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Saumane-de-Vaucluse (Municipality, Vaucluse, France)

Last modified: 2015-04-06 by ivan sache
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Flag of Saumane-de-Vaucluse - Image by Ivan Sache, 29 August 2014

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Presentation of Saumane-de-Vaucluse

The municipality of Saumane-de-Vaucluse (883 inhabitants in 2011; 2,081 ha; municipal website) is located on the edge of the Vaucluse Mounts, 35 km west of Avignon and 10 km northwest of L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue.
Saumane was built on a rocky spur dominating the plain watered by river Sorgue and its numerous tributaries, locally known as "sorgues". The village was known in the 11th century as Somana / Saumanna, which refers either to the top of a height (Provençal, som; French, sommet), or to a jenny (Provençal, sauma).

Saumane originates in the establishment of a castrum (citadel) organized in the 12th century, which probably encompassed the first houses of the village. The further development of the village was facilitated by the nearby sandstone quarries that would remain active for century.
Saumane was originally part of the County of Provence. Following the purchase of the domain by Antipope Benedict XIII from the d'Astoaud family in 1394, the village was transferred to the Comtat Venaissin, owned by the Holy See from 1274 to 1791 (nominally, until 1814). In the 14th century, during the residence of the popes in Avignon (1305-1409), several cardinals built manors, known as "cardinal's houses" in Avignon and in the neighbouring villages. Such a manor was built in Saumane on the northern edge of the site of the former castrum. The manor (30 m x 8 m; three storeys) was built on the model of the richest manors of Avignon.

The domain of Saumane was granted in 1431 to Baudet de Sade, a member of a powerful lineage known locally since the 12th century. Baudet was commissioned to revamp the castle and to re-settle the village, which had been depopulated by epidemics and famine. The Sade family would rule Saumane until the French Revolution and would own the castle until 1868. They transformed in the 16th century the cardinal's manor into a much bigger castle. The crenelated terrace that originally topped the manor was replaced in 1582 by a four-sided roof. In 1595, a fortress was appended to the old manor; the strong fortifications of the castle conceal a luxury palace, considered as a latest example of the Italian Renaissance style, once magnified in the valley of the Loire.
The most famous inhabitant of the castle of Saumane was Abbot Jacques de Sade (1705-1778), an epicurean humanist fond of poetry and history, who built in the park of the castle wonderful gardens planted with exotic species and irrigated by a complex network of canals. Nothing has remained of the gardens, today a wood planted with pines and holly oaks. The abbot stayed in the castle, which he did not own, as the legal guardian of his nephew, Donatien Alphonse François de Sade (1740-1814). Subsequently famous as the nefarious "Divine Marquis", Donatien de Sade stayed in Saumane when 4 to 10 years old. It is probable that the labyrinthine architecture of the castle, and, mostly, the less but exemplary behaviour of the abbot significantly influenced the Divine Marquis: the writer would later say: "My uncle had always with him two or three rascally wenches".
The castle of Saumane was acquired in 1983 by the General Council of Vaucluse. After a series of failed attempts to sell the castle to private owners (chronology), the General Council signed in 2004 a 40-year emphyteutic lease with the Pays des Sorgues Monts de Vaucluse intermunicipal authority. The restoration of the castle is currently in progress (website).

Saumane is today the summer residence of the Dutch (chick's) singer Dave (b. in 1944 as Wouter Otto Levenbach), virtually unknown in the Netherlands but a show-biz celebrity in France in the 1970s. Seemingly not too upset by the quick waning of his popularity, which he called "the crossing of a very nice desert", Dave "retired" in Saumane, where he appears to be highly estimated for his kindness and modesty.

Ivan Sache, 29 August 2014

Flag of Saumane-de-Vaucluse

The flag of Saumane-de-Vaucluse, hoisted over the village's clock tower, is vertically divided into nine stripes, in turn yellow and red. In the middle is placed the municipal coat of arms surmounted by the full name of the village, written in black letters outlined in white.
The flag's striped background is the flag of Provence (of the "Aragonese" pattern), also used in other municipal flags such as in Vedène and Berre-l'Étang.

The coat of arms of Saumane-de-Vaucluse is "Gules an eagle or crowned of the same in canton an eight-pointed star of the same". The arms were designed in 1983 after the arms of the two families that played a significant role in the history of the village.
"Gules an eagle or" were the arms of the Astoaud / Astouaud / Astuart family. Pons d'Astoaud (d. c. 1270) was Chancellor of Count of Toulouse Raymond VII (1234), who made him lord of Velleron (1230) and Mazan (1242). Also the Chancellor of Alphonse de Poitiers until 1268, Pons d'Astoaud significantly contributed to the funding of the Crusade led by Alphonse and his brother St. Louis (King of France Louis IX). He served as a judge in Avignon when the king of France held a justice court in the town. His son Guillaume-Pierre d'Astoaud, who also served as a consular judge in 1236, was lord of Saumane.
"Gules an eight-pointed star or" are the old arms of the Sade family (Sade ancient). In the 15th century, Emperor Sigismund allowed the family to charge the star with a double-headed eagle sable armed beaked and crowned gules (Sade modern).
The Sade family was among the dominant feudal lineages in Avignon. Hugues II de Sade (d. 1365) married in 1325 Laure de Noves (1310-1348), whose memory has been magnified by the Italian poet Petrarch (1304-1374); the poet met Laure on 6 April 1327 and never recovered from her death, which occurred 21 years later, day for day. In 1355, Hugues de Sade offered 200 guilders for the reparation of the bridge of Avignon (the famous bridge built over the Rhóne by St. Bénézet), whose first arches had been damaged or destroyed by floods. As a reward, his arms were sculpted on the first arch of the revamped bridge.
The old arms of Sade are also used in the 2nd and 3rd quarters of the municipal arms of Lacoste, the village where the "Divine Marquis" had his (main) castle. Quite surprisingly, they do not seem to be further used in the local heraldry, maybe because of the nefarious reputation of the "Divine Marquis".
Old local historians have claimed that the Sade lineage descended from the Princes of the Baux, which is not proved by any evidence. The claim was probably based on the similarity between the arms of the two lineages; however, the Baux bore "Gules a 16-pointed star argent".

Ivan Sache, 29 August 2014