"Sigillum com si emiliani", what does it mean?

The seal of the Jurade de Saint-Emilion is a testimony of history.

If you have been to Saint-Emilion, you probably saw this seal. With its Latin script and coats of arms, the seal of the Jurade de Saint-Emilion is a testimony of history. If the Jurade de Saint-Emilion was recreated in 1948, based on the historical Jurade. We tell you this story that goes back to Eleanor of Aquitaine.

The seal of the Jurade de Saint-Emilion

"Sigillum com si emiliani" is what can be read on the seal of the Jurade de Saint-Emilion. Created in the Middle Ages, this inscription is in Latin, like all the official documents of the time. But what does it mean? To decipher it, one must first know that the texts of the Old Regime are full of abbreviations. It is more practical to abbreviate when one writes everything by hand! If some abbreviations are specific to the one who writes the text, others are known to all. On a seal, the abbreviation is simply a way to save space.

If one elaborates "sigillum com si emiliani" one obtains "sigillum comunitatis sancti emiliani". This means: "the seal of the commune of Saint-Emilion". In the Middle Ages, the word "commune" has indeed a very different meaning from the one we know today. This means that the bourgeois of Saint-Emilion have the right to take the oath. In a society guided by allegiances, this is a very important right.

The commune of Saint-Emilion

To understand where this "commune" comes from, we must revisit the history a little bit.

In 1154, the Duchy of Aquitaine came under English rule, when Henri Plantagenêt, husband of Eleanor of Aquitaine, became king of England. On the death of their son Richard the Lionheart in 1199, Eleanor of Aquitaine wants to put his other son, Jean Sans Terre, on the English throne.

But her nephew Arthur of Brittany, supported by the King of France, could also claim it. To outpace Arthur, Eleanor and Jean Sans Terre wanted to ensure their loyalty. This entailed giving out gifts. From Normandy, Jean Sans Terre informed the bourgeois of Saint-Emilion that he gave them the right to constitute a commune. It is the famous 1199 charter of Falaise. This commune is a first in the Bordeaux region and allowed the birth of the Jurade de Saint-Emilion. The seal of the Jurade de Saint-Emilion recollects this English origin. To the right of the seal, one can see the coat of arms with the 3 leopards, that of Richard the Lionheart.


Dernière mise à jour le : 08/03/2017