Last modified: 2011-06-10 by ivan sache
Keywords: bouches-du-rhone | berre-l'etang | lion (yellow) | lion (silver) | ermine (red) | ermine (black) | fleur-de-lis (yellow) | fishing net |
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Municipal flag of Berre-l'Étang - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 19 February 2005
The municipality of Berre-l'Étang (13,500 inhabitants, 4,364 ha) is located 30 km north-west of Marseilles, on the north-eastern shore of the pond (étang) of Berre.
In the 11th century, Berre was known as Berra; in the 12th-13th
centuries, it belonged to the powerful family of Les Baux, which
granted tax-free fairs and markets to Berre in 1291.
In the 15th century, Berre became a Barony granted to Charles de Maine,
later the last Duke of Provence as Charles III (1480-1481). In the
17th century, the Barony was transfered to Duke de Beaufort and in
1715 to Duke de Villars. From 1770 to the French Revolution, Berre
belonged to the Galiffet family.
The Notre-Dame chapel, located in the hamlet of Caderot, was destroyed during the Wars of Religion and rebuilt in the 17th century. Until the middle of the 19th century, it was an important place of pilgrimage; the chapel still keeps a Roman crystal bowl, said to have contained hair of the Blessed Virgin.
Until 1940, Berre was the most important hydroplane base of the French Navy with Bizerte (Tunisia). The Schneider Cup took place there until 1933.
The pond of Berre has an area of 155 sq. km, a mean depth of 6 m (max. 9.5 m) and contains 980 millions cubic meters of brackish water. Fresh water is supplied to the pond by the natural catchment basin of the rivers Arc, Touloubre and Durancole (7,000 sq. km) and the artificial catchment basin of the river Durance (12,000 sq. km, canal built by Electricité de France for the power plant of Saint-Chamas in 1966). Water flow in the pond is mostly controlled by the mistral, a strong northern wind that flows one out of three days according to the local knowledge. In the Roman times, several small villages were built around the pond; their main activity was agriculture (grapevine and olive) and salt extraction. Industrialization started in the second half of the 19th century. The canal of Caronte, linking the pond to the Mediterranean Sea, was dug in a former laguna in 1863; the depth of the canal was progressively increased from 3 to 9 m. In 1925, the canal of Rove, linking the pond to Marseilles was dug under the mountain of l'Estaque. A factory for the transformation of oilseeds was built in Croix-Saintes, near Martigues, in 1920.After the First World War, the San Remo agreement gave to France a significant part of crude oil production in Iraq (formerly part of the Ottoman Empire). Oil refineries had to be built near the supplying ports. At that time, the shores of the pond of Berre were nearly desert, easily accessible to tankers and far from the big towns. In 1922-1924, the Société Générale des Huiles de Pétrole, later renamed Société Française des Pétroles BP, settled in Lavera. The Compagnie des Produits Chimiques et Raffineries de Berre, which formed Shell Berre in partnership with Shell Française, settled in the point of Berre in 1928. The Compagnie Française de Raffinage built its refinery in La Mède in 1934.
In 1957, fishing was forbidden in the pond because of the accumulation
of chemical pollutants in fish and seafood (mussels); the fishers ceded
their fishing rights to the oil companies. The inflow of fresh water
and sediments via the EDF canal favoured the eutrophication of the
lake, that is the development of oxygen-consuming algae and the
"sterilization" of the ecosystem, and decreased the salt concentration
from 32 to 10-15 g.l-1. The population of the towns around the shore
increased dramatically (from 113,000 in 1968 to 230,000 today); water
purification plants had an insufficient capacity and the massive inflow
of nutrient salts, especially nitrogen, contributes to eutrophication.
For all these reasons, the pond of Berre, once a unique Mediterranean ecosystem, is dying. Several projects of rehabilitation of the pond have been proposed, including a schéma d'orientation (guidance scheme) launched in 2004: the fresh water and sediment flows from the EDF power plant should be dramatically reduced; the canal of Rove, closed since 1963 following a collpasing, should be reopened to improve the water flows between the pond and the sea.
Fishing was re-allowed in 1994. The fishing fleet on the pond is made of 43 ships and is in regression. There were 100 fishers in 1985, 50 in 1990 and 35 in 1999. The fishers of the pond also go fishing in the gulf of Fos (Mediterranean Sea).
Source: Pond of Berre website
Ivan Sache, 19 February 2005
The municipal flag of Berre-l'Étang, as photographied there by Dominique
Cureau, is vertically divided yellow-red (nine stripes), with
the municipal coat of arms in the middle.
The background of the flag is the "traditional" banner of arms of Provence.
There is some confusion with the municipal coat of arms of Berre.
"Official" municipal coat of arms of Berre-l'Étang - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 19 February 2005
The arms used by the municipality of Berre, according to an official
De gueules à un lion d'argent, armé, lampassé et couronné d'or, portant sur son épaule une moucheture d'hermine de sable; et au chef, parti au 1er, d'azur, semé de fleurs de lys d'or, brisé d'un lambel de gueules, et au 2e, d'azur, semé de fleurs de lys d'or, brisé d'une bordure de gueules.
"Gules a lion argent armed langued and crowned or bearing an ermine sable, chief per pale, firstly azure seme of fleurs-de-lis or a label gules second azure seme of fleurs-de-lis or bordered gules."
They are very similar to the old arms of Berre:
De gueules à un lion d'argent, la queue fourchue, armé, lampassé et couronné d'or, portant sur son épaule une moucheture d'hermine de sable; et au chef, parti au 1er, d'azur, semé de fleurs de lys d'or, brisé d'un lambel de gueules, et au 2e, d'azur, semé de fleurs de lys d'or, brisé d'une bordure de gueules.
The only difference with the current blazon is la queue fourchue, a forked tail.
However, a coat of arms seen in the town of Berre has the lion or!
On the flag, moreover, the coat of arms is slightly different from the "official" version: the lion is or and the ermine spot is gules. The mural crown surmonting the shield and the fishing net surrounding it are argent in the "official" version but or on the flag.
The arms of Berre ascribed in the Armorial Général, as quoted by Louis de Bresc [bjs94], are:
De gueules à un lion d'or, tenant de sa patte dextre une fleur de lys du même; et un chef, parti au 1er, d'azur, semé de fleurs de lys d'or, brisé d'un lambel de gueules, et au 2e, d'azur, semé de fleurs de lys d'or, brisé d'une bordure de gueules. (Arm. I, 445; bl. II, 1095; registration fee, 30 l.)
"Gules a lion or holding in dexter a fleur-de-lis of the same, chief per pale, firstly azure seme of fleurs-de-lis or a label gules second azure seme of fleurs-de-lis or bordered gules."
Bresc gives in the Additions et Corrections section of his Armorial
yet another version of the coat of arms of Berre, quoting H.
Bouche (Histoire de Provence I, 323):
De gueules, à un lion d'or, tenant de sa patte dextre une fleur de lis d'or, ayant au col une tache d'hermine. Le chef de l'écu parti en pal; le 1er d'azur, semé de France au lambel de trois pendants de gueules, le 2e d'azur, semé de France.
"Gules a lion or holding in dexter a fleur-de-lis of the same bearing an ermine, chief per pale, firstly azure seme of France a label gules second azure seme of France."
Ivan Sache, Dominique Cureau & Arnaud Leroy, 19 February 2005