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1870. Panagis in Bordeaux

The wrestling school of Bernard Magnelle and the participation of the Greek athlete in the Franco-Prussian war.

“If you look for a meaning, you’ll miss everything that happens.”

Andrei Tarkovsky

    Coutaliano’s transition to France was very adventurous. At that time, France had the reputation of a country with many and very capable wrestlers, in other words, it was considered the center of wrestling. Coutalianos therefore wanted to go there to learn the secrets of the sport, acquiring the necessary technical knowledge that would transform him into a professional wrestler. Coutalianos, arriving at the city of Tarbes, which is near Bordeaux , became a member of the wrestling club of the famous wrestler Bernard Magnelle and during his stay there he fought and defeated the most famous French wrestlers. More comparatively, the house where Bernard lived was located in a town called Sarniguet which is near the city of Tarbes (note: The name of this city, in the Greek newspaper “Aristofanis” (see below), appears corrupted as Tarabo).
It is a large two-story building with spacious rooms, a courtyard, and an enclosed barn where Bernard’s students trained and fought. The door of this barn is decorated to this day by an elaborate representation of the mythical Hercules fighting and killing the Nemean Lion. This house fortunately still exists today and is located slightly renovated at: 1 rue du Levant in the village of Sarniguet. The wrestler Bernard, this legend of French sport, died in the house he kept in Bordeaux (address : 27 rue Rougier) January 20, 1893. Unfortunately this house in Bordeaux has been destroyed in the past and no longer exists

(source: In the search for these data, the help of the researcher Christian Gaildraud was invaluable, to whom we sincerely thank ).

The entrance to the beautiful village Sarniguet. The famous wrestler Bernard, who was Coutaliano’s coach, was stationed there.
In France, Bernard was considered the undisputed wrestling champion, which is why he was called the “King of Wrestlers”. In his birthplace, however, Sarniguet was known as “the Hercules of Sarniguet”. This was the reason why his house in several places was decorated with the motif of one of the 12 labors of the mythical Hercules and more specifically that of his fight with the Nemean lion. In the photo above, the specific pattern can be seen as a decorative element of the external gate.

The barn entrance door is elaborately decorated with a motif showing Hercules slaying the Nemean lion. The most famous wrestlers of that time passed through this door, among them Coutalianos.
“Aristophanes” June 10, 1884.

In an interview that Coutalianos gave to “Aristophanes” newspaper, he lists the names of the wrestlers he faced and defeated. Most of these names are well-known in the history of the sport, but it is also reported that Coutalianos defeated Bernard himself who was his teacher. Next we quote the list of names, written in French language and within parentheses those of which we were able to compare with French courses.

1) Ζαντιέν/ Z’adien (Etienne Garnier, dit le Rocher de la Loire) 2) Ποτιπικάρ/Poticart (Picard, l’ Agile Bordelais) 3) Ραμπασών/Rabasson (Rabasson du Midi ή dit le petit Paysan) 4) Άνγουστ (Auguste le Marin) 5) Μιλώμ Σανπικιέ (Milhomme, dit sans pitie)  6) Ραμπάρ Ντενίς/ Rempart Denis “The wall of Nicee” (το Ντουβάρι/duvar -in turkish language duvar=wall- της Νίσας/Nίκαιας ) 7) Ραλουρέ/Rallouret 8) Μαρσαντώ/Marchandeau 9) Αντωνέ/ Antonin, 10) Μιλού/ Milout 11) Μπιζού/ Bizout 12) Φαουέτ (Faouet) 13) Αιμίλιος Σπανιόλος (Emile Jentien dit l’ Espagnol) και  14) Μπερζέ μπεχλιβάνης-pehlivan /Berzais lutteur ( probably refers to Βeranger, but also to Bergez, dit l’ indomptable agenais)

Felix Bernard was a famous wrestler and the son of fellow wrestler Bernard Magnelle, who had a wrestling school in Bordeaux/ Tarbes. Coutalianos also studied there for a while and she had met Felix when he was a little boy, living in that infamous house.
In the newspaper bearing the title “La Gironde” (Νov 22, 1859) we read the following advertisement “Wrestling lessons (french and english style) are given in the house of prof. Bernard who is considered the king of wrestlers. Lessons are delivered every day and at any time, at 26 Fauche Street”.

Rabasson was one of the most skilled wrestlers in France at the time. His name is on the list of athletes defeated by Coutalianos.
Faouet (in the center of the photo) was one of the most famous and skilled wrestlers in France. His name is included in the list of those defeated by Coutalianos.

However, while he was in France, Coutalianos was a bit unlucky, because the Franco-Prussian war broke out. Coutalianos followed his fellow athletes to the front line when it ended he left France to go to England.


“Athina”, September 22, 1914
Engraving depicting a battle scene from the Franco-Prussian war.
In the Franco-Prussian war there were a lot of Greek volunteers, who fought on the side of the France. From the above publications which is a testimony of a Greek volunteer, we drew inspiration to enter deeper int the spirit of the time.
The Lyric Theater in Rio de Janeiro-Brazil, where Coutalianos performed before traveling to Bordeaux.
Indicative map of Coutalianos’ movements during the period 1869-1870
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