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Bourges (Municipality, Cher, France)

Last modified: 2018-01-15 by ivan sache
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Flag of Bourges - Image by Ivan Sache, 12 January 2018

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Presentation of Bourges

The municipality of Bourges (66,602 inhabitants in 2011, therefore the 3rd most populous municipality in Region Centre; 6,874 ha; municipal website) is located 250 km south of Paris.

Bourges, located at the confluence of rivers Yèvre and Auron, was already settled during the first Age of Iron (Halstatt period, 6th-5th century BC). Remains of wooden buildings and fragments of amphora and ceramics, often from remote origin, indicate a significant, although not dense, settlement. This is confirmed by the presence of several necropolis, included a big sanctuary located south of the modern town, between rivers Cher and Auron.
Bourges was one of the 20 fortified camps (oppidum) erected in the region, often near watercourses, by the Bituriges Cubi. The town, then known as Avaricum, was protected by wide (25 m) and deep (15 m) ditches and a levee. Julius Caesar (Commentarii de Bello Gallico, VII) described Avaricum as "more or less, the most beautiful town in all Gaul, the strongest and the ornament of the country". After the Roman conquest, Avaricum was maintained as a free town. At the end of the 3rd century, Diocletian's administrative reform erected Avaricum as the capital of the Aquitania prima Province. Threatened by the Barbarian invasions, the town was surrounded in the 4th century by a big wall defended by 50 towers and four fortified gates.
According to the historian Gregory of Tours (538-593/594), Bourges was evangelized in the 3rd-4th century by St. Ursinus, the first bishop of the town. In the subsequent centuries, powerful bishops such as Simplicius (5th century), Outriliius and Sulpitius the Pious (7th century) exerted the religious and political rule over the whole Aquitania prima Province. Several funerary basilica were built in the 6th-7th centuries on the sites of former Gallo-Roman necropolis.

Odo Arpinus, last Viscount of Bourges, sold the town in 1100 to king of France Philip I (1052-1108) to fund his participation to the crusade. King Louis VII (1120-1180) was crowned in the Roman cathedral of Bourges in 1137, on Christmas Day, in the presence of his spouse, Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122-1204). When Eleanor re-married with King of England Henry II Plantagenet in 1154, the former viscounty of Bourges remained the only territory south of river Loire still ruled by the king of France. King Philip II Augustus (1125-1223) allowed in 1181 the increase of the fortifications of Bourges; built in 1189, the Grosse Tour (Big Tower), completely isolated from the town, is considered as the prototype of the donjons subsequently erected by Philip II in Paris (Louvre), Gisors...
Archbishop Henri de Sully (d. 1200) decided in 1195 to rebuild the cathedral of Bourges, in the new, Gothic style. The choir was erected on a lower church ("crypt") established on the ditches of the Gallo- Roman walls. The next archbishop, St. William of Donjeon (1120-1209), a former Cistercian abbot, planned the decoration of the cathedral as a dogmatic program against the Albigensian heresy. William's death in 1209 stopped the building of the cathedral; his canonization in 1218 initiated a famous pilgrimage, so that the building resumed. The nave and the five-gated portal were completed in the 1230s. In the 14th century, a huge pillar was erected to consolidate the southern tower.

John of France (1340-1416), brother of king Charles V (1338-1380), was granted Berry and Auvergne as his apanage. While France was scoured by the Hundred Year's War, the duke of Berry made of Bourges a main center of culture and arts, which yielded him the nickname of John the Magnificent. In 1370, Guy and Drouet de Dammartin built the ducal palace and the Holy Chapel. The buildings were decorated by the best Flemish sculptors and painters, as shown in the famous miniatures known as "Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry", created from 1412 to 1416 by the Limbourg brothers. The western rosace of the cathedral, known as Grand Housteau, was also designed at the time.
Crowned king of France in 1422, Charles VII (1403-1461) established the capital of his small kingdom in Bourges, where he had moved in 1418 after the invasion of Paris by the Burgundians. He organized with the support of the town and church of Bourges the reconquest of his kingdom from the English; his first nickname, "King of Bourges", was eventually replaced by "Charles the Victorious". One of the main supporters of the king in Bourges was his Superintendent of Finance, Jacques Coeur (~1400-1456). Ennobled by the king and protected by Pope Nicholas V (1398-1455), Jacques Coeur was one of the most powerful shipowners, bankers and traders of the time. He built from 1443 to 1450 a wealthy manor, before being disgraced and arrested in 1451 for lese-majesty crime.
On 22 July 1487, Bourges, a town with some 15,000 inhabitants, a university and two yearly fairs granted by Louis XI (1423-1483), was severely damaged by a blaze. The half-timbered houses, rebuilt as they were before, are today emblematic elements of the downtown.

