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Bandol (Municipality, Var, France)

Last modified: 2012-04-22 by ivan sache
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[Flag of Bandol]

Flag of Bandol - Image by Ivan Sache, 3 December 2011


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Presentation of Bandol

The municipality of Bandol (8,769 inhabitants in 2008; 858 ha) is located on the Mediterranean coast, 15 km west of Toulon.

Bandol was until the 17th century a small harbor with little permanent population, if any, where seamen used to take shelter in case of storm. Accordingly, the early history of the place and the etymology of its name are mostly a matter of speculation. Some say that Bandol was originally known as "Bendorin", an Arabic name meaning "The Hill's Daughter"; the "daughter" would be the small island of Bendor, located 300 m off Bandol. This nice explanation has been recently rejected by archeologists, who have found no evidence of Saracen presence either in Bendor or Bandol; the pirates who once scoured the region would rather by locals. An alternative explanation refers to the Celtic toponym "Bendoritum", meaning "The White Ford", allegedly referring to the times when the Bendor island was linked to the mainland by a narrow, walkable strait.
Bandol appears on the archives of the St. Victor Abbey in Marseilles as Bendor (1229), Bendol (1561), Bendort (1596) and Bendor (1613). A municipal register of Le Castellet, dated 1681 mentions Bandols. The municipal registers of La Cadière mention Bandol (1414) and Baie de Bandols (Bandols Bay, 1681). On the map of France designed by Cassini in 1750, Bandol is labelled Bandol Belle Rade (Bandol Nice Harbour), already emphasizing the maritime calling of the place.

Bandol reemerged with the building of a fort (1594) and of a castle (1610), indicating a permanent settlement of the place. Étienne Boyer was granted the domain of Bandol by King Henry IV, as a reward for his support during the Wars of Religions in Provence. In 1615, his son, Antoine, was made lord of the sous-fief (sub-fief) of Bandol. Antoine's son, Jules Boyer, married in 1634 Éléonore de Foresta. Their son was ennobled as François de Boyer de Foresta.
The "Separation Act" issued on 8 January 1715 by the Parliament of Provence, with effect on 12 August 1715, made of Bandol a municipality independent of La Cadière, François II de Boyer de Foresta (the son of François de Boyer de Foresta) being confirmed as the lord of Bandol; the "Dwelling Act" signed two days later in the castle of Bandol listed the families that would live in the new municipality. A "Dweller's Syndicate", made of all the family's heads, was established on 28 October 1719. In 1729, Bandol required from the St. Victor Abbey the appointment of a priest, which celebrated a first mass in 1730 in the castle's chapel. The new parish church, erected on a plot offered by the lord of Bandol, was consecrated in 1749 by His Grace Belsunce, Bishop of Marseilles (1671-1755, still remembered in Marseilles for his courageous behavior during the 1720 Plague epidemics, that, incidentally, nearly suppressed the village of Bandol).
The last lord of Bandol, Ange Hilaire François Auguste Boyer de Foresta, mostly lived in Paris, being King Louis XVI's Chamberlain. In 1790-1795, most of his goods in Bandol were sold as "national goods". In 1793, André Pons (1772-1850; aka Marat-Lepeletier) was appointed commander of the fort of Bandol; he invited Napoléon Bonaparte to eat a bouillabaisse (local fish soup), so tasty that he was able to obtain the pardon of 30 Federalist prisoners from Bandol. Pons, subsequently known as Pons de l'Hérault, was Director of the Mines of Elba during Napoléon's stay on the island and Préfet of the Departments of Rhône and Jura.

Bandol is famous for its 11 beaches (including two on Bendor island). The inauguration of the railway line in 1859 caused the decline of maritime trade but boosted tourism. Bandol was officially granted the title of station balnéaire touristique in 1923.
The Aqua-Lung (scuba set), invented by Jacques-Yves Cousteau (1910-1997) and Émile Gagnan (1900-1977), was tested for the first time in June 1943 on the Barry beach by the "Three Musketeers" of scuba diving, Cousteau, Philippe Tailliez (1905-2002) and Frédéric Dumas (1913-1991).
Several writers and actors stayed in Bandol villas or hotels, among them the writers Georges Bernanos (1946) and Katherine Mansfield (1919-1925), Marcel Pagnol's preferred actor Raimu (1936-1944), and the music-hall singer Mistinguett. Louis Lumière, one of the inventors of the cinema, retired in his villa named Lumen, where he died in 1946.

