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Berchem (District, Municipality of Antwerp, Belgium)

Last modified: 2012-08-01 by ivan sache
Keywords: antwerp | berchem | berthout |
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[Flag of Berchem]

Flag of the Berchem district - Image by Jarig Bakker, 23 October 2002

See also:

Presentation of the Berchem district

The Berchem district (40,062 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 579 ha) was formed in 1983 when the former municipality of Berchem was merged into the municipality of Antwerp.

Berchem is the highest part of the surroundings of Antwerp, and the Hogeweg (High Way) was once known as Op ten Berch (On the mount); the name of Berchem therefore comes from Bergheem, meaning in Frankish "a settlement place on a mount". The exact origin of the village is not known, although the local legend says that St. Willibrordus, Bishop of Utrecht, founded there a chapel in the early 7th century. Anyway, the location of Berchem, some 12 meter above the plain often flooded by the Scheldt, attracted an early community that lived from hunting, fishing and agriculture.
In the 13th century, the powerful lords Berthout became lords of Berchem. The first lord "van Berchem" was Wouter Berthout van Ranst (1249). In 1450, Berchem had hardly 40 houses; however, the development of traffic with Mechelen caused the increase of the village.

Source: District website

Ivan Sache, 3 October 2008

Flag of the Berchem district

The symbols of Berchem, adopted by the District Council on 31 March 2011, were eventually approved on 15 March 2012 by the Executive of Flanders and published on 6 April 2012 in the Belgian official gazette, No. 118 (document).

The flag is described as "Seven, equal vertical stripes, in turn white and red" (that is, white with three vertical red stripes).
The coat of arms, indeed the historical coat of arms of Berchem, is described as "Argent three pallets gules. The shield surmounted with a helmet argent visored and plumed argent and gules. Supporter: A Saracen issuing from sinister clad with a cloak argent three pallets gules and an Albanian cap of the same."

The flag is rectangular, strictly similar to the flag of the former municipality of Berchem.

Rejected flag proposal

[Flag of Berchem]

Rejected flag proposal - Image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 15 February 2011

The flag proposal shown in the 5-6 February 2011 edition of the Antwerp popular daily Gazet van Antwerpen, is swallow-tailed, white with three vertical stripes.
Although the flag proposed by the District Council did not encounter any objection, the Flemish Heraldic Council did oppose Berchem's idea of a coat of arms - simply, to keep the old one without any changes.

Jan Mertens, 15 February 2011

Former municipality of Berchem

The flag of the former municipality of Berchem, still hoisted on the town hall of Antwerp (photo), is white with three vertical red stripes.
The flag was adopted by the Municipal Council on 24 February 1981 and approved by Royal Decree on 26 February 1982. The Flemish Decree promulgating various municipal coats of arms and flags, including the flag of Berchem, was published on 4 January 1995, 12 years after the demise of the municipality of Berchem.

The flag is a banner of the municipal arms, "Argent three pales gules". As shown by Servais [svm55], the arms, granted by (Dutch) Royal Decree on 20 February 1816 and confirmed by (Belgian) Royal Decree on 6 May 1839, are derived from the arms of Berthout, which are the source of the coat of arms and flags of several Belgian municipalities.

Servais [svm55] explains the mythical origin of the arms of Berthout as follows:
In the 12th century, a lord Berthout helped the King of Aragon in his struggle against the Moors. He fought there three times; the first time, he was rewarded with an estate and the title of provincial governor, the second time he was rewarded with the King's daughter, but refused both and went back to Flanders. The third time, the King asked Berthout what he would like as a reward. Berthout asked for the right to bear the arms of Aragon and was granted them with three pales instead of four, celebrating his three victories over the Moors.

The Gelre Armorial shows several Berthout coat of arms:
- Berthout, "Die He. (the Lord) van Mechelen", 809, folio 72v: "Or three pales gules";
- Henri VII Berthout, "Die He. van Duffel", 833, folio 73v: "Or three pales gules (Berthout) a franc canton ermine";
- Jean de Berlaer (Berthout), "Die He. van Helmunt" (Helmont), 838, folio 73v: "Argent three pales gules (Berlaer)",
- Guillaume Berthout de Duffel, "H. Willem v. Duffel", 893, folio 75v; "Or three pales gules a franc canton ermine a crescent sable".

Ivan Sache & Jan Mertens, 3 October 2008

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