Last modified: 2011-11-11 by ivan sache
Keywords: morbihan | josselin | josilin | lion (white) | ermines (black) | castle (yellow) | rohan-chabot | rohan | chabot | fishes: 6 (red) | fish: bullhead | mascles: 18 (yellow) | lozenges: 18 (yellow) |
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Flag of Josselin - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 6 November 2004
Josselin (in Breton, Josilin) is a small town (2,458 inhabitants) located on the Oust river, in the past a part of the canal Nantes-Brest (canal de Nantes à Brest). With the neighbouring town of Ploërmel, Josselin is among the main towns of the area called Porhoët, lit., the country in the woods. Josselin is separated from the Gulf of Morbihan by the moors of Lanvaux.
In the old cartulaire (chart collection) of Redon, Josselin is called
Castello Tho. It was a small castrum (fortified camp) built by
Guethenoc, Viscount of Porhoët, in 1008. His son Josselin transformed
the camp into a small town, to which he gave his name.
Josselin developed quickly and was in 1050 the capital of a Viscounty including 140 parishes. The viscounts appointed monks from the neighbouring abbeys to set up religious foundations and appeal people: the priories of Saint-Martin, Saint-Nicolas and Sainte-Croix were later transformed in boroughs around 1200.
Josselin flourished thanks to the production of linen cloth. A new town wall, protected by three fortified gates, was built in the 10th century. In 1168, Henry II Plantagenet seized the feudal castle and destroyed it. The castle was rebuilt by Viscount Odo II in 1173.
In the middle of the 14th century, Brittany was scoured by the
War of Succession of Brittany. There were two pretenders:
Charles de Blois, supported by the King of France, and Jean de
Montfort, supported by the King of England. The Blois party hold the
castle of Josselin, commanded by Jean de Beaumanoir, whereas the
Montfort party hold the neighbouring town of Ploërmel, located 12 km
east of Josselin, commanded by Bemborough, aka Bembro. The two
commanders decided to set up a fight involving 30 knights from each
camp. The authorized arms were sword, dagger, axe and spear.
The fight, later known as Combat des Trentes (Fight of the Thirty), took place on 27 March 1351, on the Moor of Mi-Voie (lit., Midway),
between Josselin and Ploërmel. The place is called today La Pyramide
and the fight is recalled by a granit column (Obélisque des Trentes).
The fight lasted all the day long. The Montfort troop included 20
English, six Germans and four Bretons. Blois eventually won: Captain
Bembro was killed with eight of his companions and the other knights
were caught and brought back to Josselin. Beaumanoir was injured during
the fight and asked for water, to which his lieutnant Geoffrey de Blois
answered: Bois ton sang, Beaumanoir, la soif te passera ! (Drink your
blood, Beaumanoir, your thurst will pass!)
The War of Succession of Brittany ended in 1364, when Charles de Blois was defeated and killed in Auray.
Marguerite de Rohan, daughter of Viscount Alain VII (d. 1347) married
Jean de Beaumanoir and later (c. 1370) another important character of
the medieval Breton history, Constable (connétable) Olivier de
Clisson (1336-1407). In 1343, Olivier's father was beheaded for an
alleged betrayal of the French party during the War of Succession and
his head was exposed on the city walls of Nantes. His wife Jeanne de
Belleville woved there she and her children would got their revenge.
She set up and commanded an 400-soldier army, which seized and trashed
six castles supporting the French party. She also equipped a war vessel
and sunk several ships of the enemy party. Olivier initially served
King of England and later rallied King of France Charles V (1338-1380,
King in 1364). Clisson was a brother-in-arms of famous Constable
Bertrand Du Guesclin (c. 1320-1380) and succeded him as the Constable
of France. Clisson was one of the most powerful men in France under the
reign of Charles VI (1368-1422, King in 1380), but he was banned and
exiled to Josselin when the King became mad in 1392. Clisson's main
military victory was the battle of Rozebeke (27 November 1382), during
which the French army defeated Filips van Artevelde's troops, which
challenged the power of the Count of Flanders.
Olivier de Clisson completely revamped the castle of Josselin and transformed it into a huge stone fortress, protected by a high donjon.
In 1488, Duke of Brittany François II demolished the castle of Josselin, which then belonged to Viscount Jean II de Rohan, who had supported the French party. François' daughter, Duchess Anne de Bretagne, became Queen of France in 1491. She forgave Rohan and allowed him to rebuild the castle. Rohan's wonderful facade in Renaissance style is still there. He lowered the towers and linked them with a "stone lace" fairly unique in Brittany.
Henri II (1579-1638), first Duke de Rohan in 1603, was the leader of the Huguenot party in the beginning of the 17th century. Cardinal de Richelieu seized Josselin and demolished the donjon and five out of its nine towers. The two enemies met in the King's antechamber, and Richelieu said: Je viens, Monsieur le Duc, de jeter une bonne boule dans votre jeu de quilles (Your Grace, I just threw a nice ball into your skittles).
In the 15th-17th centuries, Josselin was a wealthy city
because of its cloth and rope workshops and its famous fairs and
Josselin's life started again in the 19th century whan the river Oust was incorporated to the canal Nantes-Brest and when the church of the Roncier was consecrated as the basilica Notre-Dame-du-Roncier. Around 800, a peasant is said to have found a statue of the Blessed Virgin hidden under evergreen brambles (ronces). He brought the statue at home, but the next day he found the statue againts under the brambles. After a few unsuccesful attempts, he understood that the Blessed Virgin wanted him to build a chapel instead of the brambles. Note that a similar story explains the origin of several churches and chapels in Brittany and elsewhere. In 1789, the miraculous statue was burned and the church transformed into the Temple of the Reason. Small pieces of the statue were preserved and a modern statue is now placed in the church. Constable Olivier de Clisson and his wife Marguerite de Rohan have their mausoleum in the church.
