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Scaër (Municipality, Finistère, France)


Last modified: 2019-04-14 by ivan sache
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Flag of Scaër - Image by Ivan Sache, 8 June 2014

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Presentation of Scaër

The municipality of Scaër (5,331 inhabitants in 2011; 11,758 ha, therefore the biggest municipality in Region Bretagne by its area; municipal website) is located 30 km east of Quimper and 40 km north-west of Lorient.

Scaër, located at the foot of the Black Mountains, between rivers Isole and Aven, was already settled in the prehistoric times. The St. John's menhir (8.30 m) is the 10th highest menhir in the world. The municipal territory was once covered with woods, as evidenced by toponyms formed on the Breton root coat, "a forest": Coadry, Coadigou, Kergoat, Coatforn... The Coatloc'h and Cascadec forests, covering together 600 ha, are the remains of the primitive forest.
Scaër was mentioned for the first time, as Scathr, in a book of charters of the Landévennec abbey dated 1047; the specific charter might have been older, probably dating from the 9th century. The village was subsequently known as Scazre (11th century; 13th century), Scahart (1182), Scaezre / Scadr (1220), The modern name of the village, Scaër, appeared in Dubuisson-Aubenay's Itinéraire de Bretagne en 1636 (published in 1898) and official documents of the domain of Kervégant. The origin of the name of Scaër is unknown.

Scaër was during the Second World War a main center of anti-German resistance. During the night of 14 to 15 July 1944, as announced by the BBC (Le vent souffle dans les blés - The wind is blowing through the wheat crops), 16 tons of weapons were dropped by parachute to the FTP maquis of Scaër. The arms were transported by carts close to the farm of Kernabat. On 15 July in the morning, some 1,000 German soldiers attacked the FTP maquis, who were helped by the FFI maquis from Rosporden. Some 100 German were killed, while 9 maquisards from Scaër and 9 maquisards from Rosporden were killed [Ouest France, 13 July 2013].

Scaër is a typical Breton rural municipality, made of a big village and of more than 300 hamlets and farms scattered all over the municipal territory. There were once 11 chapels on this territory, of which eight are still standing. The oldest of them is the Coadry chapel, whose Romanesque nave dates back to the 11th century, and the namesake of the locally famous Coadry stones.
The tradition says that the Coadry chapel was erected by the Count of Trévalot after he had miraculously defeated the cruel Baron of Coat Forn who besieged him. Not knowing where to build the promised sanctuary, the count hitched up two oxen to a cart laden with stones and asked God to stop the cart on the most suitable place. The oxen walked up to the ruins of the pagan temple of Coadry, abandoned since the evangelization of the area by St. Candida. The next day, the brambles that covered the ruins were no longer here and the stones appeared lined up to form the foundations of the chapel. A giant living in the neighbouring forest offered his help to build the spire, the highest in the neighbourhood. His grave is limited by two Celtic crosses, which indicates that he was some 25 m in height.
Burned down in the 12th century, the chapel was abandoned for the next two centuries. After miracles had occurred on the site, it was eventually decided to consecrate again the place; the local priest asked God to tell him to whom the chapel was originally dedicated. An old Breton lament (gwerz) tells that "Our Lord, for his glory, let fall down to the earth red stones that told that Jesus was once venerated here". The chapel was restored and the traditional pilgrimage ("pardon") was re-established with great success. Until the beginning of the 20th century, the chapel's verger used to sold sacred "red stones", known for their miraculous powers, to the pilgrims.
The "red stones", also known as "cross stones" (Latin, lapis crucifer), "Coadry stones" or "Breton crosslets", are commonly found in the neighbourhood of Coadry but nowhere else in Brittany. They are indeed staurolites (from Greek, stauro", "a cross", and lithos, "a stone"). The staurolites (presentation) are aluminium and iron silicates with oddly shaped crystals: "St. Andrew cross", "nail", "coffin", "crosslet", and "wind mill" (triple cross). These unusual shapes were related by the tradition with the passion of Jesus Christ; old Irish legends call them fairy stones, claiming they were originally tears shed by fairies after Jesus' death. A mix of Celtic and Christian tradition has conferred several miraculous properties to the Coadry stones. Cross- shaped stones were offered to young married to protect them against illness. Crosslet-shaped stones protected against rabid dogs and snakes, madness and eye troubles. Coadry stones, brought by Breton seamen as talismans, have been found in remote places, such as Reunion Island. Finally, those "thunder stones" were buried close to the walls of the farms as a protection against lightning.

