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Piriac-sur-Mer (Municipality, Loire-Atlantique, France)

Penc'herieg

Last modified: 2017-08-12 by ivan sache
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Flag of Piriac-sur-Mer - Image by Olivier Touzeau, 29 May 2017


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Presentation of Piriac-sur-Mer

The municipality of Piriac-sur-Mer (in Breton, Penc'herieg; 2,201 inhabitants in 2014, 1,237 ha; municipal website) is located in the Guérande, 25 km west of Saint-Nazaire.

Piriac was already settled in the Neolithic, as evidenced by the engraved Devil's Cards and Meniscoul Stone, dated to the Age of the Bronze. In 578, Waroch II, lord of Vannes / Broëred suppressed the village of Grain and named the conquered territory Pen Kiriac, lit., Bad Point, referring to hazardous navigation in the neighbourhood. The Redon Chartulary lists the place under the latinized name of Aula Quiriaca. The village was subsequently known as Penceriac (867), Pehereac (1330) and Pihirriac (1426). Piriac was part of Bro Wenrann (Guéande Country), officially incorporated to the Duchy of Brittany in 851.
Located in a strategic place close to the mouth of river Vilaine, Piriac was protected by a fort build on the Dumet island. The English never cared to occupy the island but captured the garrison in 1760 and destroyed the fort.

Wine production was mentioned in the 10th century, but grapevines were probably already grown in the area during the Gallo-Roman period. The phylloxera crisis suppressed most vineyards at the end of the 19th century, but a few feral grapevines can still be seen in abandoned plots.
Piriac boomed in the 17th century when several local fishers campaigned on the Newfoundland banks. The first wharf of the port was erected in 1797 while fish canning factories were active until the 1970s.

The sand beaches are separated by a rocky coast. Some rocks are named for their odd shapes, in connection to the legend of Almanzor and Yseult. Almanzor, lord of Lauvergnac, allegedly went on the 8th Crusade with King Saint Louis. His wife, Dame Yseult, walked every day to the seashore, expecting his return. She used to rest on the rocks known as "Comforter and Pillow", taking shelter by harsh weather in the "Dame's Cave", accessed through the beach at low tide. Almanzor eventually came back but his ship wrecked during a thunderstorm; retrieved on the shore, his body was buried in the big granitic rock known as "Almanzor's Tomb". Another tow rocks are known as the "Dame's Teeth".
[Unofficial website]

The Dame's Cave is a central element of the short story Les coquillages de M. Chabre (text; detailed analysis), published in 1884 by Émile Zola. This less-known, malicious story relates the adventures of the fat Mr Chabre (45 years-old) and his beautiful, young wife, Estelle (22 years old). Failing to have a child, the couple is recommended by their doctor to spend vacation in Piriac; Mr Chabre should eat "many shells (coquillages], only shells". Mr Chabre being not fond of sea-bathing, Estelle goes every day to the beach with Hector, a young local man, to gather shells for her husband. Mr Chabre is extremely pleased with Hector's care for his wife, because he has more free time to eat even moire shells. Finally, Estelle and Hector, threatened by the rising tide, have to take shelter in the Dame's Cave, while the hungry Mr Chabre sits on the top of the cliff and eat true limpets. Nine months later, back to Paris, Estelle gives birth to a boy, to the satisfaction of her husband, who congratulates the doctor for his wise advice ("Doctor, I would never have believed that limpets should have such a virtue").

Ivan Sache, 7 June 2017


Flag of Piriac-sur-Mer

The flag of Piriac-sur-Mer (video) is white with a thick yellow border, the municipal coat of arms in the middle, including the motto below, and the name of the municipality in oblic ("Piriac" on the left, "sur Mer" on the right side).
The arms of Piriac are "Sable a bend or. The shield placed on an anchor argent. Beneath the shield a scroll argent inscribed 'Retineat et Salvet ' [I Preserve and Save] in letters sable".

Olivier Touzeau & Ivan Sache, 7 June 2017


Cercle Nautique de Piriac

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Flag of the CNP - Image by Ivan Sache, 25 May 2010

The flag of the CNP, as hoisted on the club's moorings in the port of Piriac, is derived from the municipal flag. The scroll and writing are replaced by the club's name, written beneath the arms in an arched pattern.

Ivan Sache, 25 May 2010