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Sospel (Municipality, Alpes-Maritimes, France)

Last modified: 2010-11-13 by ivan sache
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[Flag of Sospel]

Municipal flag of Sospel - Image by Ivan Sache, 14 December 2008

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Presentation of Sospel

The municipality of Sospel (3,394 inhabitants in 2005; 6,239 ha) is located on the river Bévéra, 20 km north of Menton, close th the National Park of Mercantour. The village has kept one of the oldest toll bridges in Europe, dating back to the 12th century.

Sospel was mentioned for the first time in 1095, as Cespitellum, "a small green mound", in a chart of the abbey of Lérins. The village originally belonged to the Counts of Ventimiglia, vassals of the Republic of Genoa. In 1258, the burghers of Sospel decided to get rid of the Genoese authority and asked the "protection" of the Count of Provence, which was officialized on 28 March 1258. Sospel, today a small medieval village, was then a strategic administrative center, the capital of the big viguerie of Ventimiglia - Valley of Lantosque. The County of Provence was then divided into the six vigueries of Marseilles, Hyères, Draguignan, Nice, Grasse and Sospel and into the four bailwicks of Toulon, Saint-Maximin, Brignoles and Puget-Théniers.

Located on the Salt Road, Sospel mostly lived from trade; its old bridge, built in the 13th century, is one of the few medieval toll bridges still there in Europe. Damaged by bombings in October 1944, the bridge was rebuilt as it stood before in 1951. The village was incorporated, together with the County of Nice, to Savoy in 1388. The powerful Counts of Tende eventually recognized the suzereignty of Savoy, which allowed free trade between Nice and Turin and still increased the wealth of Sospel.
Penitents' brotherhoods settled in Sospel in the 13th century and built several chapels, which were revamped in Baroque style in the 18th century. The big St. Michael cathedral recalls that Sospel was the seat of the Bishopric of Ventimiglia during the Great Western Schism, having taken the party of the pope of Avignon. Also completely rebuilt in Baroque style, except the Lombard bell tower from the 11th century, the church is famous for the tryptich "The Immaculated Virgin", painted c. 1530 by François Bréa (c. 1495-1562). Like his uncle Louis (c. 1450-1522/25) and other members of the family, François Bréa was one of the "early painters of Nice", who worked all over the South-East of France during the Renaissance period.

Source: Sospel Tourisme website

Ivan Sache, 14 December 2008

Municipal flag of Sospel

The flag of Sospel, usually hoisted over the tower of the old bridge, is horizontally divided blue-yellow.
The flag was also hoisted along the road at the entrance of the village, together with the flags of France and of the European Union, during the "Agricultural Festival" held on 27-28 September 2008.

The Sospel tourisme office uses a shield quartered yellow-white with the blue silhouette of the brdige in the middle. Until recently, the office was housed in the tower of the bridge.
However, the municipal coat of arms is completely different, showing St. Michael trampling the dragon on a red background.

Ivan Sache, 14 December 2008