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Leuven (Municipality, Province of Flemish Brabant, Belgium)


Last modified: 2012-10-13 by ivan sache
Keywords: leuven | louvain | lothier | heverlee | kessel-lo | wilsele | cross (red) |
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[Flag of Leuven]

Municipal flag of Leuven - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 15 June 2008

See also:

Presentation of Leuven

The municipality of Leuven (in French, Louvain; 91,942 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 5,663 ha) is the capital of the Province of Flemish Brabant. The municipality of Leuven is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Leuven, Heverlee, Kessel-Lo and Wilsele, together with minor parts of the former municipalities of Blanden, Haasrode, Herent and Korbeek-Lo.

In the Roman times, several villae were built in what is today the town of Leuven and its surroundings, in the place where a secondary Roman way linking Bavay to Tongeren via Sint-Truiden crossed the river Dijle. After the Germanic invasions, the region was evangelized and a primitive church was probably built in Leuven in the 8th century.
However, the first written mention of Leuven dates back to 884, as the fort of Lovianum, followed in 891 by the mention of Lovion. These names literally mean "the marsh in the forest" (lo - ven), which correctly describes the place at that time, covered with forests except the marshy valley of the Dijle.

At the end of the 9th century, Leuven was the place of a huge Northmen camp, used as a base for their raids to the neighbouring countries, especially France. While King of France Charles the Fat negotiated the return of the Northmen to Leuven after paiement of a huge ransom, King of Germany Arnulf of Carinthia decided to get rid of the invaders by force. After a first skirmish, Arnulf marched against Leuven with a big army and defeated the Northmen on 1 September 891. Most sources claim that 100,000 Northmen, that is nearly all of them, were slaughtered. Several historians have considered this claim as an exaggeration, probably a misreading of "hundreds and thousands" as "hundred thousand", saying that 100,000 Northmen could not have stayed in the then quite small colony of Leuven. A few sources say that the Northmen came back to Leuven in summer 892 but eventually emigrated to England and Normandy because of starvation and infectious diseases.

Near the end of the 10th century, the County of Leuven emerged when granted by the German Emperor to Lambert I the Bearded. Originally limited by the rivers Demer, Dijle and Velp, that is more or less the region known today as Hageland, the County of Leuven rapidly increased in size and power. After his marriage with Gerberge, the daughter of the Duke of Lower-Lotharingia (aka Lothier), Lambert incorporated the County of Brussels; in 1013, he annexed the Duchy of Bruningrode, located around Tongeren. In 1106, Count of Leuven Godefrey I the Bearded was granted by German Emperor Henry V the Duchy of Lower-Lotharingia, took the title of Duke of Brabant and took over the Marquisate of Antwerp.
The town of Leuven had then only 2,000 inhabitants, but the Dukes of Brabant attracted several religious orders. The town was surrounded by a big city wall, known as "Godefrey III's Wall" in 1151-1161. The capital of the Duchy of Brabant was moved to Brussels in 1267 but Leuven remained the cultural and economical capital of the Duchy; thanks to the cloth trade with England, Leuven grew up to 20,000 inhabitants in 1340, attracting even more monasteries and two beguine convents. The cultural significance of Leuven was confirmed in 1425 with the foundation of the University of Leuven.

The incorporation of Leuven to the Duchy of Burgundy in 1430 boosted the industrial development of the town; the most significant buildings in Late Brabantian Gothic style - the town hall, the Round Table and the new St. Peter church - date from this wealthy period. Dirk Bouts (c. 1425-1475) was appointed official painter of the town in 1468.
Like several other places in the Low Countries, Leuven experienced hard times during the Habsburg rule; the civil unrest between the Catholic and Protestant parties and the black plague decreased the population of the town down to 9,700 in 1600. The unrest was followed by a period of reconstruction and development of agriculture. Under the Austrian rule, Governor Charles of Lorraine built the Canal of Leuven (1750-1763), a river port and a business park.
In the 19th century, the industrial revolution transformed Leuven into the "Beer's Town", with several breweries fiercely competing with each other. The oldest known brewery in Leuven is Den Horen, listed in 1366 on the accounting books of the Duchy of Brabant; in 1537, Den Horen was the biggest industry in the town. The brewer Sébastien Artois purchased the brewery in 1717. In 1926, Artois launched the Christmas beer "Stella" (in Latin, "star"), which was so successful that the name of the brewery was changed to Stella Artois. Stella Artois merged with Piedbœuf to form Interbrew, which merged again in 2004 with the Brasilian brewery AmBev to form InBev. InBev owns several beer brands, such as "Stella Artois", "Leffe", "Carling", "Diekirch", "Hoegaarden", "Jupiler", "Kirin", "Labatt" and "Mousel". According to its official website, InBev now "proposes" to "combine" with its main competitor, Anheuser-Busch.