Source: Unofficial website, texts by Max Moutte, Bandol municipal historian

The Bendor island (7 ha), sold in 1795 by the last lord of Bandol to Eusèbe Gaudin de la Grange, was purchased in 1950 by Paul Ricard (1909-1997), the concocter of the famous, eponymous aniseed-based drink, originally sold as "the authentic pastis of Marseilles". Fond of sports, Paul Ricard became an early sponsor of the Tour de France and ocean-racing yachting, sponsoring Alain Colas and Éric Tabarly. He built in 1970 the motor-racing track of Le Castellet, home of the F1 French Grand Prix in 1971-1990 and of the Bol d'Or, a motorcycle endurance race, in 1978-1999.
Paul Ricard transformed the small Bendor island into his "Arts' Garden", a neo-Provencal sea and leisure resort dedicated to his own glory, with hotels, restaurants, a congress hall, shops, art galleries, tennis court, a yacht club and beaches (website). Bendor was famous in the 1960s for its summer parties that attracted most of the jet-set of the time; among the guests of Paul Ricard were Salvador Dali, Fernandel, Raimu, Josephine Baker, Luis Mariano, Melina Mercouri and ... Yuri Gagarin. Strongly concerned with environmental issues, Paul Ricard purchased in 1958 the Embiez archipelago, located off Toulon, where he established the Paul-Ricard Oceanography Institute and was buried.

Bandol is the cradle of the Bandol wines. Grapevine was probably introduced in the area by the Romans. The oldest estate still active has been known since the 13th century. The Bandol wines were highly prized by Louis XIII and Louis XIV. After the establishment of the municipality of Bandol, wine trade increased: Bandol was the only wine- producing village to have a harbour where big ships could moor. Bandol became the main center of coopering in Provence in the 18th-19th centuries. In the middle of the 19th century, short before the suppression of the vineyards by the powdery mildew and phylloxera crises, 300 coopers were registered in Bandol.
The Bandol vineyards were reestablished in the beginning of the 20th century, so that the Bandol wine was granted an AOC (appellation d'origine contrôlée in 1941). The Bandol vineyards are located in the municipalities of Bandol, La Cadière, Le Beausset, Le Castellet, Sanary-sur-Mer, Saint-Cyr-sur-Mer and Sainte-Anne d'Évenos, representing today c. 1,300 ha shared among 47 estates. The yearly production is about 50,000 hl (6 millions bottles).
The "lord of Bandol", responsible of the specific taste of the Bandol red wines, is the low-yielding (30 hl/ha) but well-adapted to the local environment, Mourvèdre grapevine; the Bandol red wines should be made with a least 50% of Mourvèdre grapes, a proportion that often reaches 80-95%.

Ivan Sache, 3 December 2011


Flag of Bandol

The flag of Bandol (photo) is yellow with the greater municipal arms.

The arms of Bandol are "Azure a star or" (history). The shield is surmounted with a mural crown or and surrounded by two branches vert, dexter laurel and sinister grapevine.
On 6 October 1751, Ange Hilaire François Auguste Boyer de Foresta granted a seal to Bandol, upon request of the Municipal Council, as "Vert a star or". The seal was derived from the arms of the Boyer de Foresta, "Azure a star or". The Municipal Council subsequently reverted to the field azure, these arms being shown in Bresc's Armorial des Communes de Provence [bjs94]; the branches were added in the 20th century.

The meaning of the star on the arms of the Boyer de Foresta family is given by Gustave Chaix d'Estange (Dictionnaire des familles françaises anciennes ou notables à la fin du XIXe siècle, text), in his presentation of the Boyer d'Éguilles lineage, "one of the most brilliant noble families in Provence", the Boyer of Foresta family being a branch of this lineage. The Boyer arms are canting since the star should be read as the Bethlehem Star, in French, étoile du berger, lit. "The Herdsman's Star"; a herdsman is called in old or regional French a bouvier (from Latin, bos, bovis, "an oxen"), the origin of family names such as Bouvier and Boyer.

Dominique Cureau & Ivan Sache, 24 July 2001


Société Nautique de Bandol

[SN Bandol]

Burgee of SNB - Image by Ivan Sache, 17 March 2003

Société Nautique de Bandol (SNB, website) was founded in 1903. The burgee of SNB is white with two red triangles placed near the hoist and a red star in the middle of the white field.

Ivan Sache, 17 March 2003