Another story of a miraculous statue of the Blessed Virgin found in a bush is told in the Breton city of Rostrenen.
In the past, the great pardon (Breton religious ceremony) taking place on 8 September was called the pardon des aboyeuses (barkers' pardon). A beggar once asked water to women doing washing in a fountain; the women slipped the dogs after her. The beggar was indeed the Blessed Virgin, and she sentenced the women to bark like dogs every year on Whit. The basilica became later a place of pilgrimage for people suffering from barking epilepsy, with several miraculous recoveries reported.
The municipal flag of Josselin is white
with the municipal coat of arms, Per pale gules a lion rampant [argent] crowned armed and langued or gules a castle triple or a canton ermine ((Brian Timms).
These arms are found on an escutcheon in the arms ascribed to Josselin in Armorial Général. The escutcheon is blazoned as:
De gueules mi-parti au lion d'argent couronné armé et lampassé d'or, et, en la seconde partie, aussi de gueules au château d'or et franc quartier d'argent parsemé d'hermines de sable sans nombre.
The arms of Josselin in the Armorial Général show a shield of the arms of the Rohan-Chabot family.
Arnaud Leroy & Ivan Sache, 6 November 2004
Josselin is associated with the Rohan family, one of the oldest and most powerful noble families under the Ancient Regime in France. The first historically known member of the family is Viscount Guethenoc, who built the first fortress in Josselin. The title of Viscount de Rohan appeared with Alain I (d. 1128). The family of Rohan became united by marriage with the Ducal house of Brittany several times, for the last time in 1407, when Viscount Alain IX (d. 1461) married Marguerite (d. 1428), daughter of Duke Jean IV. The Viscount of Rohan was then the second most important lord in Brittany after the Duke.
Viscount Henri II (1579-1638) was made Duke of Rohan and Pair de
France in 1603. He married in 1605 Marguerite (1595-1660), daughter of
Maximilien de Béthune, Duke of Sully (1559-1641), King Henri IV's wise
The next Duchess of Rohan was Henri II's elder surviving daughter Marguerite (1616-1684); in 1645, she married Henri Chabot (1616-1655), lord of Sainte-Aulaye in Poitou, and they founded the family of Rohan-Chabot, which still owns the castle of Josselin and the Duchy-Pairy of Rohan (1648). The current head of the house of Rohan-Chabot is Josselin de Rohan (b. 1938), former Mayor of Josselin and President of the Regional Council of Bretagne (until 2004) and member of the Senate (since 1983, currently President of the UMP group).
The younger branch of the family of Rohan, already Dukes of Montbazon and Pairs de France, became the elder branch. The head of the family was also Prince of Guéméné, whereas the younger members were Princes of Soubise. Louis XIV (1694) and Louis XV (1757) recognized the head of the family as the Prince of Rohan, "a foreign Prince living in France".
Short before the French Revolution, the elder branch of Montbazon-Guéméné was involved in a bankrupt that ruined several people (1782) and the famous Cardinal de Rohan, Cardinal-Bishop of Strasbourg, was involved in the affair of the Queen's Necklace (1787). Emmanuel de Rohan, from the smaller branch of Poulduc, was Grand Master of the Order of Malta from 1773 to 1797. The Montbazon-Guéméné branch emigrated to Austria and settled in Bohemia, where it extincted in 1846. The younger branch of Rochefort succeded them; the family lost all its possessions in Bohemia but has kept the Austrian citizenship. The nobility titles of the head of the house is Prince de Rohan (France), Prince de Rohan, Guéméné et Rochefort (Austria until 1919), Duke de Montbazon and Pair de France, Prince de Guéméné (France), and Duke de Bouillon.
Flag hoisted over the castle of Josselin - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 6 November 2004The arms of Josselin in the Armorial Général show a shield of the arms of the Rohan-Chabot family:
Gules nine mascles or are the arms of the family of Rohan.
In cristallography, a macle (cognate to German Masch, mesh) is a complex crystal made by the reunion (by interpenetration of juxtaposition) of several crystals of the same kind but with different geometrical orientations; in heraldry, a mascle is a lozenge voided by a smaller lozenge in the middle. Philippe Rault writes in Les drapeaux bretons [rau98] that macled crystals are common in the Breton forest of Quenecan, which belonged to the family of Rohan until the Revolution, and might have been the origin of the coat of arms of the family.
The mascles of Rohan are found in several Breton coat of arms, for instance the municipal arms of Landivisiau, Crozon and Loudéac.
Or three bullheads gules are the canting arms of the family of Chabot.
A chabot (bullhead) is a fish (Cottus gobio) form the Family Cottidae, Order Scopaneiformes and Class Osteychyanes. The bullhead is a small (10-15 cm) fish living in freshwater (rivers and lakes rich in oxygen), often in association with truits. It is common all over Europe, except in the northernmost and southernmost areas. The name of chabot remotly comes from Latin caput, alluding to the big head of the fish, as does its English name.
Ivan Sache, 6 November 2004