The inhabitants of Leuven are nicknamed Pietermannen (Dutch) / Pierrots (French) after the oldest parish of the town dedicated to St. Peter, and koeienschieters (Dutch) / tireurs de vaches (French), lit. "cow shooters", after the defenders of the town nightly mistook cows for French soldiers during the 1691 siege.

Leuven is the birth town of Baron Charles-Jean de la Vallée Poussin (1866-1962), a mathematician who demonstrated the Prime number theorem in 1896; Jacques Hadamard (1865-1963) provided an independent proof of the theorem the very same year. In brief, the Prime number theorem says that if you randomly select a number nearby some large number N, the chance of it being prime is about 1 / ln(N). Given π (x) the number of primes lesser or equal to x, π (x) ~ x / ln (x).


Ivan Sache & Jan Mertens, 15 June 2008

Municipal flag of Leuven

The flag of Leuven is horizontally divided red-white-red.
According to Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel [w2v02], the flag was adopted by the Municipal Council on 2 October 1978, confirmed by Royal Decree on 2 April 1979 and published in the Belgian official gazette on 16 June 1979. The process was repeated more than ten years later, the flag being adopted by the Municipal Council on 18 November 1996, confirmed by the Executive of Flanders on 7 January 1997 and published in the Belgian official gazette on 25 March 1997.

The flag is a banner of the traditional arms of Leuven, "Gules a fess argent". The local legend says that these arms recall the river Dijle flowing between torrents of blood after the defeat of the Northmen in 891. However, the arms appeared much later; in the 12th century, Count Godfrey of Leuven became Duke of Lower Lorraine / Lothier and granted his personal arms to the town of Leuven. The Gelre Armorial shows these arms for Lothier ("Lotricke", #806, folio 72v).
The flag appears on a colour plate showing "historical" Belgian flags as the "flag of Lotharingia", used in the 9th-12th centuries, but there is no historical evidence that such a flag ever existed during the given period (not even as arms, see above).
The very same flag, with the very same Lothier origin, is used as its municipal flag by Bouillon, while the Leuven arms appear as an escutcheon on the flag of the Province of Flemish Brabant.

The Heraldry of the World website gives a detailed account of the evolution of the arms of Leuven. The oldest use on the arms of Lothier on a municipal seal dates back to 1621, the shield being flanked by two towers. A crown was added above the shield in the 17th century, experiencing several subsequent variations.
Formally adopted by the Municipal Council in 1810 (under the French rule), the traditional arms were superseded on 25 February 1813 by new arms designed according to the Napoleonic system: a canton azure charged with a letter "N" or surmounted by a mullet of the same, symbolizing the towns of second rank, was added to the fessy arms.

The arms were reverted to the traditional design after the fall of the French Empire, but no official request to use these arms was made until 1845. On 29 April 1845, Leuven was granted arms by Royal Decree, which added to the traditional arms a helmet and a crest made of a white lion holding a shield of the arms of Brabant ("Sable a lion or armed and langued gules"), recalling that the Dukes of Brabant descended from the Counts of Leuven.
In 1924, the French Army registered Leuven on the list of the Martyres Towns of the First World War, which allowed the town to add the French War Cross to its arms. The updated arms were granted by Royal Decree on 2 March 1926. As usual, the Decree was bilingual, but there was a mistake in the Dutch version, describing the escutcheon as "Argent a lion or..."; however, the drawings of the arms, made after the French description, were correct (Blason de gueules à la fasce d'argent. L'écu sommé d'un heaume d'argent taré de front couronné, grillé, colleté et liseré d'or doublé et attaché de gueules, aux lambrequins de gueules et d'argent. Cimier : un lion d'argent accroupi, tenant un écusson aux armes de Brabant qui sont de sable au lion d'or, armé et lampassé de gueules. L'écu orné extérieurement du bijou de la croix de guerre française, muni de son ruban et mouvant de la pointe de l'écu).

