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Parthenay (Municipality, Deux-Sèvres, France)

Last modified: 2013-04-04 by peter hans van den muijzenberg
Keywords: deux-sevres | parthenay | lusignan | lion (yellow) | crozier (gray) | melusine | staff (yellow) | cross (blue) | cross (black) | fleurs-de-lis: 4 (blue) | frets: 4 (red) |
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[Flag of Parthenay]

Flag of Parthenay - Image by Thierry Gilabert, 17 February 2012


See also:


Presentation of Parthenay

The municipality of Parthenay (10,406 inhabitants in 2008; 1,138 ha) is located 50 km due west of Poitiers, in the heart of Gâtine (from Latin, vastina, "waste land"), once a wet area quite isolated from the main roads. today a typical bocage region.

Parthenay was allegedly founded by Melusine; this local legend was popularized by Coudrette, the troubadour appointed by William VII of Parthenay to write the Roman de Mélusine. No reliable biographical details are known on the author; Coudrette was probably born in Poitou and might have served the lords of Parthenay as their chaplain. Achieved in 1404-1405, Coudrette's book was a best-seller, of which some 20 manuscripts have been kept until now, and translated in the 15th century in English, Dutch and German.

The first known lord of Parthenay is William I, mentioned in 1012 in a document that also includes the first written mention of the town. Starting with Lord Jocelyn II (d. around 1086), Bishop of Bordeaux, the lords of Parthenay bore the dynastic nickname of "Larchevêque", lit. "The Archbishop".
Living in a castle built on a rocky spur and protected by huge fortifications, the lords of Parthenay were among the most powerful feudal lords in Poitou; accordingly, they were involved in all the political, mostly violent events of the time. In 1104, lord Ebbo (d. 1110), who had taken the party of Geoffrey Martel, Count of Anjou, fought a battle against the Count of Poitou under the walls of Parthenay. The Count of Poitou eventually seized the town in 1122.
Later on, Hugh II of Parthenay (d. 1271) supported John Fearless and was jailed by King of France Philip II Augustus, who seized the town in 1270. John I (d. 1358), Councillor and King's Captain in Poitou, was commissioned to defend Aunis and Saintonge against the English raids when the Hundred Years' War broke out; he failed and was captured in the Battles of Taillebourg (1351) and Poitiers (1356), being eventually released after having paid a huge ransom. After the Treaty of Brétigny, which allocated in 1360 Poitou to England, William VII (d. 1401) rallied the Black Prince and was appointed Co-Governor of Poitou.

The last lord from the Parthenay-Larchevêque dynasty, John II (d. 1427) sold the Barony of Parthenay to John of Berry, Count of Poitou and chief of the Armagnac party, which he would betray in 1412, assisting the Duke of Burgundy in the seizure of Poitiers. As a retaliation, his domains were confiscated and granted to Dolphin Charles. Arthur of Richemont (1393-1458), who was transferred Parthenay on 1415, could actually rule the town only in 1424 after a last attack attempted by James of Harcourt, John II' s brother-in-law.
Arthur of Richemont significantly revamped the old fortifications of the town and the castle. The writer Juvénal des Ursins (c. 1360-1431) deemed the town as impregnable. Richemont's rule is considered as the Gilded Age of the Parthenay; the town, exempted from the salt tax (gabelle), was a main center of trade, with a cattle and a pig market, tanneries and weaver's workshops.

John of Dunois (1420-1468), a brother in arms of Joan of Arc, inherited Parthenay short before Richemont's death. His son Francis I (1447-1491) revolted in 1486 against King Charles VIII, who ordered the seizure of the town and the partial destruction of the fortifications. Francis II (1470-1512) was allowed to rebuild the walls in 1492. During the Wars of Religion, Parthenay was occupied in 1568 by the Huguenot d'Andelot. Charles IX and Catherine de' Medici overnight in the town after the Battle of Moncontour (1569). During the night of 29 April 1586, 1,200 Huguenots attempted to blow up one of the gates of the town but were repelled by the inhabitants.
Charles de la Porte, Marshal of La Meilleraye (1602-1664) and the nephew of Cardinal Richelieu, purchased in 1641 the Barony of Parthenay, which was erected in 1663 a Duchy-Peerage. The Count of Artois purchased in 1776 the Duchy but he never stayed in the town, which was ruled by local notables appointed by the duke.

