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Obernai (Municipality, Bas-Rhin, France)

Last modified: 2021-04-10 by ivan sache
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Municipal flag of Obernai, two versions - Images by Pascal Vagnat, 28 February 2010

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Presentation of Obernai

The municipality of Obernai (11,009 inhabitants in 2006; 2,578 ha; municipal website) is located 25 km south-west of Strasbourg.

Obernai was mentioned for the first time in 778 as the Merovingian villa (estate) of Ehenheim. The place was subsequently (1242) renamed Oberehenheim for distinction from Niederehenheim. These Upper- and Lower-Ehenheim were later latinized, as Obernai and Niedernai, respectively.
Once owned by the Dukes of Alsace and the monasteries of Hohenbourg (today, Mont-Saint-Odile) and Niedermunster, Obernai was granted a chart in 1240 by the Hohenstaufen emperors; the town was allowed to build fortifications (completed in 1298, with 30 towers and eight gates), to have its own administration and to manage markets and fairs.
In 1354, Obernai, together with the nine other Imperial towns of Alsace (Colmar, Haguenau, Kaysersberg, Mulhouse, Munster, Rosheim, Sélestat, Turckheim and Wissembourg) formed the Décapole (from Greek, deca, "ten", and polis, "town"); among the goals of the Décapole were to limit the power of the Imperial Provosts and of the local nobles. The 16th century was the Gilded Age of Obernai; several Renaissance buildings were erected in the town, for instance the Town Hall (1523 / 1610), the belfry (Kapellturm, the Chapel's Tower, originally part of a chapel dedicate to the Blessed Virgin, demolished in 1873) and the Six-Buckets Well (1579).
Looted during the Thirty Years' War, Obernai, together with the Décapole towns, was incorporated to France, together with the Décapole towns, in 1679.

Obernai is the alleged birth town of St. Odile (c. 660-720), the patron saint of Alsace. The legend of the saint is related in an anonymous text written in the 10th century. Born blind from Duke of Alsace Etichon (aka Adalric), Odile was expelled by her father and grew up in the monastery of Balme (today Baume-les-Dames, near Besançon). Healed by St. Erhard, Odile was brought back to Alsace by her brother Hugh. Etichon killed Hugh but subsequently reprented of his faults. He offerred the castle of Hohenburg to Odile, who set up there the monastery of Mont-Saint-Odile, today the holy mountain of Alsace.

The Kronenbourg brewery, founded in Strasbourg in 1664 by Jérôme Hatt and subsequently renamed for the borough of Cronenbourg, set up its main factory in Obernai some 30 years ago. Every year, the factory brews 6 million hectoliters of beer, that is 2/3 of the total production of the company.
The Agricultural College of Obernai has a 19-ha plot dedicated to the cultivation of hop, a crop that has nearly disappeared from France.

Ivan Sache, 28 February 2010

Flag of Obernai

The flag of Obernai, as communicated in May 2002 by the municipal administration, is vertically divided red-black with a yellow double-headed eagle placed in the middle of the flag.
A vertical flag of the same design was seen in October 2006 hoisted on the town hall.

The flag is a banner of the municipal arms, "Per pale gules and sable superimposed by an eagle or").
The ancient arms of Obernai are "Or an eagle sable", as shown on the Décapole stained glass window, kept in the Colmar Museum. In the 15th century, Obernai adopted the red and black colours; the golden eagle was added to the coat of arms in the 16th century. The modern coat of arms of Obernai is shown in the Armorial Général.

Ivan Sache, Pascal Vagnat & Stefan Schwoon, 28 February 2010