As decided by the Municipal Council on 2 October 1978 and confirmed by Royal Decree on 2 april 1979, the arms were modified again to reflect the municipal reform, and three towers argent were added (2 + 1) to the fesses gules. The towers were removed in 1997, reverting the design to the traditional arms of Leuven and Lothier. The municipal website (page no longer online) describes the arms as In keel een dwarsbalk van zilver. Het schild getopt met een aanziende helm van zilver, getralied, gehalsband, omboord en gekroond met een stedekroon met vier torens van goud, gevoerd en gehecht van keel, met dekkleden van zilver en van keel. Helmteken: een zittende leeuw van zilver, houdend een schild van sabel, beladen met een leeuw van goud, geklauwd en getongd van keel. Het schild getooid met een Frans oorlogskruis met palm, het lint uitgaande van de schildvoe.

Pascal Vagnat, Jan Mertens & Ivan Sache, 15 June 2008

Summer flag display in Leuven

As explained in ROBnet, 2 July 2010, 130 colour flags shall be displayed in the streets of the town of Leuven this summer, from the beginning of July to the end of September.
Every flag is a banner of the arms of a famous family, of a guild or of an institution of the past centuries.
The flags are to be seen on the Great and Old Market, Mechelen Street, Mint Street and some University Colleges.

Ivan Sache, 23 July 2010

Former municipality of Heverlee

[Flag of Heverlee]

Flag of Heverlee - Image by Ivan Sache, 16 June 2008

The former municipality of Heverlee (21,721 inhabitants on 31 December 2007), located in the south of the town of Leuven, was incorporated into the municipality of Leuven in 1976.
The castle of Arenberg, built in Heverlee in 1515 on the ruins of a medieval fortress by Antoon de Croÿ and later transferred to the Duke of Arenberg, is owned today by the Catholic University of Leuven (Faculty of Exact Sciences and Faculty of Engineering).
The Heverlee War Cemetary, inaugurated in July 1946, contains 977 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War, 37 of them unidentified, 29 First World War burials and the graves of one American and 11 Polish airmen.

The flag of Heverlee is yellow with a red saltire. This flag is displayed inside the town hall of Leuven, together with the flags of Leuven, Kessel-Lo and Wilsele, representing therefore the four components of the municipality of Leuven.
The flag is a banner of the village arms of Heverlee. These arms were also used by the former municipality of Vaalbeek, incorporated into the municipality of Oud-Heverlee in 1976. The municipal arms and flag of Oud-Heverlee are charged with the Heverlee saltire, representing Vaalbeek, while the saltire appears on the municipal arms and unofficial flag of the neieghbouring town of Bertem, recalling that the lords of Heverlee were once lords of Bertem.

Jan Mertens & Ivan Sache, 16 June 2008

Former municipality of Kessel-Lo

[Flag of Kessel-Lo]

Flag of Kessel-Lo - Image by Ivan Sache, 16 June 2008

The former municipality of Kessel-Lo (27,755 inhabitants on 31 December 2007), located east of the town of Leuven, was incorporated into the municipality of Leuven in 1976, in spite of the opposition of a local group called KLVG (Kessel-Lo Voor Gemeente, Kessel-Lo for municipality).
The municipality of Kessel-Lo was formed in 1827 by the merging of the two villages of Kessel (from Latin castellum, "a castle"), then part of the municipality of Linden (incorporated into the municipality of Lubbeek in 1976) and of Lo (from Germanic lo, "a wood"), then part of the municipality of Pellenberg (incorporated into Lubbeek in 1976, too). In 1125, Duke of Lothier Godefrey the Bearded transferred his domain of Vlierbeek to the abbey of Affligem, which built a Benedictine monastery, upgraded in 1163 to an abbey, which was closed by the French rulers in 1797. The former abbey church became the parish church of Kessel-Lo in 1829.
Kessel-Lo was once a busy industrial place because the "central workshop" of the railway station of Leuven was located in the village. Except the protected historical hall, the former grounds of the central workshop should be transformed into a housing estate.

