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Turnhout (Municipality, Province of Antwerp, Belgium)

Last modified: 2019-01-12 by ivan sache
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Flag of Turnhout - Image by Ivan Sache, 8 December 2007

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Presentation of Turnhout

The municipality of Turnhout (39,863 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 5,606 ha; municipal website), located 40 km north-west of Antwerp, is the capital of the region of Kempen.

Turnhout was mentioned for the first time in 1187 a written document when Gerard of Duffel transferred the village, indeed today's Oud-Turnhout, to the Knight Templars. An engraved stone located near the castle states that the Duke of Brabant purchased the Margravate of Antwerp and the land usque Turnhoutervoort, "up to the ford of Turnhout", in 1106. The new St. Peter parish developed near the castle built by the Dukes of Brabant, at the crossroads of the trade roads to Antwerp and Rhineland, forming an embryonic town. Between 1209 and 1213, Duke Henri I gave municipal richts to the new town; thanks to the repeated visits by the Dukes and trade, the town grew up swiftly.

Due to its administrative, economic and military significance, New Turnhout superseded the Templars' Old Turnhout. The alliance treaty with the other Brabantian towns was signed in 1262, while a beguine convent was founded at the end of the 13th century. In 1356, Duchess Mary of Brabant set up the Country of Turnhout, encompassing Arendonk, Poppel, Weelde, Ravels, Merksplas, Beerse, Vosselaar, Vlimmeren, Wechelderzande, Lille, Gierle, Baarle-Hertog, and, later, Wilmarsdonk, Boom, Borgvliet, Stabroek and Rumst. Even after its reintegration to the Duchy of Brabant, the Country of Turnhout kept its administrative and financial autonomy. The Country of Turnhout was ruled, inter alia, by Mary of Hungary (1545-1558), the lords of Boussu (c.1580), Philip-William of Nassau (1612-1618), Amalia of Solms (1648-1675), Maria of Zimmeren (1676-1688), William III (1688-1702), the House of Brandenburg (1708-1753), the Duke of Sylva Tarouca (1753-1768, first Dukes of Turnhout) and the Counts of Pestre (from 1768 to the French Revolution).

At the end of the Middle Ages, Turnhout was a significant center of cloth and linen production. In the beginning of the 19th century, printing industry superseded the old textile tradition. The printing industry was founded by the printer Corbeels, one of the leaders of the Boerenkrijg uprising against the French rulers in 1798, and his apprentice Jacobus Brepols. In 1796, they brought a printing house from Leuven to give jobs to the unemployed textile workers. In the second half of the 19th century, the printers of Turnhout specialized in niches, such as church and school books, holy and popular pictures, wrapping papers, and, most important, playing cards. The Carta Mundi company is still the world leader and the only card producer in Benelux, which explains the nickname of "Cards' Town" given to Turnhout.

Strip Turnhout (website) is the oldest and biggest strip cartoon festival in Flanders, organized every two years.

Ivan Sache, 8 December 2007

Flag of Turnhout

The flag of Turnhout is verticaly divided light blue-white.
According to Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel [w2v02a], the flag, already in used before 1976 and adopted on 7 December 1987 by the Municipal Council, is prescribed by a Decree issued on 13 December 1988 by the Executive of Flanders and published on 4 January 1995 in the Belgian official gazette.
The colors of the flag are taken from the escutcheon shown on the municipal arms.

The arms of Turnhout, "Argent a deer salient proper on a terrace vert, hanging on the neck by a collar gules an escutcheon argent a pale and a border azure. The shield surmounted by a ducal coronet", were granted by (Dutch) Royal Decree in 1819 and confirmed by (Belgian) Royal Decree on 22 March 1838.
According to Van evers en heiligen. Wapens en vlaggen van de gemeenten in de provincie Antwerpen [pbd98], the oldest known municipal seal of Turnhout, dated 1259, shows a deer chased by a dog, the deer wearing a collar with the smaller arms of the Berthout family, lord of Turnhout from the 12th century to 1347. The deer and dog may recall that the Dukes of Brabant enjoyed hunting in the area. The dog was removed from the municipal seals in the 17th century.

Pascal Vagnat, Jan Mertens & Ivan Sache, 8 December 2007

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