Source: Municipal website

Parthenay was located in the Middle Ages on a secondary, but popular, branch of the Way of St. James. Aymeric Picaud, a monk from the priory of Parthenay-le-Vieux, is credited the Iter pro peregrinis ad Compostellam (Pilgrim's Guide to Santiago de Compostela); at least, the authorship is "identified" by a letter of Pope Innocent II recommending the book. Written around 1140 in Latin, the book describes in great details the four main branches of the Way of St. James. Considered as the oldest known "tourist's guidebook", the Guide forms the 5th part of the Codex Calixtinus, a series of manuscript stolen in July 2011 from the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.

Giovanno Ubaldo Panzani (1911-2003), who took in 1929 the name of Jean Panzani, together with the French nationality, purchased in 1946 a shoe workshop, which he transformed into the first Panzani factory. Named in 1950 "Pasta Panzani", the company is today the French leader in dry pasta production. Panzani has remained famous for its commercials featuring a recurrent character, the glutton priest Don Patillo. A parody of Fernandel's Don Camillo (a few scenes also feature Pastone, a parody of Gino Cervi's Peppone), Don Patillo played for more than 20 years by the actor André Aubert (d. 2010).

Ivan Sache, 17 February 2012


Flag of Parthenay

The flag of Parthenay, in its latest version, was designed in 2012 by Thierry Gilabert, President of the Société Vexillologique de l'Ouest, for the celebration of the millennium of the town. The celebrations were inaugurated on 1 January 2012 with the official hoisting of the flag (photos).
The flag is horizontally divided white-blue with the greater municipal arms in the middle.

The two stripes comes from the lance pennant of the Parthenay- Larchevêque family, itself derived from the family arms, "Barry argent and azure a bend gules". The oldest known representation of these arms appear on a seal of Hugh I, dated 1182. These arms must have been derived from the arms of Lusignan, "Barry argent and azure". The mark of cadency would mean here that the Parthenay are a junior branch of the Lusignan, this being "proved" by the legend claiming Melusine to be the root of the Parthenay
In the greater arms of Parthenay, the shield is placed on a blue seal inscribed "Qui que le veuille" in golden letters. The motto is a quote of Arthur of Richemont, probably meaning "Go on your way whatever the pitfalls". The shield is flanked dexter by a lion in front of a bishop's crozier, representing Poitou, and sinister by Melusine in front a pilgrim's staff, the two or, surmounted by a mural crown argent and placed over a scroll argent charged with "VILLE DE PARTHENAY" sable.

Source: SVO website

The very same arms are used also on a banner of arms, by the municipality of Gimel-les-Cascades, based on the alleged claim that the lords of Gimel descended from the Lusignan.

Ivan Sache, 17 February 2012


Former flag of Parthenay

[Former flag of Parthenay]

Flag of Parthenay - Image by Ivan Sache, 17 February 2012

The former flag of Parthenay is horizontally divided white-blue with the lesser coat of arms shifted to the hoist.

Thierry Gilabert, 17 February 2012


Banner of Parthenay

[Banner of Parthenay]

Banner of Parthenay - Image by Ivan Sache, 17 February 2012

There is also a vertical banner of arms of Parthenay.

Thierry Gilabert, 17 February 2012


Banners of the Parthenay boroughs

[Banner of Bas-Saint-Jacques]       [Banner of Haut-Saint-Jacques]       [Banner of Saint-Paul]       [Banner of Sainte-Croix]

Banners of the Parthenay boroughs, from left to right, Bas-Saint-Jacques, Haut-Saint-Jacques, Saint-Paul, and Sainte-Croix - Images by Ivan Sache, 17 February 2012

Some of the boroughs of the town of Parthenay have banners of arms, reported by Thierry Gilabert:
- Bas-Saint-Jacques: "Argent a cross azure cantonned with four billets of the same";
- Haut-Saint-Jacques: "Argent a cross azure cantonned with four fleurs-de-lis of the same";
- Saint-Paul: "Argent a cross sable cantonned with four frets gules";
- Sainte-Croix: "Argent a cross azure".

Ivan Sache, 17 February 2012