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Dijon (Municipality, Côte-d'Or, France)

Last modified: 2022-02-27 by ivan sache
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Flag of Dijon - Image by Olivier Touzeau, 3 June 2021

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Presentation of Dijon

The municipality of Dijon (158,002 inhabitants in 2019; 4,040 ha), the historical capital of Burgundy, is located 1300 km south-east of Paris and 200 km north of Lyon.

Dijon was known to the Romans as Divio, which may mean "a sacred fountain". St. Benignus, the town's apocryphal patron saint, is said to have introduced the Christian religion to the area before being martyred.
In 1015 Robert I, Duke of Burgundy, chose Dijon as the capital for his newly founded state; the town flourished, however, under the second ducal, Valois dynasty (1364–1477). Musicians, artists, and architects were attracted by the patronage of the ducal court. The town retained its importance as a provincial capital after the duchy of Burgundy had been annexed by Louis XI of France in 1477, hosting regular sessions of the Burgundy Parliament. The former Palace of the dukes of Burgundy now houses the Town Hall and the Museum of Art.

In 1513, the Swiss and Imperial armies invaded Burgundy and besieged Dijon, Governor Louis II de la Trémoille obtained the withdrawal of the troops and the return of three hostages who were being held in Switzerland. During the siege, the population invoked the Virgin Mary and considered the subsequent withdrawal of the invaders as a miracle. In the aftermath of the siege, the inhabitants of Dijon began to venerate Notre-Dame de Bon-Espoir (Our Lady of Good Hope).
In 1678, the incorporation of Franche-Comté made the Dijon fortifications useless. Governed by the Princes de Condé, Dijon experoenced a heyday emphasized by an intense architectural activity and the foundation of the University of Dijon in 1722.

The historical downtown of Dijon was registered on 4 July 2015 by UNESCO on the World Heritage List, as part of "The Climats; terroirs of Burgundy".
The famous Dijon mustard was invented in 1856 when Jean Naigeon substituted verjuice, the acidic "green" juice of not-quite-ripe grapes, for vinegar in the traditional mustard recipe. Dijon.

Olivier Touzeau, 3 June 2021

Flag of Dijon

The flag of Dijon, rarely used (photo, photos), is a banner of the municipal arms, "Gules in chief per pale, 1. Azure semy of fleur-de-lis or a bordure componny argent, 2. Bendy of six or and azure a bordure gules".

It is "well-known" that Duke Philip the Bold granted to the town of Dijon permission to add the "chief of Burgundy" to the plain gules arms previously used by the town. As it is the case with the "chief of France", several of these reported grants are not based on any historical evidence. Legends or erroneous reports that conveniently increase the prestige of a "royal" or "ducal" town have been carefully transmitted from generation to generation, not to say invented by heraldists to back up their designs.
Laurent Hablot, professor of Western Emblematic at the École Pratique des Hautes Études and former student of Michel Pastoureau, points out that princes seldomly granted addition of their personal arms on municipal arms. Among the few known examples, Aigueperse was granted the "chief of Berry" by Duke John of Berry around 1375 and Aix-en-Provence was granted the chief of Anjou by Louis III of Anjou in 1431.
The arms of the Burgundian towns that feature the "chief of Burgundy", Dijon excepted, are modern creations, designed long time after the Duchy of Burgundy ceased to be an independent state, in 1477.

The Departmental Archives of Côte-d'Or keep the original grant of arms to the town of Dijon, issued in Rouvres on 22 September 1391 by Duke Philip II the Bold (1342-1404; r. 1363-1404), the founder of the Burgundian branch of the House of Valois; a copy is kept in the municipal archives of Dijon.
The granted arms are "ung escu de gueules tout plain" (a shield gules all plain) with "ung chief de nos propres armes" (a chief of our proper arms).
The chief is composed of the first two quarters of the quartered arms bore by the duke since 1361, "Quarterly, 1. and 4. Azure semy of fleurs-de-lis or a bordure compony argent and gules (Burgundy-Valois), 2. and 3. Bendy or and azure a bordure gules (Burgundy ancient)". Before being granted Burgundy as his appanage, Philip bore Burgundy-Valois as the Duke of Touraine.
The grant seems to indicate that the previous arms of Dijon were plain gules ("lesquelles ilz ont accoustumé anciennement de porter" - which they once used to bear); Laurent Hablot, however, points out that the previous arms of Dijon are not documented anywhere and that plain shields are not common in medieval heraldry. "Gules plain" was the (legendary) coat of arms of Knight Percival, of the Albret family and of the Count Palatine of the Rhine.

The arms of Dijon are featured on the municipal seals used starting in 1393 and on the Statutes of the Holy Spirit Hospital, issued around 1450.
It seems that Philip's son and successor, Duke John the Fearless (1371-1419; r. 1404-1419) added to the field of the arms granted to Dijon by Philip the Bold a grapevine plant, or, most probably, a hop branch, hop being his personal emblem. Seals being this emblem are either in bad state of conservation or forged, which makes accurate identification impossible.
[Departmental Archives of Côte-d'Or]

The arms of Dijon, "Capital of the Duchy of Burgundy", are featured in the Armorial Général, with the chief of Burgundy covering one half of the shield (image).
The Armorial National de France (Traversier & Vaisse, 1842) credits the grant of arms to Philip of Rouvres, "last prince of the first race of the Dukes of Burgundy", mistaking Philip I of Rouvres (1346-1361; r. 1349-1361) for Philip II the Bold. Further in the book, the grant is credited "according to some authors, to Philip the Bold".
In 1811, the Municipal Council required the re-establishment of the arms used until the Revolution, with the substitution of the fleurs-de-lis by wheat spikes and the addition of a bend, as follows: "Gules a bend or charged with a grapevine plant and three grapes all purpure. The chief per pale, 1. Azure semy of wheat spikes or a bordure compony argent and or (Burgundy modern), 2. Bendy of six or and azure (Burgundy ancient)." The proposal was turned down, so Dijon used under the Empire "Per pale, 1. Azure a grapevine plant or a bordure compony argent and gules (Burgundy modern), 2. Bendy of six or and azure (Burgundy ancient). A chief of the good towns of the Empire."

Olivier Touzeau & Ivan Sache, 3 June 2021