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Bouzonville (Municipality, Moselle, France)


Last modified: 2010-12-03 by ivan sache
Keywords: moselle | bouzonville | busendorf | cross (red) | fox (white) |
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[Flag of Bouzonville]

Flag of Bouzonville - Image by Ivan Sache, 6 March 2010

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Presentation of Bouzonville

The municipality of Bouzonville (in German, Busendorf; 4,281 inhabitants in 2007; 1,390 ha) is located 35 km east of Thionville and 10 km west of the border with Germany.

Bouzonville is located on river Nied, crossed there by a bridge - once a ford -, on the old Salt Road. The place was settled very early, as proved by Celtic (ceramics, stone mills), Roman (tiles, coins) and Merovingian (cemetary, jewels) remains found in different places. Around year 1000, a permanent settlement emerged close to the river. The disputed etymology of Bouzonville highlights its location in an area of linguistic mixture. Some say that Bouzonville comes from the Celtic root *bus, "mud" (which gave in French boue, "mud"), refering to the marshy surroundings of the river. Another explanation relies on the Latin word bos, "ox", refering to a post on the Salt Road where the merchants stopped. The more "official" etymology of Bouzonville claims that the village was founded by a lord Boso, maybe the King of Provence of the same name. There is not the least evidence of such an origin, which was pushed, if not invented, by the monks of the Benedictine abbey, an alleged royal origin being much more convenient than a muddy one. There is no problem with the etymology of the suffix -ville and its German counterpart -dorf, meaning "a village". "Boso's estate" is the most probable etymology, whoever Boso was.

Bouzonville developed around a Benedictine abbey founded in the 11th century by Count of Metz Adalbert and his wife Judith (known as Judith of Luxembourg or Judith of Swabia). Judith watched the building of the abbey while her husband went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land to bring back relics and a piece of the True Cross, which were at the time a prerequisite for the success of a religious foundation. The True Cross abbey was consecrated on 31 January 1033 by Bishop of Metz Theodoric II of Luxembourg. Adalbert and Judith are the roots of the hereditary Dukes of Lorraine; the first of them was their grandson Gerard II the Great, Duke of Lorraine and Alsace (1048-1070), founder of the town of Nancy. In 1049, Pope Leo X, famous for his voyages, overnighted in the abbey on his way from Reims to Trier.
The monks were expelled from the abbey on 1 October 1791; most buildings were sold for different uses. Transformed into a barn, the abbey church was reopened in 1802 as the parish church.

Bouzonville was nearly suppressed during the Thirty Years' War, keeping only 20 houses at the end of the 17th century. It reemerged in the 18th century, with the building of a town hall in 1719, increased in 1763. In 1789, the village had 330 "fireplaces" (households), that is c. 1,650 inhabitants.
The village was industrialized all along the 19th century, with the building of taneries, mills, cloth factories and a foundry (today the TRW factory, manufacturing disk brakes).
Severely damaged during the Second World War - 139 houses were destroyed, the bridge on the Nied was suppressed and the abbey church was hit -, the town was liberated by the American troops on 27 November 1944.

A Jewish community settled in Bouzonville at the end of the 17th century; confirmed by Leopold's Decree in 1721, the community was formally registered in 1726. The community flourished in the 18th-19th centuries, with a sister community established in the neighbouring village of Vaudreching. Built in the 19th century, the synagogue was revamped in 1907 and destroyed by the Germans in 1940; a new synagogue, built on the same site, was inaugurated on 13 November 1960.
Before the Second World War, the community was made of 40-50 families, living from trade, especially cattle trade. In 1940, the whole population of Bouzonville was evacuated to Chauvigny (Poitou). In spring 1944, the French Milice raided the Jews in Chauvigny; fourteen families from Bouzonville escaped arrestation with the help of Mayor Jacques Toulat and the gendarmes Camille Thibault and Alain Bonneau - the three of them are honoured as Righteous among the Nations in the Yad Vachem Memorial.

Source: Municipal website

Ivan Sache, 6 March 2010

Flag of Bouzonville

The flag of Bouzonville, as observed on 15 August 2009 in front of the town hall, is horizontally divided yellow-red-yellow (3:4:3) with a white fox in the red stripe and a red cross in the upper yellow stripe.
The flag is a banner of the municipal arms, D'or à la fasce de gueules chargée d'un renard passant d'argent, accompagnée en chef d'une croisette de gueules ("Or on a fess gules a fox passant argent in chief a cross couped of the second").

As explained in the municipal website, the history and exact meaning of the arms, supposed to have appeared in the 18th century, are unknown. While the cross clearly recalls the True Cross abbey, the meaning of the fox is a matter of speculation. It might recall that foxes are common in the area, a local legend, or, most probably, the nickname Füchse ([tricky] foxes) given to the inhabitants of Bouzonville.
Oddly enough, the arms of the Dukes of Lorraine, founders of the settlement, are not shown on the arms - but their colours, yellow and red, are - maybe not intentionally.

Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 6 March 2010