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Argelès-sur-Mer (Municipality, Pyrénées-Orientales, France)

Last modified: 2021-06-26 by ivan sache
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Flag of Argelès-sur-Mer - Image by Ivan Sache, 20 January 2021

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Presentation of Argelès-sur-Mer

The municipality of Argelès-sur-Mer (10,159 inhabitants; 5,867 ha; municipal website) is located 15 km south of Perpignan, on the border with Spain. The municipal seashore is lined on 3 km by a rocky coast and on 7 km by sand beaches. Argelès is the main tourist resort of the department, its population increasing up to 150,000 in summertime.

Argelès was mentioned for the first time in 879 as Villa de Argilarlis, subsequently renamed to Argelarium, Argelaria and Arglieria. The town's name refers to the local soil, made of clay (argile).
Once part of the short-lived Kingdom of Majorca and fortified by King James II, Argelès was seized in 1344 by Peter IV, King of Aragón. Fiercely disputed by France and Spain, Argelès, as part of Roussillon, was definitively incorporated to France by the Treaty of the Pyrenees, signed in 1659 and lost its strategic significance.

In February 1939, more than 450,000 Spanish Republicans left Spain following the fall of the Second Republic in an episode known as "Retirada" (Withdrawal). The French government set up a camp on the beach of Argelès, where more than 200,000 refugees were housed before being transferred to the camps of Saint-Cyprien, Le Barcarès, Bram and Le Vernet.

Ivan Sache, 20 January 2021

Flag of Argelès-sur-Mer

The flag of Argelès-sur-Mer (photo) is white with the municipal coat of arms.
The coat of arms features a common gorse (Ulex europaeus L.), recalling the popular etymology of Argelès, based on the Catalan word argelac / argelaga, "broom"; this etymology was, however, rejected by modern linguists and historians.
The motto reads "if you rub yourself up against it, you will get pricked", recalling the common gorse.

Ivan Sache, 20 January 2021