John Calvin (1509-1564) studied in Bourges at the Faculty of Law around 1531. Marguerite de Valois (1553-1615), Duchess of Berry, welcomed in the town the humanists who supported the Protestant Reformation. The town was damaged during the Wars of Religion; the Protestants seized the town and looted several religious building. Their subsequent expelling increased the cultural and economical decline of the town.
Henri II de Bourbon-Condé (1588-1646) was appointed governor of Bourges in 1616. To support the Counter-Reformation, he promoted the establishment of several religious communities, the re-building of abbeys and the restoration of churches. Taught in the Jesuit college, which was built in the 1620s, Louis II de Bourbon-Condé (le Grand Condé, 1621-1686) was one of the leaders of the Second Fronde (1650-1653), the noble's uprising against the royal authority. After the failure of the Fronde, the Grosse Tour was destroyed in 1653 while the administration of Bourges was transferred to a superintendent appointed by the king. The local architect Jean Lejuge erected from 1620 to 1650 several religious and municipal buildings in classic style. Appointed archbishop of Bourges in 1677, Michel PhŽlippeaux de la Vrillière hired the architect Pierre Bullet, from Paris, to rebuild his palace, located in front of the cathedral; only one wing of the planned "marvel of the century" was actually erected.

Bourges, isolated from the main ways of communication and locked inside old walls, did not experience any industrial development until the middle of the 19th century. The grain hall was built in 1832-1836, while the Canal de Berry, drafted in 1822, was inaugurated on 1843. The railway station of Bourges was built in 1851 in the northern outskirts of the town. The Marquis de Vogüe established in 1846 a foundry in the borough of Maizières, whose products were used to erect the metallic skeleton of several buildings, such as the railway stations of Marseilles and Vienna and the market halls of Paris.
Bourges, located far from the borders, was selected in 1860 to relocate all the French ammunition factories. The cannon foundry was established in 1866, followed by an arsenal, the Directorate of Artillery and the School of Pyrotechnics. A field of exercize covering nearly 300 ha was created. Those industries were restructured in the last decades of the 20th century.

Ivan Sache, 7 June 2014

Traditional flag of Bourges


Traditional flag of Bourges - Image by Pascal Vagnat, 8 January 1999

The traditional flag of Bourges is vertically divided green-red (photo). These colours are said to have been granted by King Charles VII.
Vallet de Viriville (Chronique de Charles VII, 1858-1859) quoting the book of the king's accounts for 1423, reports that "Henri d'Autresque, painter of the king living in Bourges" was paid 6 livres tournois for having painted "three lances of the three colours born by the king, that is red, white and blue-green [pers]". Jal (Dictionnaire critique de biographie et d'histoire, 1872), still quoting a book of the king's accounts, explains that green was subsequently substituted to blue-green.
[G. Desjardins. 1874. Recherches sur les drapeaux français [djg74]]


Flag of Bourges buses - Image by Ivan Sache, 7 June 2014

On 14 July 2009, the Bourges buses were decorated with a square flag diagonally divided green-red per bend sinister.

Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 7 June 2014

Tango Bourges Basket


Flag of Tango Bourges Basket's supporters - Image by Ivan Sache, 7 June 2014

Tango Bourges Basket (website) is a professional women's basketball club, originally the basketball section of the Cercle Jean Macé Bourges, a multisports club established in 1967. The women's team, formed in 1987, reached the 1st League in 1991.
In 1993, Pierre Fosset, president of the club, hired the Russian coach Vadim Kapranov (1993-1998) and the emblematic player Yannick Souvré. The next year, the professional structure CJM Bourges Basket (renamed Tango Bourges Basket in 2013) was formed; Bourges won in 1995 it first national championship and the Ronchetti Cup. Up to now, Bourges has won 12 times the national championship (1995-2000, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2011-2013) and 8 times the French Cup (1996, 1999-2001, 2006-2008). Bourges won the Euroleague in 1997, 1998 and 2001, being the first French sports club to win a European competition twice in a row.

The filles de Bourges have significantly contributed to the international success of the French national team.
Seven members of the French team that won the 2001 EuroBasket play or played for Bourges: Nicole Antibe (2002-2003; 193 caps, 1,633 points), Sandra Dijon-Gérardin (2001-2004; 133 caps, 525 points), Isabelle Fijakowski (1995-1997; 204 caps, 2,562 points), Cathy Melain (1995-2003, 2005-2009; 241 caps, 2,439 points), Laetitia Moussard (1998-2001; 198 caps, 999 points), Audrey Sauret (1998-2000; 202 caps, 1,639 points), and Yannick Souvré (1993-2003; 243 caps, 1,428 points).
Eight members of the French team that won the 2009 EuroBasket play or played for Bourges: Céline Dumerc (2003-2009, 2011-; 202 caps, 2003-, 1,284 points), Élodie Gaudin (2003-2006; 118 caps, 490 points), Pauline Krawczyk (2003-2006; 2012-2013; 39 caps, 113 points), Anaël Lardy (2009-2011; 54 caps, 139 points), Florence Lepron (2006-2008; 100 caps, 275 points), Cathy Melain, Endy Miyem (2006-; 112 caps, 850 points), and Emmeline Ndongue (2000-2006, 2008-2014; 196 caps, 1,008 points).
Six members of the French team that won the silver medal in the 2012 Olympics play or played for Bourges: Jennifer Digbeu (2009-2012; 79 caps, 330 points), Céline Dumerc, Élodie Gaudin, Florence Lepron, Endy Miyem, and Emmeline Ndongue.

The supporters of Tango Bourges often use a plain orange flag (photo), as well as chequy and lozengy orange and white flags. Tango orange is the traditional colour of the club.
The word tango is used in French to designate a bright orange colour. This use appears to date from 1914, probably in association with the tango dance, introduced from Argentina in the same period. Stade Lavallois, a football club that once played in the 1st League, adopted tango as its colour in 1918.

Ivan Sache, 7 June 2014