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Veigy-Foncenex (Municipality, Haute-Savoie, France)

Last modified: 2019-01-27 by ivan sache
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Flag of Veigy-Foncenex - Image by Pascal Vagnat, 5 September 2004

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Presentation of Veigy-Foncenex

The municipality of Veigy-Foncenex (3,430 inhabitants in 2009, 1,299 ha) is located in the middle of a triangle delimited by Geneva (11 km), Annemasse (18 km) and Thonon-les-Bains (17 km). The municipality is made of the villages of Veigy, Foncenex, Crevy and Les Verrières.

Veigy was mentioned for the first time in 1287, as Veigyer. The name of the village might come from Latin Velgiacus, "Velgius' estate". The name of Fansonay, fixed to Fonceneix in 1663, appeared in acts dated 1220, probably from Fontcionacus, "Fontcius' estate". Crevy was mentioned in a feudal cession dated 1426 as Cubrier.
In the 13th century, Veigyer and Fonsonay were two distincts settlements. The hamlets of Les Merma, Les Verrières and Curvier, once isolated and ran by different lords, were progressively incorporated to Veigy in 1402 (Les Mermes), 1525 (Les Verrières) and 1552 (Crevy). Veigy and Foncenex were merged in 1793. A great part of the municipal territory was allocated to Geneva in 1816.

In 1533, the Prince-Bishop of Geneva abandoned the town. The Genevans established a self-government and adopted the Reformed religion. Pope Clement VII advised the Duke of Savoy to attack Geneva, but Bern sent 6,000 soldiers to defend Geneva. The Genevans defeated the Savoyards near Chêne and looted the neighbouring area. Foncenex, a tributary of the St. Victor's convent in Geneva and of the castle of Jussy, already owned by Geneva, was preserved while Veigy was attacked by the small Genevan garrison set up in the castle of Jussy. François de Langin, Lord of Veigy, fled, and the inhabitants asked to be incorporated into Geneva to avoid to be administrated by Bern, to no avail.
In May 1536, three months after the invasion, the inhabitants of Veigy adopted the Reformed religion, being the first parish in the conquered territories to have a Protestant pastor and upsetting the Catholics by their swift conversion. On 4 May 1536, the Reformist Farel was interrupted during his sermon in Thonon, being told to go "back to Veigy".
On 30 October 1564, most of the occupied territories were retroceded to Savoy. Bern kept Vaud and Geneva kept the villages of Jussy and Gy. The official retrocession took place only on 26 August 1567. The Bailiwick of Gaillard-Ternier, set up by Bern, was placed under the authority of the Governor of Thonon, so that both Veigy and Foncenex were placed in the same administrative division.

In 1589, war broke out again between Savoy and Geneva. An army of 6,000, commanded by the French Sancy and including Swiss mercenaries appointed by France invaded Chablais on 23 April 1589.
The castle of Veigy was defended by a garrison of 40, commanded by Captain Battaglini. The War Council of Geneva decided to send a nightly expedition to seize the castle on 29 September 1589. The carpenter Vallud placed a charge under the draw-bridge but could only succeed in hurting himself during the explosion. The Geneva artillery shot a few bullets and the garrison was enjoined to surrender. Captain Battaglini capitulated and was later hang upon the Duke's order because he had capitulated too early. The castle was eventually looted and burned, and the Genevans also stole the bells of the church.
A few years later, King of France Henri IV invaded Savoy and occupied it from 1596 to 1598. Geneva took advantage of the troubles to invade the Bailiwick of Gex and the mandement of Gaillard. Accordingly, Foncenex was under the Genevan rule and Veigy under the French rule, the limit between the two villages forming the border between the Kingdom of France and the Republic of Geneva. On 3 November 1598, Savoy negociated the reincorporation of Gaillard, which was cancelled in 1602 following the fiasco of the expedition set up against by the Duke of Savoy against Geneva, known as L'Escalade.
Savoy was later invaded another four times by France, and by the Spaniards from 1743 to 1749. The Spanish occupation was extremely harsh and caused several local revolts. Peasants of Veigy led by a named Duret are said to have slaughtered a Spanish garrison. The password of the plot was Faut empâter ([We] Must knead).

On 18 March 1816, Geneva obtained from the King of Sardinia the cession of the municipalities of Jussy, Gy, Collonges, Bellerive, Corsier and Hermance, as well as all the former possessions of the St. Victor's chapter. Accordingly, Veigy-Foncenex was once again located on a state border and lost 190 ha of arable land. Most inhabitants could keep land in Geneva, but the straight border, river Hermance, cut several fields into two parts. A thin stripe of land located between the Hermance and brook Bevire, disputed between Corsier, Hermance and Veigy, was eventually allocated to Veigy.
The customs line was moved to the hinterland, and Veigy was located in the free zone (zone franche). This was an interesting situation for trade, but communications with the rest of the province were not straightforward. To go to Annemasse, the inhabitants of Veigy had to cross the Genevan territory or use bad paths full of twists around Machilly. On 1 January 1838, the province of Carouge was suppressed and the canton of Annemasse was incorporated to Faucigny. Veigy was then located even further from the administrative center, which had been moved to Bonneville.
When Napoléon III and Cavour started to negociate the reincorporation of Savoy and County of Nice to France, a strong pro-Swiss movement broke out in northern Savoy. The pétitionnement for the incorporation to Switzerland got 214 signatures in Veigy, which had then less than 900 inhabitants. Following the proposal of a free zone, Chablais massively voted for the reincorporation to France, with the zone (14,688 against 69 for reincorporation without the zone and 28 against the reincorporation).
A Decree from 20 December 1860 moved Veigy-Foncenex to the canton of Douvaine.

General Amé Chastel is the most famous child of Veigy-Foncenex. Enrolled in the the Allobroge Legion on 16 October 1792, he was appointed Captain in 1793 and fought in the siege of Toulon. Severely injured during the crossing of Tagliamento during the Italy campaign, Chastel subsequently joined the Egypt campaign, discovering and shipping to France the famous Dendera zodiac. He took part to the Battle of Austerlitz, the campaigns of Prussia, Poland, Spain and Russia and, eventually, the Battle of Waterloo. Retired in Geneva, Chastel organised Bonapartist plots, being accusated of a failed attempt of abduction of Duke of Angoulême in 1820. He died in 1826 and bequeathed his big art collection to the town of Geneva.

Source: Municipal website

Ivan Sache, 5 September 2004

Flag of Veigy-Foncenex

The flag of Veigy-Foncenex (photo) is white with the municipal coat of arms, surmounted by the name of the municipality in black Capital letters.

The coat of arms is "Gules a chevron or in chief two crescents of the same in base a Morr's head proper".

Pascal Vagnat, 5 September 2004