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La Teste-de-Buch (Municipality, Gironde, France)

Last modified: 2024-04-06 by olivier touzeau
Keywords: gironde | teste-de-buch (la) |
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Flags of La Teste-de-Buch - right, with the 2017-2021 territorial brand of Bassin d'Arcachon - Images by Olivier Touzeau, 12 April 2022

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Presentation of La Teste-de-Buch

La Teste-de-Buch (26,556 inhabitants in 2021; 18,020 ha) is a commune in the Gironde department. It is one of the largest municipalities in France in terms of area. It has three urban sectors separated by a huge national forest: La Teste-Centre, by far the most populated, Cazaux and Pyla-sur-Mer.

Attested traces of settlement in the region date from the 8th century BC. AD when the Boïates, an Aquitaine people, settled around the bay of Arcachon. The small ramifications leading into the bay of Arcachon were the seat of small ports. The most important port was Boïos, the main center of the Boïates tribe, probably located at the mouth of the Leyre in a place close to the current town of Biganos. The Boïates practiced fishing, hunting, breeding, cultivated the land and probably already the vine. By exploiting the resources of the forest, they perfected the first resin extraction techniques and developed the manufacture of pitch, used for the interior and exterior sealing (caulking) of boat hulls, obtained by baking resin in ovens made of earth. An important place, Boïos was the seat of a bishopric from the 3rd century. Around the 5th century, the Vandals destroyed half of the heavily wooded country by fire. Forced to flee in front of the dunes that the fire had made mobile, the Boïates founded a new town at the foot of the dunes which was later called "Cap-de-Buch". The destruction by fire of the reconstituted forests made the dunes once again mobile, threatening the group of dwellings of Cap-de-Buch. They rebuilt their village again further east at the place where La Teste-de-Buch is today.
The title of “Captal de Buch”, employed from the Middle Ages until the Revolution, designates the most important of the lords of the Pays de Buch.
On May 20, 1274, via his tutor Almavinus de Baresio, Pierre Amanieu de Bordeaux acknowledged that he held as a fief all that the King of England owned in the Pays de Buch and for which he was "fealty and knight of the king". On June 12, 1288, Pierre Amanieu was officially recognized as first “Captal” of Buch (Miles Capitalis de Bogio). Until the end of English domination in Aquitaine sealed by the Battle of Castillon, his successors remained faithful servants of the English crown.

From the 18th century, serious attacks were made on the scourge which had always threatened the entire Landes coast: the movement of mobile sand dunes inland. The first artisans of the fixing of the dunes were the Captaux de Buch of the Ruat family. Legend has it that it was J.B de Ruat in 1713, who undertook the fixing of the dunes by planting pines. In reality, his approach aims less at stemming the march of the dunes than at making the moorland profitable. Responsible for creating a navigable canal from the Bassin to the Adour, Nicolas Brémontier seeks to improve the works of Captal in order to develop them. In 1786, he obtained sufficient credits and all of Gascony in the Landes would be upset by these transformations.
The second half of the 19th century, with the arrival of the railway and the improvement of the road network, caused an increase in existing activities: it was thus possible to better convey to the sites of the coal mines in the north or east of France, the posts made from the trunks of young pines to serve as timbering for mine galleries; the delivery of products from the tapping of pines such as rosin or turpentine, obtained after distillation of the resin, also benefits from improvements in transport conditions.
The beginning of oyster farming dates back to 1849. Until then, it was wild oysters that were collected, consumed on the spot, sometimes shipped to Bordeaux or elsewhere. In 1857, levied on the territory of the commune of La Teste, Arcachon is by imperial decree of Napoleon III, erected as an independent commune.
From the 1950s, the city experienced a real demographic explosion and saw its traditional activities change. In the residential districts of Pyla-sur-Mer as in the more ordinary ones that are being built on the side of Cazaux and La Teste, real estate is developing, the industrial zones are expanding. However, seaside tourism remains one of the flagship activities, recognized well beyond the regional limits. In 1976, Cap-Ferret, hitherto part of the commune, was, for administrative reasons, attached to the commune of Lège, thus giving birth to Lège-Cap-Ferret.

Located at the southern entrance to the Arcachon basin, the Dune of Pilat stretches 616 m from west to east and 2.9 km from north to south and contains approximately 55 million cubic meters of sand, in the locality of Pyla-sur-Mer which depends administratively on the municipality of La Teste-de-Buch. It is the highest dune in Europe (height in 2020: 102.5 m).

Olivier Touzeau, 12 April 2022

Flag of La Teste-de-Buch

The flag of La Teste-de-Buch is a vertical banner of its logo, showing the Dune of Pilat.

The current version has the Arcachon Bay 2017-21 territorial brand (B’A) in the upper fly: photo, 2019; photo, 2021.
The same flag was flown without the territorial brand before 2017 : photo, 2008.

Olivier Touzeau, 12 April 2022