyphen omitted.

The arms of Tourrette-Levens are "Azure four towers argent placed per saltire masoned sable in the middle a 16-rayed comet or".
On the flag, the arms are shown with a light blue background. The arms are sometimes represented with the towers or.
The arms must have been derived from the arms of Chabaud, presented on the municipal website as "Or a 16-rayed star azure charged with a three-towered castle argent masoned sable". The towers (in French, "tour") are canting elements.

Dominique Cureau & Ivan Sache, 12 October 2010