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Les Salles-sur-Verdon (Municipality, Var, France)

Last modified: 2013-12-29 by ivan sache
Keywords: var | salles-sur-verdon (les) | towers: 3 (white) |
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[Flag of Les Salles]

Flag of Les Salles - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 4 January 2006

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Presentation of Les Salles

The municipality of Les Salles-sur-Verdon (228 inhabitants in 2010; 497 ha) is located in Upper Provence, on the northern shore of the lake of Sainte-Croix, a man-madelake (2,300 ha) set up on the course of river Verdon.
The village was formerly known as Salets (1038-1252), Sala and Salac. The French word salle (sale until the 14th century) come from Frankish *sal and/or the German Saal, and has several different uses, all of them associated with a room (salle à manger, "a dining rooma; salle de bains, "a bathroom"; salle d'armes, "an arms room"; salle de classe, "a classroom", etc.). In the Middle Ages, the salle was the best room of a house, used for the reception of guests. By extension, salle was used to designate a house having such a room, therefore a quite rich house. The plural "Les Salles" might indicate that the village had more than one such rich house or maybe a castle (see the three towers in the municipal coat of arms).

In the 12th-13th centuries, the village of Les Salles belonged to the Moustiers family and to the Bishopric of Riez, today a village (1,700 inhabitants) located 20 km northwest of Les Salles. A priory, depending on the powerful St. Victor abbey in Marseilles, existed from at least 1380 until the Revolution. In the 14th century, Les Salles had 200 inhabitants; population reached 300 in 1765, 400 in 1851 and 421 in 1896. According to the local historian Gabriel-Henri Blanc, the inhabitants of the village were once nicknamed lei manto-platello, the snails' eaters, and later lei neblats, the clouded, referring to the fog often present in the valley of Verdon.
In the beginning of the 20th century, Les Salles had a flour-mill and an olive oil mill. The main local products were grain, potatoes, lavender, almonds, fruit, vegetables and truffles sold on the market of Riez. The inhabitants of the village also produced wickerwork, ploughing implement and fishing tools. Several young people from the village were killed duringt the First World War and the mills were closed; wickerwork was no longer produced but by gypsies. Sicetti, owner of the bar of the village, wicker and fiddler, asked to have on his tomb the following writing: Ici gît Sicetti, dit le vénard, qui mourut ni trop tôt, ni trop tard, passants qui lisez ceci, tôt ou tard, vous mourrez aussi (Here lies Sicetti, aka the lucky devil, who died neither too early nor too late, passer-bys who are reading this, soon or let you shall die, too).
The decrease in the population caused the merging of the two boy's and girl's classes of the school into a single one in 1924. Only one baker remained out of the three in activity before the war and the village oven was abandoned. In spite of the good quality of the arable land, the farmers were very poor. Most of the land belonged to the four richest families of the village.
The Municipal Council requested the change of the name of the village to Les Salles-sur-Verdon on 5 March 1932 and again on 11 March 1933. The Decree of 2 March 1935, published in the Journal Officiel on 16 March 1935, prescribed the new name of the municipality.

In the 1930s, the Schneider company planned to build a barrage and a man-made lake on the course of the Verdon in the area of Les Salles, conveniently located between the highest (the famous canyon of Verdon) and the lowest gorges of Verdon. Such a building required the suppression of the village and a defense committee was set up. After the Second World War, the project was resumed by the national electricity company EDF (Electricité de France). Originally, the level of the lake should have reached the 500 m mark, but it was eventually restricted to the 482 m mark, saving the villages of Bauduen and Sainte-Croix, as well as the island of Costebelle. However, the village of Les Salles was sacrificed. EDF started to purchase the land plots in March 1970, which was facilitated by division among the villagers. There were indeed very few expropriation procedures. The non-permanent inhabitants of the village were required to abandon their houses not later than August 1973; the deadline for the permanent inhabitants was January 1974. The filling of the lake started in November 1973. The cemetery was transfered to the newly built village and all the houses were dynamited, as well as the church. The last two inhabitants of the ancient village were peacefully evacuated by the Gendarmerie in February 1974 from their house already partially flooded.
A few remains of the original village can be seen in the new village: the fountain located near the Town Hall, two wash houses and several door frames. The streets of the new villages were named after places from the ancient one. Most farmers left since all the good lands were flooded. The village had to move from a traditional agricultural activity to modern tourism, which was not easy in the beginning. Winter activity was very limited, with hardly 100 permanent inhabitants, whereas the population increased by a thirty-fold in summer time. With time, the divisions among the villagers were mostly forgotten and collective activity has resumed.

Source: Monographie des Salles-sur-Verdon by François Simian - Available on the website of the association Mémoires des Salles-sur-Verdon

Ivan Sache, 4 January 2006

Flag of Les Salles

The flag of Les Salles-sur-Verdon is light blue with the municipal arms in the middle. Pictures of the flag can be seen on the website dedicated to the partnership of Les Salles with the Portuguese village of Luz, suppressed during the building of the Alqueva lake in 2002.
The municipal arms of Les Salles-sur-Verdon are "Sable three towers argent on a terrace of the same".
On the flag, the greater arms are shown, that is the shield surmounted by a yellow mural crown and surmounting a yellow scroll with the name of the municipality in black letters.

Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 4 January 2006