Source: Wikipedia

The flag of Kessel-Lo is horizontally divided blue-yellow. This flag is displayed inside the town hall of Leuven, together with the flags of Leuven, Heverlee and Wilsele, representing therefore the four components of the municipality of Leuven.
The flag of Kessel-Lo was undoubtedly derived from the village arms, which were granted by Royal Decree on 7 September 1928. The arms represent on a field or the Blessed Virgin azure with Baby Jesus, with a sun in the upper left corner and a moon crescent pointing upwards in the upper right corner, both azure. These arms belonged to the abbey of Vlierbeek, founded in 1125, to which the two villages of Kessel and Lo once belonged.

Jan Mertens & Ivan Sache, 16 June 2008

Former municipality of Wilsele

[Flag of Wilsele]

Flag of Wilsele - Image by Ivan Sache, 16 June 2008

The former municipality of Wilsele (9,454 inhabitants on 31 December 2007; 886 ha), located east of the town of Leuven, was incorporated into the municipality of Leuven in 1976.
The presbytery of Wilsele is the cradle of the Davidsfonds, founded there on 15 January 1875 by a group of professors and students from the Catholic University of Leuven. A Catholic organization aiming at the promotion of the Flemish culture (literature, history and art), as expressed by the motto Voor Godsdienst, taal en volk (For religion, language and people), the Davidsfonds was one of the three pillars of the promotion of the Flemish identity, together with the Vermeylenfonds (Socialist) and the Willemsfond (Liberal). Today based in Leuven, the Davidsfonds has some 55,000 members. The organization is named after Canon Jean-Baptiste David (1801-1866), professor at the Catholic University of Leuven and president of the first and second linguistic congresses (Taelcongress), during which unification of the Dutch language between Flanders and the Netherlands was achieved. David edited the first united Dutch dictionary, published in 1864.

The flag of Wilsele is vertically divided red-yellow. This flag is displayed inside the town hall of Leuven, together with the flags of Leuven, Heverlee and Kessel-Lo, representing therefore the four components of the municipality of Leuven.
The flag of Wilsele was undoubtedly derived from the municipal arms, granted by Royal Decree on 3 January 1951, as Twee naast elkaar geplaatste schilden, het eerste schild is dat van de familie Van der Noot en het tweede van de familie Van Hamme. Het geheel wordt geflankeerd door twee geluide leeuwen van goud als schildhouders. De twee naast elkaar geplaatste schilden worden geplaatst onder een met drie fleurons getopte baronnenkroon, gescheiden door een groep van drie parels (1 op 2) ("Two shields placed side by side, the first of the Van der Noot family and the second of the Van Hamme family. The whole supported by two lions or. The two shields crowned by a Baron cap [...]".
The arms of Van der Noot are "Quarterly, 1. and 4. Or five scallops gules 1 + 3 + 1, 2. and 3. Gules a semy of fleurs-de-lis or". The most famous member of this family was the lawyer Hendrik Van der Noot (1731-1827), who published on 24 October 1789 in Hoogstraten the Manifeste des Brabançons, that proclaimed the deposition of "Emperor Josef II, Duke of Lothier, Brabant and Limburg".
The arms of Van Hamme are "Quarterly, 1. and 4. Or a fess azure a saltire gules overall, 2. and 3. Argent five rhombs gules per bend". The first and fourth quarters of the Van Hamme arms are the arms of the lords of Grimbergen.

Jan Mertens & Ivan Sache, 16 June 2008

Mannen van het jaar fraternity

Quoting the Verbond der Jaartallen webpage:

Mannen van het jaar - the Men of the Year - is a unique friends' association that can only be found in Leuven. Nothing like it exists anywhere else in Europe... probably even in the whole world. The Men of the Year, also known by their Flemish nickname of jaartallen - "of the same year" form a circle of friends solely on a basis of a shared year of birth. While they are between the ages of 40 and 50, the members organise an array of activities in Leuven and its environs, culminating in a splendid celebration when a colleague finally reaches the big "five-oh". Upon reaching this milestone, they become Abrahams, which gives them the right to slow down their hectic lifestyles. Among other things, their active life among the Jaartallen then comes to a gentle end.
The clubs of the jaartallen are exclusively a male domain - but this doesn't mean that members of the fairer sex aren't welcome to take part in activities.
Each Jaartal has its own emblem, flag, costume and frame, which are displayed in the Raadskelders of Leuven Town Hall.

Ivan Sache, 11 June 2005

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