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Zoutleeuw (Municipality, Province of Flemish Brabant, Belgium)


Last modified: 2011-07-16 by ivan sache
Keywords: zoutleeuw | leau |
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[Flag of Zoutleeuw]

Municipal flag of Zoutleeuw - Image by Filip van Laenen, 3 November 2001

See also:

Presentation of Zoutleeuw

The municipality of Zoutleeuw (in French, Léau; 7,983 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 4,673 ha) is located in the region of Hageland, in eastern Brabant. The municipality of Zoutleeuw is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Zoutleeuw (including Helen-Bos since 1971), Budingen and Halle-Booienhoven (including Dormaal since 1971).

Until the 16th century, Zoutleeuw was simply known as Leeuw, a short form still reflected by the French name of the town, Léau, and known since the late 10th century. Leeuw means "lion" in Dutch but was most probably formed on the old Germanic word hlaiwa, "a tumulus". The meaning of Zout- is even less clear; it might have been added when the town was allowed to perceive tax on salt (in Dutch, zout), or when a garrison was set up in the town (from solde, in French, "pay").

Leeuw grew up as a wealthy traders' town located on the busy Bruges-Cologne road and protected against invaders by the surrounding marshes. In 1130, the town increased northwards and was surrounded by a wall. Leeuw was also directly connected to Antwerp via the river Kleine Gete, then navigable. In the 13th century, the town was granted municipal rights by the Duke of Brabant, as a reward for its expected support against the Prince-Bishop of Liège. Cloth from Leeuw was then exported to Maasland and Rhineland, to France and England. In 1312, Leeuw became one of the capitals of Brabant and was added in 1330 a second wall because of the threat exerted by Liège.

In the 15th century, clothing industry declined in Leeuw, mostly because of the competition from England. The Grote Gete was made navigable up to the town of Tienen, which superseded Leeuw as the most important trade center in eastern Brabant. The decline did not prevent the building of a new town hall in 1538, still standing on the market square.
During the Wars of Religion, the town was often burned and plundered. In 1566, the Iconoclasts could not force their way into Zoutleeuw, which prevented the Gothic St. Leonard church from any destruction. The subsequent history of the town is a long succession of sieges, occupations and plunderings, while floods destroyed whole boroughs and even a part of the city walls. The Spaniards set up a citadel, protected by a huge flooded area: the flooding of pastures and farms increased the destitution of the population. The town was besieged by the French in 1678 and 1701 and seized in 1705 by the allied armies.

After the French Revolution and the suppression of the Principality of Liège, Zoutleeuw eventually lost its strategic position. In 1814, King William of the Netherlands refused to revamp the Kleine Gete to make it navigable again. The honorific title of town, suppressed in 1830, was granted again to Zoutleeuw in 1985.

Source: Municipal website

Ivan Sache, 5 January 2008

Municipal flag of Zoutleeuw

The municipal flag of Zoutleeuw is horizontally divided red-black.
According to Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel [w2v02a], the flag was adopted by the Municipal Council on 16 June 1988, confirmed by the Executive of Flanders on 5 October 1988 and published in the Belgian official gazette on 8 November 1989.
The colours of the flag are taken from the chief (gules, red) and the field (sable, black) of the municipal arms, respectively.

According to Servais [svm55a], the arms of Zoutleeuw, "Sable a lion or armed and langued gules a chief gules", granted by Royal Decree on 31 July 1841, were designed after the municipal arms mentioned in 1424 as showing a lion and a red chief. The lion, here the lion of Brabant, already appeared on the oldest known seal of the town, dated 1248. The chief, whose origin and meaning are unknown, appeared on a seal dated 1640 and the arms of Zoutleeuw have not been changed since then.

The town hall of Zoutleeuw, as well as the adjacent clothiers' hall, are decorated with several flags, following an use common in Belgium. The photographies available on the Internet indicate quite a high level creativity in the flag protocole in Zoutleeuw (that is, the different photographies show quite different displays, although based on the same flags).

On the photography available here, several flags can be seen:
- on the town hall (main building, photography's left part), vertical flags of Flemish Brabant, Flanders, Zoutleeuw (not the official flag but a complete banner of arms, featuring the lion of Brabant), Belgium and the European Union;
- on the clothiers' hall (second building, photography's right part), black square flags with a coat of arms in the middle, not easy to dsitinguish. The last flag seemingly represents Leuven ("Gules a fess argent").

[Flag of Zoutleeuw upside down]

Flag of Zoutleeuw, hoisted upside down - Image by Ivan Sache, 5 January 2008

A photography of the town hall, taken on 16 March 2005 by Edelhart Kempeneers, shown on Wikipedia shows another display of flags:
- the municipal flag, seemingly hoisted upside down on a pole in front of the town hall (an optical illusion does not seem very plausible);
- on the facade of the town hall, the vertical flags of the European Union, the first Belgian national flag (horizontally divided red-yellow-black), Zoutleeuw (yet another non official flag, white with the municipal coat of arms in the middle), Flemish Brabant and Flanders.
Very little of the clothiers' hall is visible on the photography, but, partially, a white flag with a coat of arms.

Yet another photography, added on 27 August 2007 to the Château d'Ertsenrijk blog shows yet another display of flags in Zoutleeuw:
- on the town hall, the vertical flags of Belgium (the first flag, again), Flanders, Zoutleeuw (banner of arms), Flemish Brabant and European Union;
- on the clothiers' hall, six banner of arms similar to those shown on the first mentioned photography, but without the black background.

And, finally, another photography taken by Gaston Pulinckx shows on the town hall, the vertical flags of the European Union, Belgium (today's national flag), Zoutleeuw (municipal arms on a white field), Flanders and Flemish Brabant.

Ivan Sache & Pascal Vagnat, 5 January 2006

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