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Sully-sur-Loire (Municipality, Loiret, France)

Last modified: 2015-04-25 by ivan sache
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Flag of Sully-sur-Loire - Image by Ivan Sache, 15 June 2014

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Presentation of Sully-sur-Loire

The municipality of Sully-sur-Loire (5,455 inhabitants in 2011; 436 ha; municipal website) is located on river Loire, 40 km south-east of Orléans.

Sully is famous for its bridge over the Loire, more than 400 m in length, which had to be rebuilt six times. The original bridge, known as the Romans' bridge, was flooded by the Loire in 1363. A first suspension bridge, erected in 1836, had to be rebuilt in 1859. The French army destroyed the bridge on 18 June 1940 to slow down the advance of the German troops. Rebuilt and air-raided, the bridge was revamped in 1947. During the harsh 1984-1985 winter, the break of a suspension cable caused the collapse of the bridge's roadway, fortunately without casualty. The bridge was eventually rebuilt as a beam bridge.

The castle of Sully was mentioned for the first time in 1102. Watching the bridge and protecting the town, the castle was added a donjon in 1219 by King Philip II Augustus. The castle was completely rebuilt in 1395 by Guy de la Trémoille, who hired Raymond du Temple, the architect of the king and of the Duke of Orléans.
Maximilien de Béthune (see below) purchased the castle in 1602. He added the Artillery tower, equipped with thick walls and cannons, and increased the castle's walls. The parish church, once erected inside the castle's yard, was rebuilt in the village, while a levee was set up to protect the castle from flooding. In 1794, the Duke of Sully decided to suppress the emblems of the feudal system: the donjon was suppressed while the fortifications topping the towers were replaced by conic roofs. Damaged by air raids in June 1940 and August 1944, the castle of Sully was acquired in 1962 by the General Council of Loiret (website). It is the place of the Sully and Loiret Music Festival, organized every year in May-June since 1962.

Maurice de Sully (1105/1120-1196; biography), born in serfdom in Sully (therefore his name, which has nothing to do with the lords of Sully), was taught by the Benedictine monks of the abbey of Fleury. Sent to the Paris theology school, he studied with the future King Louis VII. A famous predicator and theologian, Maurice de Sully was elected in 1160 Bishop of Paris by the Metropolitan Chapter. Impressed by the early Gothic cathedrals of Saint-Denis, Sens, Noyon, Laon and Senlis, Maurice de Sully decided to replace the old St. Stephen church, built in the 6th century. In 1163, Pope Alexander III set up the cornerstone of the Notre-Dame cathedral. Supported by King Louis VII, the nobles and the canons, Maurice de Sully erected several churches, abbeys, hospitals and leper-houses all over the diocese of Paris.
Maurice de Sully was the king's confessor. Louis VII dictated him his last will. Philip II Augustus, christened by the bishop, appointed him warden of the Royal treasure when he went on the Crusade. Maurice de Sully retired in 1196 in the St. Victor abbey, located close to the merging Notre-Dame cathedral, whose choir had just been finished (the building of the cathedral would be achieved in the 14th century by Raymond du Temple). A chronicler reports that Maurice de Sully "did not sit on the bishop's throne but in the choir, chanting the psalms like any other clerk". The bishop died on 11 September 1196 while reciting the Credo.

Maximilien de Béthune, Duke de Sully (1559-1641; biography) is an emblematic character of the French national historiography, often presented as "the good minister of a good king".
In July 1572, Maximilien de Béthune was presented by his father to King Henry of Navarre, who married on 18 August 1572 Margaret of Valois. Maximilien escaped during the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre, which occurred one week later (24-25 August). He would then support Henry, first as a fierce soldier during the Wars of Religion, and then as a wise minister of King of France Henry IV. Maximilien de Béthune was injured during the battle of Ivry (1590) and during the siege of Chartres (1591). In 1593, he recommended Henry to abjure the Protestant religion to fulfil the expectations of the people of Paris. However, the sentences Paris vaut bien une messe! / La Couronne vaut bien une messe !)(Paris / The Crown is well worth a mass) is apocryphal.
Peace was restored in 1598 by the proclamation of the Edict of Nantes and of the Treaty of Vervins. Henry IV commissioned Maximilien de Béthune to rebuild the kingdom, which had been completely ruined by the Wars of Religion. A great soldier, Maximilien de Béthune was appointed Superintendent of the Fortifications, Grand Master of the Artillery (1599), and Governor of the Bastille fortress in Paris (1602). However, he has remained famous as the Superintendent of the Finances (1598); within a few years, he absorbed the deficit and increased the Royal Treasure kept in the Bastille. Appointed Grand Voyer (1599) and Superintendent of the Buildings (1602), Maximilien de Béthune improved the ways of communication all over the kingdom. Roads were revamped or built from scratch, while the digging of the Canal of Briare, connecting rivers Seine et Loire, was initiated. In Paris, Maximilien de Béthune ordered the building of the Place Royale (today, Place des Vosges), of the Place Dauphine and of the St. Louis Hospital, and the revamping of the Louvre and Tuileries palaces.
Maximilien de Béthune was made Duke of Sully and Peer of France in 1606. The Duchy of Sully included the domains of Sully-sur-Loire, Moulinfrou, Senely, Saint-Gondon and La Chapelle-d'Anguillon. Sully was also Sovereign Prince of Henrichemont, a new town he had founded in Berry in 1608.
Sully was disgraced after the assassination of Henry IV on 14 May 1610. Regent Marie de' Medici forced him to resign in January 1611 from his charges of Superintendent of the Finances and Governor of the Bastille. The duke bitterly retired in the castle of Sully, where he wrote his memoirs Œconomies royales. The memoirs are a masterpiece of successful disinformation: the author magnified his friendship with the "good king" and did not mind overvaluing his contribution to the progress of the kingdom; he distorted or even invented several facts and quoted famous sentences he had never pronounced.
In the 18th century, the physiocrats "rehabilitated" Sully and Henry IV, forging the legend of Sully as the protector of agriculture. His famous sentence, Les labourage et pastourage sont les deux mamelles de la France (Ploughing and grazing are the life-blood of France), indeed written in Sully's memoirs, have been consistently taught to generations of pupils.
Whatever the legend says, historians consider Sully as the first French modern statesman. He was a Protestant from the old nobility, while his successors were Catholic, either from the church (Richelieu and Mazarin) or from the robe (Colbert and Louvois) nobility. Sully set up, decades before Colbert, the état de finance, an early kind of administrative monarchy characterized by the supremacy of the Superintendent of the Finances over the Chancellor of France (Minister of Justice); this hierarchy has been preserved until now.

Ivan Sache, 15 June 2014

Flag of Sully-sur-Loire

The flag of Sully-sur-Loire is white with the municipal coat of arms in the middle.
The arms of Sully-sur-Loire are "Azure semy of mullets or pierced of the field a lion rampant of the second". These were the arms of the Barons of Sully in 1313. The Municipal Council adopted on 7 July 1961 the design proposed by the heraldist Robert Louis. The arms previously used, unofficially, had an orle of eight mullets pierced.

Pascal Vagnat & Brian Timms 15 June 2014