Saint-Maur-des-Fossés is a Francilienne commune of the Val-de-Marne, located 11.7 km. (7.3 miles) from the center of Paris, France.

The abbey

Saint-Maur-des-Fossés owes its name to an abbey founded in 638 by Queen Nanthild, regent for her son Clovis II, at a place called Fossati in Medieval Latin, Les Fossés in modern French, meaning "the moats". This place, located at the narrow entrance of a loop where the Marne River made its way round a rocky outcrop, was probably named after the moats of an ancient Celtic oppidum and later a Roman castrum; the site was known in medieval documents as Castrum Bagaudarum, at a time when the marauding Bagaudae had developed a legendary reputation as defenders of Christians again Roman persecution. Massive foundations, sited so far from a Roman frontier, were attributed by C. Jullian to a temple or a villa instead. In Merovingian times, Gallo-Roman villas in the royal fisc were repeatedly donated as sites for monasteries under royal patronage.

The abbey, dedicated to Saint Peter, Saint Paul and the Virgin Mary, was called Sanctus Petrus Fossatensis in Medieval Latin (Saint Pierre des Fossés in French), meaning "Saint Peter of the Moats". In 868, King Charles the Bald invited the monks of the Abbey of Saint-Maur de Glanfeuil (in Le Thoureil, Maine-et-Loire, western France), who had fled their abbey due to Viking invasion, to relocate to Saint Pierre des Fossés with their precious relics of Saint Maurus.

Later in the Middle Ages, the relics of Saint Maurus became very famous as they were supposed to heal gout and epilepsy, and Saint Pierre des Fossés became one of the most famous pilgrimage centers of medieval France. The rededication to Saint Maurus, in which abbey was renamed Saint-Maur-des-Fossés ("Saint Maurus of the Moats"), was justified by the story that during a drought in 1137, prayers to the Virgin and Saints Peter and Paul having been ineffective, prayer to Saint Maur brought the needed rainfall.

The Château de Saint-Maur

The abbey was secularised in 1535, and in 1541, for Cardinal Jean du Bellay, bishop of Paris, the architect Philibert Delorme designed a château on the site, on four ranges of building around a square central court. Catherine de' Medici was a frequent visitor, preferring it to the château de Vincennes; in 1563 she acquired this "château du Bellay", and substantially rebuilt it. On September 23, 1568, her teenage son, King Charles IX, issued the Edict of Saint-Maur, which prohibited all religions but Catholicism. It prompted fierce religious intolerance in Paris and eventually led to the 1572, St. Bartholomew's Day massacre. Building projects at the site were only interrupted by Catherine's death (1589); the château was sold to the Condé family and was eventually completed , with extensive parterres at the end of the seventeenth century.

The Château de Saint-Maur, still in the possession of the Condé, was nationalised during the French Revolution, emptied of its contents, and its terrains divided up among real-estate speculators. The structure was demolished for the value of its materials; virtually nothing remains..

The village

The little settlement that grew around the abbey, known as Saint-Maur-des-Fossés, developed a market during the thirteenth century. The present territory also includes a formerly distinct village, La Varenne-Saint-Hilaire, against the perimeter of the nearby game preserve of Saint-Hilaire, part of the abbey's domaines.

In 1791, part of the territory of Saint-Maur-des-Fossés was detached and became the commune of La Branche-du-Pont-de-Saint-Maur, later renamed Joinville-le-Pont.

After the abbey itself was abandoned, its church providing building materials in the town. During the French Revolution, Saint-Maur-des-Fossés was temporarily renamed Vivant-sur-Marne (meaning "Lively upon Marne") in a gesture of rejection of religion.

After the Revolution, the official name of the commune was simply Saint-Maur; it is only in 1897 that "des-Fossés" was re-added to the name, probably to conform to the historical name and also to distinguish Saint-Maur-des-Fossés from other communes of France also called Saint-Maur. In 1924, a few vestiges of the abbey were collected in the newly-established Musée du vieux Saint-Maur.

Famous residents

Among the writers who lived in Saint-Maur are: François Rabelais, La Rochefoucauld, Boileau, Madame de Sévigné, Madame de La Fayette, Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, père and ‘Quo Vadis’ author Henryk Sienkiewicz.

The first president of Senegal after independence, Léopold Sédar Senghor, taught at Saint-Maur’s lycée Marcellin Berthelot and the first lady of Tunisia, Moufida Bourguiba, was born here in 1890.

Crooner Charles Trenet, whose ‘La Mer’ has been recorded 400 times (notably as ‘Beyond The Sea’ by Bobby Darin), was a longtime resident: the bronze hat at the foot of the lovers' statue on the Quai Winston Churchill is dedicated to him. Other French stars who have lived in Saint-Maur include Vanessa Paradis, Françoise Hardy, Raymond Devos, Michel Jonasz, Jean-Pierre Danel, Eddy Mitchell, Khaled, Natalie Dessay, and Marthe Mercadier.

However, it is Jacques Tati for whom Saint-Mauriens hold the strongest affection. The quirky moviemaker filmed much of his 1958 "My Uncle" ("Mon Oncle"), in Saint-Maur, using many of the locals as extras. It went on to win the best foreign language film Oscar. In Place de la Pelouse stands a bronze statue of Tati as Monsieur Hulot talking to a boy, in a pose echoing the movie’s poster.


Saint-Maur-des-Fossés is almost entirely surrounded by a loop of the Marne River.




Saint-Maur-des-Fossés is served by four stations on Paris RER line A: Saint-Maur – Créteil, Le Parc de Saint-Maur, Champigny, and La Varenne – Chennevières.


External links

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