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Le Lavandou (Municipality, Var, France)

Last modified: 2020-01-24 by ivan sache
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Flags of Le Lavandou - Images by Olivier Touzeau, 30 October 2019

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Presentation of Le Lavandou

The municipality of Le Lavandou (5,356 inhabitants in 2011, 2,965 ha; municipal website, tourist office website) is located on the Mediterranean Sea, 25 km east of Hyères and 50 km west of Saint-Tropez. Once a small fisher's village, Le Lavandou, with 12 beaches (each with a different type of sand), is now one of the sea resorts of the French Riviera with the best preserved natural environment. The modern marina offers 1,100 moorings scattered over three basins covering 7 ha.

The name of the town is not linked to lavender (French, lavande), as could have been expected. In his Provençal- French dictionary (Lou Tresor dou Felibrige), Frédéric Mistral (1830-1914), the Provençal poet and lexicographer who was awarded in 1910 the Nobel Prize in Literature, explains that Lavandou, originally Lavadou, meant "a washing-place" (French, lavoir), here a freshwater resurgence used by the villagers for washing. Such a place is indeed represented on a drawing of Le Lavandou made by Charles Ginoux in 1736.

Le Lavandou is located in a protected harbour, which was involved in two "historical" events involving famous saints. In 1376, the papal galley that brought back to Rome Pope Gregory XI (1370-1378), "convinced" by St. Catherine of Siena (1347-1380; canonized in 1461 by Pope Pius II) to leave Avignon, was caught in a violent storm. The galley moored in the bay of Sanary, where the saint preferred to disembark. She headed to Toulon, where she accomplished a miracle, and joined back the papal galley that had taken shelter in Le Lavandou.
One century later, in 1481, King of France Louis XI (1423-1483, crowned in 1461), scared by sickness and death, convinced the famous Calabrian hermit St. Francis of Paola (1416-1507; canonized in 1519 by Pope Leo X) to go to the court and to heal him. The galley sent by the King of Naples could not moor in Marseilles because of the black plague, so that the saint had to disembark in Le Lavandou; the prints left by his feet and his staff were miraculously preserved in a rock, still shown near the castle of Le Lavandou.

The municipality of Lavandou was established by the Law of 27 March 1913, promulgated on 25 May 1913 by President of the Republic, Raymond Poincaré. Beforehand, Le Lavandou was a borough of Bormes (today, Bormes-les-Mimosas), originally founded by Genoese and Catalan fishers. Population was 146 in 1831 and 776 in 1906. Following the building of the port in 1880, Le Lavandou became the most important fishing port in the department of Var in the early 20th century (135 t of fish per year). Besides the village of Le Lavandou, the municipality includes several hamlets, such as Saint-Clair, La Fossette, Aiguebelle, Cavalière, and Pramousquier.
The Belgian divisionnist painter Théo Van Rysselberghe (1862-1926) was the first "discoverer" of Le Lavandou, where he settled in the 1890s and stayed until his death. He invited there another divisionnist painter, Henri-Edmond Cross (1856-1910), who built in 1904 a summer house in Saint-Clair; Cross painted there the "The Pink Cloud" (1896) and "The Fishing Boat". Le Lavandou was a source of inspiration for several other painters, such as Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Maurice Utrillo, and Nicolas de Staël.
The composer Ernest Reyer (1823-1910), once famous for the operas Sigurd (1884) and Salammbô (1890), used to overwinter in Le Lavandou, where he died. He inaugurated on 20 September 1903 the place named after him.

On 5 November 1942, Jules Crest, a fisher commissioned by the anti- German resistance network Alliance, brought General Giraud (1879-1949) to the British submarine HMS Seraph, which was moored one mile from the coast, near Pointe de la Fossette. The submarine headed to Gibraltar, where Giraud met General Eisenhower, a few hours before the Allied landing in North Africa.
Le Lavandou was the westernmost site of the Operation Dragoon landing, initiated by the Allied forces on 15 August 1945, Operation Romeo took place in Cap Nègre (Pramousquier), where French commandos assaulted and destroyed German artillery emplacements.

Ivan Sache, 5 October 2014

Flags of Le Lavandou

The flag of Le Lavandou (photo) is white with the municipal greater coat of arms in the center.

The arms of Le Lavandou (former municipal website), designed in 1950 by Marius Dorie (1887-1982, Mayor from 1944 to 1955), are "Per pale, 1. Gules a lion or langued gules crowned or a fess wavy azure in chief and in base, 2. Azure three dolphins or in pale. The shield surmounted by a mural crown gules and or masoned sable. The shield surrounded dexter by a branch of olive proper and sinister by a branch of oak proper. The Cross of War appended to the shield. Beneath the shield a scroll argent inscribed with the name of the municipality in letters sable."
The lion recalls the mother municipality of Bormes. The dolphins highlight the maritime vocation of Le Lavandou.

Le Lavandou also uses a white flag with the logo and a motto that reads "The Town of the dolphins".
Le Lavandou is known today as "The Town of the Dolphins", or, more specifically, "The Town of the Three Dolphins". The municipality has signed on 26 June 2012 the Partnership Charter of the Pelagos Sanctuary.

Ivan Sache & Olivier Touzeau, 30 October 2019