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Pérouges (Municipality, Ain, France)

Last modified: 2012-04-06 by ivan sache
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[Flag of Perouges]

Flag of Pérouges - Image by Ivan Sache, 1 October 2011


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Presentation of Pérouges

The municipality of Pérouges (1,205 inhabitants in 2008; 1,897 ha) is located 40 km north-east of Lyon. Located in the region of Bresse on a small hill dominating the plateau of Dombes, Pérouges is member of the Association des Plus Beaux Villages de France (website).

Pérouges is said to have been founded, as Perugia, by Gaul colonists coming from Perugia (Italy), another town built on a small hill. After the conquest of Gaul, the Romans built there a tower used to send signals to the town of Lugdunum (Lyon) in case of hazard. The first franchises were granted to Pérouges in 1236, which attracted several craftsmen and weavers, boosting the prosperity of the village. Pérouges is proudly self-styled "a craftsmen's town where no lord ever reigned".
In 1300, Pérouges belonged to Dauphiné. Subsequently, the region of Bresse was transferred to the Duchy of Savoy; Pérouges became a fortified outpost of the Duchy, protecting the border with France. In the second half of the 15th century, Savoy set up an unfortunate alliance with Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy and personal enemy of King of France Louis XI. As a retaliation, the French troops invaded and looted Bresse. In 1468, Louis XI besieged Pérouges, which was fiercely defended. The fortifications were increased by partially demolishing the fortified village's church and reusing the stones. The assaulters could only partially destroy the Lower Gate and eventually lifted the siege, an event recalled by a Latin writing found on the gate's wall: "Perogia Perogiarum. Urbs imprenabilis. Coquinati Delphinati Voluront prehendere illam. Ast non potuerunt. Attamen importaverunt portas, gonos, cum serris et degringolaverunt cum illis. Diabolus importat illos!" (Pérouges of the P&ecute;rougians, impregnable town. The nasty Dauphinois wanted to seize it but they failed. However, they took away the doors, hinges and fittings, and tumbled down with them. May the devil take them away!)
Bresse was eventually incorporated to France by King Henry IV in 1601, including Pérouges, whose fortress was demolished.

In the 19th century, Pérouges stayed away from the new road and railway, so that the population of the village decreased from 1,500 to 8. Doomed to complete demolition, the medieval village was saved by a press campaign initiated in 1909 by Anthelme Thibaut, who founded in 1911 the Comité de défense et de conservation du Vieux Pérouges. Thibaut's wife opened the famous restaurant L'Ostellerie du Vieux Pérouges in a house dated from the 13th century and supposed to have been then already an inn. Thibaut's convinced several people to join the Committee, the most famous of them being President Édouard Herriot (1872-1957), Mayor of Lyon (1905-1940; 1945-1957) and President of the Council of Ministers (1924-1925; 1926 [for three days!]; 1932) and President of the Chamber of Representatives (1925; 1936-1940; 1947-1954). The painter Maurice Utrillo (1883-1955) portrayed Pérouges on several paintings made in the 1930s. The medieval village served also as the location for several films, including Monsieur Vincent, a biopic of St. Vincent de Paul shot in 1947 by Maurice Cloche, starring Pierre Fresnay, and Les Trois Mousquetaires, shot in 1961 by Bernard Borderie.

Pérouges was the seat of a Barony, whose most famous lord was the grammarian Vaugelas (Claude Favre, lord of Vaugelas, 1585-1650). One of the first members of the French Academy (1634), he contributed several entries to the Academy's Dictionary, letters A-I. In 1647, Vaugelas published his main book, Remarques sur la langue française, utiles à ceux qui veulent bien parler et bien écrire, in which he attempted to codify the good usage of French language. His material prepared for a second edition of the book was lost, so that the Nouvelles remarques de M. de Vaugelas sur la langue françoise, published in Grenoble in 1690, are only unedited fragments from his notebooks. Neither did he ever completed his translation of the Roman historian Quincus Curtius Rufus, on which he worked all along his life as an exemplification of his grammatical principles. His strict definition of good usage, based on the language spoken in the courts and excluding several words and expressions coming from people's language, was strongly criticized, as abusive and sometimes whimsical. The other famous grammarian of the time, Gilles Ménage (1613-1692), author of the Observations sur la langue française, argued also with Vaugelas, challenging several of his etymological claims.

Source: Pérouges Tourist Bureau website

Ivan Sache, 1 October 2011


Flag of Pérouges

The flag of Pérouges is red with a yellow dragon (photo, 17 June 2010; photo, 6 August 2006).

The flag is a banner of the municipal arms, "Gules a dragon or". According to the Municipal Festival Office (website), the arms are said to have been granted to the town by lord Guichard d'Anthon as a reward for its loyalty during the First Crusade. They are derived from the Anthon arms, on which the dragon is represented with a human face. Not too unexpectedly, the municipality of Anthon uses the same arms as Pérouges.
Another popular explanation says that the dragon recalls St. George, the patron saint of the village. Finally, it can be noted that the Italian town of Perugia, said to be the mother town of Pérouges, has for arms "Gules a griffin argent crowned or", but this could me a mere coincidence.

The flag also exists as a long vertical, forked banner, used during the medieval festival, flanking the Upper (photo) and Lower (photoGates and also decorating the village's church (photo), together with a banner of the same size, red with a yellow dolphin, most probably representing Dauphiné.

Ivan Sache, 1 October 2011