The annual celebration of European Heritage Days is a great opportunity to discover and appreciate the collective European heritage. Over these days, the themes and dates, chosen by each of the 50 participating countries, allows thousands of known or unusual sites and historical monuments to open their doors, without charge, to visitors.

The European Heritage Days were created in 1991 by the Council of Europe, and have been organized, jointly, with the European Union since 1999. However, the origin of this important idea is French. The Ministry of culture had already started the Journées Portes Ouvertes des monuments historiques (Heritage open days) in 1983.
In France, the 28th event of Journées Européennes du Patrimoine was held on the weekend of September 17th and 18th 2011, under the slogan 'Le voyage du patrimoine' (The heritage journey).

As in 2009, with the celebration of the 600th anniversary of King René's birth, (see article >, also published in VARIABLE 14), the Association Philatélique du Pays d’Aix, asked Phil@poste to produce a new commemorative vignette d'affranchissement for the Journées Européennes du Patrimoine 2011.

The new ATM could be obtained on September 17th and 18th only, at the Hôtel Maynier d'Oppède, in Aix-en-Provence. In the entrance area to this eighteenth-century aristocratic building, the organizing group arranged some promotional panels and a table for the sale of some philatelic material.

The new issue depicts a magnificent watercolour by Jean-Marie Gassend, architect and archaeologist at the Institut d'Architecture Antique of the Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS), in Aix-en-Provence. The author was present during the event, signing autographs (below).
The original work, also reproduced on a postcard, was displayed in the Hôtel entrance.
The composition shows part of the architectural richness of Aix-en-Provence, with some of its main monuments. The final design is by Bruno Ghiringhelli.
The labels have identical characteristics to previous thermal issues and a total of 21,000 labels were produced with this design.

The original watercolour is reproduced on this maximum card and signed by the author. From left to right, the Fontaine des Quatre Dauphins (partially hidden behind the La Poste logo in the ATM issue), the church Saint-Jean-de-Malte, the Tour de l'Horloge or beffroi near the Hôtel de ville, the belfry of the old couvent des Augustins, the Saint-Sauveur Cathedral, the Archbishop's Palace and, in the background, the Sainte-Victoire mountain, a favourite theme in Cézanne's work.

In a hall inside the Hôtel Maynier d'Oppède, the La Poste local staff installed a small temporary post office where visitors could purchase postal and philatelic material related to the region, and get the 'Architectures' special postmark.
The post office was fitted with two IER - LISA 2 distributors, which used thermal printing. Because of a small fault that they failed to fix, both machines produced a slightly displaced and angled cutting, so that all ATMs issued during the 2 days have the cut very close to the label, sometimes even cutting part of the stamp. This cutting error resulted in the accumulation of adhesive gum on the guillotine, causing a progressive failure that ended with one of the two IER postal kiosks being out of order early on Sunday afternoon (see picture below ).

The two IER LISA 2 distributors were configured with the current tariff on the date of issue, that changed some of the text printed on the ATMs, as well as the font size and location, compared to the previous release. For example, text ECOPLI replaced the former LETTRE ECO in the ATMs for domestic economic mail. In addition, the face values ​​corresponds to the new postal rates from July 1st 2011. The minimum value programmed was 0.55 EUR, the current national rate of economic mail. The ATMs below show the minimum face values ​​for the first weight step for the most common text and shipment types.

Inland economic mail - ECOPLI Inland priority mail - LETTRE PRIORITAIRE
International priority mail
Inland priority mail - Small parcels
International priority mail - Small parcel
Registered domestic mail, first security level
R L1

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This page was created in September 2011
and last updated:  10.10.11 . English edition rewritten by S. Goodman (09.10.2011)