Scaër is a stronghold of traditional Breton wrestling (gouren). When Constable Arthur III de Richemont became Duke of Brittany (1457), he travelled to Tours to meet his suzerain, King of France Charles VII. Planning to offer a tourney to the Royal court, the duke asked the Baron de Quimerc'h (Bannalec) to find the best wrestlers (gourenieren) of Brittany, which were found in Rosporden and Scaër.
Breton wrestling appears to have been imported from Britain in the 4th century. The legend says that King Arthur and his knights were fierce wrestlers. Once practiced only by noble, gouren was progressively transferred to the farmers, who competed in famous tourneys. Some fights are said to have lasted for a complete night. After the First World War, gouren declined, superseded by new sports, such as football and cyclism, but did not completely disappear. In 1930, Dr. Cottonnec established strict rules, recorded the local techniques, and founded a "gouren federation. Different local federations eventually merged into the Gouren Federation (Bodadeg ar Gouren; website), affiliated to the French Wrestling Federation and to the International Federation of Celtic Wrestling.

The Cascadec paper mill (history) was established in the 1830s by Charles and Jean-Baptiste-François-Marie Faugeyroux. René-Guillaume Bolloré rented the mill in 1893. Bolloré modernized and diversified the production; he was awarded at the Paris 1900 World Fair a gold medal for the production of cigarette paper and different other kinds of thin paper.
A private telephone line connected the Cascadec mill to the Odet mill, the other factory managed by Bolloré. René Bolloré, who succeeded his father in 1905, purchased the Cascadec mill in 1917. A 65-m high chimney was erected in 1923 to replace the old one, only 25 m in height. In 1930, the Cascadec mill employed in 700 workers, who operated five machines powered by several hydraulic turbines. Bolloré vexported most of its production, supplying American companies (Camel, Chesterfield, Philip Morris, Old Gold). The OCB (Odet-Cascadec-Bolloré) paper became a reference.
After the Second World War, exportation declined and the mill diversified its production. The Bolloré group was acquired in 1981 by Vincent Bolloré, René's grandson. The Odet mill was closed in 1983, the workers being relocated to Cascadec. Bolloré set up in 1995 a partnership with the German company Schoeller & Hoesch; the sole owner of the factory in 1999, the German company was acquired by the P.H. Glatfelter Co, established in 1864 in Pennsylvania by Philip Glatfelter. Specialized in the production of coffee and tea filters, the company is still managed by the Glatfelter family.
The Cascadec paper mill employs now 120 workers producing coffee filters, tea bags, surgery masks and bottle labels.

Ivan Sache, 8 June 2014

Flag of Scaër

The flag of Scaër (photo) is white with the greater municipal arms in the middle.

The arms of Scaër (municipal website) were designed "around 1989" by Bertrand Le Clec'h, an heraldist from Querrien, as "Or a fess wavy azure surrounded by two Coadry stones sable a chief azure charged with a ram's head surrounded by two axes of arms sable. The shield surmounted by a scroll argent inscribed with the name of the town in uncial letters sable. The shield surrounded dexter by a branch of oak and sinister by a branch of beech proper. The Cross of War 1939-1945 appended to the shield."

Or represents the agricultural resources of the municipality. Azure was the traditional colour of the wrestlers from Scaër.
The fess wavy represents river Isole, and, additionally, the local industries, especially the oldest one, the Cascadec papermill (1922).
The Coadry stones recall the chapels scattered all over the municipal territory, especially their namesake, the Coadry chapel.
The ram's head is a tribute to the Breton wrestlers. A ram's head was offered to the winner of a tourney as his trophy (maout).
The axes are taken from the arms of the Du Bot family, "Argent two axes gules (or sable)".
The tree branches represent the Coatloc'h forest. The beech is a specific tribute to the clog-makers who once lived in the forest.
The Cross of War recalls the anti-German resistance and the Kernabat fighting.

Ivan Sache, 8 June 2014