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Sète (Municipality, Hérault, France)

Last modified: 2005-12-24 by ivan sache
Keywords: herault | sete | water jousting | joutes languedociennes |
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Presentation of Sète

Sète (formerly known as Cette) is a port city located on the coast of Languedoc, between Montpellier and Béziers. The city is mostly known as the birth place of two main French writers, the poet and novelist Paul Valéry (1871-1945) and the poet and musician Georges Brassens (1921-1981).

Ivan Sache, 26 February 2005

Water jousting in Sète

Water jousting is a traditional sport in several places of France, especially in the city of Lyon (joutes lyonnaises) and in Mediterranean ports.

Sète is famous for the joutes languedociennes, which are an important component of the local heritage, and take place in the Canal Royal from April to September.
Basically, water jousting bring together two competitors who stand on the tintaine, a kind of heightened platform placed in the front of a heavy boat manned by a crew of tough rowers. Each competitor holds a long pole and a wooden shield called pavois. When the two boats meet, the winner is the first competitor who can throw his opponent down to the water. Water jousting requires tactical and physical skills, and can be practiced only by men, for evident physiological reasons.
The most important competition in Sète takes place during the Fêtes de la Saint-Louis, at the end of August. The winner is awarded a pavois selected during a public contest. The best jousters are among the most estimated people in Sète and are awarded nicknames, such as the Terrible (Barthélémy Abenque), the Hundred Wins' Man (Vincent Cianni) and the Unmovable (Casimir Castaldo). There is in Sète a jousting school for children and a museum of the history of water jousting in Languedoc. Water jousting was traditionnally a fishers and dockers' sport but every good (male) citizen of Sète must have climbed on the tintaine at least once in his life. Those who dared do it say that it is something extremely impressive.

Source: Website of the tourist office of Sète

[Jousting flag]     [Jousting flag]

Flags used in water jousting - Images by Ivan Sachz, 26 February 2005

In each assault, there is a blue and a red team, with uniforms, boat pole and shield decorated accordingly. The flags flawn by the boats are quartered blue and white, and red and white respectively.

Ivan Sache & Marin Montagnon, 28 February 2005