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Ninove (Municipality, Province of East Flanders, Belgium)

Last modified: 2019-01-09 by ivan sache
Keywords: ninove |
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Flag of Ninove - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 7 January 2008

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Presentation of Ninove

The municipality of Ninove (35,874 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 7,257 ha; municipal website) is located on the river Dender, 10 km south of Aalst and 25 km west of Brussels, on the border with (Flemish) Brabant. The municipality of Ninove was established in 1976 as the lmerger of the former municipalities of Ninove, Appelterre-Eichem, Denderwindeke, Lieferinge, Nederhasselt, Okegem, Voorde, Pollare, Meerbeke, Neigem, Aspelare and Outer.

Ninove was mentioned for the first time in the 9th century, as Neonifius. Later written forms of the town name are Ninive and Nineve, while Ninove appeared in the 14th century. Ninove means "new pastures", from Roman of Frankish roots. A small settlement in the Roman period, Ninove grew up as a rural village with the settlement of the Franks in the 5th century. The whole region limited by the rivers Dender and Scheldt, mostly incorporated in the German Empire after the share if the Frankish kingdom in 843, was definitively incorporated in the 11th century to the County of Flanders by Baudouin V, vassal of the King of France. The medieval castrum (fortified camp) became probably at that time a castle. Thanks to the blossom of trade and industry, Ninove became a wealthy town in the 12th century. In 1137, the Norbertine order founded one of the biggest abbeys on the region, the St. Cornelius abbey of Ninove, once one of the biggest grain producers in Flanders and the food supplier of the big towns of Ghent, Bruges and Antwerp.
On 19 July 1453, the town was plundered by the troops of Duke of Burgundy Philip the Handsome, who wanted to restrict the liberties of the big towns. This event and other of that ilk in the next century caused the decline of the famous local clothing industry. The town stagnated until the industrial revolution of the second half of the 19th century; Ninove became a center of match production. This production was replaced (the last factory, Ninove Match, was closed in 1974) with new ones, favoured by the building of the Aalst-Ath roade, the canalisation of the Dender and the increase of the Brussels-Schepdaal railway to Ninove. The population grew up from 4,400 in 1834 to 12,000 in 1970.

In his famous Flandria Illustrata (1644), Sanderus writes unde vulgari loco Ninove dicitur antiquissima, audaccissima, sapientissiam, which translates in Dutch as d'oudste, de stoutste en de wijste van de steden ("the oldest, boldest and wisest of the towns"). Ninove is "the oldest town" because its name alludes to Ninive, the capital of Assyria; "the boldest", because its gates remain always open (see below); and "the wisest", because it had no jester and had to hire one from the neighbouring town when needed.
The inhabitants of Ninove are nicknamed wortelkrabbers ("carrots' scrapers") or simply wortels ("carrots") after an "historical" event involving their best neighbours from Aalst. The militia from Aaslt set up an expedition against their best neighbours from Ninove; the Ninove watchmen spotted them coming, but nobody was able to dig out the key of the Koepoert (the Cow's Gate), which was therefore locked with a carrot. A donkey passing by ate the carrot so that the guys from Aalst were granted "free entrance" in Ninove and probably behaved not very good there. A similar story yielded the nickname of pee stekers to the inhabitants of Herentals. As if it was not enough, the inhabitants of Ninove are also nicknamed kaffeegieters, "coffee pourers".
The ragmen of Ninove were so famous in the beginning of the 20th centuries that nasty children were told: k zal u verkopen aan de voddenmarchands van Nienof ("I will sell you to the Ninove ragmen").
K.C. Peeters reports the nickname given to the inhabitants of some of the villages around Ninove as follows: - Lieferinge: beddezekers, "bedwetters", since a pilgrimage against enuresis was hold in the village chapel
- Meerbeke: gipsheren, "plaster lords" (that is, revellers), maybe after the stuc decorations of the Meerbeke manors. Meerbeke is also the finish place of the Tour of Flanders since the 1970s.
- Nederhasselt: kot, "slum", from a nasty rhyme from Ninove:
Pollare - trot (see below)
Woubrechtegem - zot ("idiot")
Nederhasselt - kot ("slum")
Mere - rot ("rotten")
Zandbergen - bot ("stupid")
Vollezele - krot. ("slum")
- Okegem: hoppewinders, "hop unwinders", after the local crop
- Pollare: troteters, "compote of apple eaters", after the local dessert
- Voorde: jenever drinkers, "genever drinkers".

Ninove is the birth town of the Flemish humanist Johannes Despauterius (Johan de Spauter, c. 1480-1520), whose books on Latin grammar (Syntaxis, Ars versificatoria, Grammatica pars prima and Ortograph) remained a source of pain for the students in Latin for several centuries; of the footballer Wesley Sonck (b. 1978), who played 37 times with the Red Devils' national team, scoring 15; and of the ice figure skater Kevin Van Der Perren (b. 1982), 9th in the 2006 Olympic Games. However, the most famous child of Ninove must be the town crier Hans Van Laethem (b. 1960), Belgian, European and World Champion of Town Crying.

Ivan Sache, 8 September 2007

Flag of Ninove

The flag of Ninove is vertically divided black-green with the municipal coat of arms in the middle.
According to Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel , the flag, adopted on 25 June 1987 by the Municipal Council, is prescribed by a Decree issued on 17 November 1987 by the Executive of Flanders and published on 16 September 1988 in the Belgian official gazette.
There is no explanation given for the colours but they do appear in the former arms of Denderwindeke and Pollare (green) and of Appelterre-Eichem and Ninove (black).

The Municipal Council proposed to use for the new municipality the former flag and arms of the town of Ninove. The Flemish Heraldic Council did not like the arms because the historical arms of Ninove were never topped with a crown under the Ancient Regime; moreover, Ninove was never a County, therefore, uding a Count's coronet was abusive. The Heraldic Council recommended to replace the Count's coronet with a mural (municipal) crown, which was refused by the Municipal Council. The deadlock was broken only in 1987 (!), when the Municipal Council eventually adopted the heraldically correct design recommended by the Heraldic Council, "Per pale, or a double-headed eagle sable, or a lion sable. The shield surmounted by a mural crown with five towers or").

According to Servais [svm55a], the arms of Ninove were granted on 2 September 1818 by (Dutch) Royal Decree and confirmed on 20 December 1846 by (Belgian) Royal Decree. The oldest known seal of the town, from 1415, shows the two shields of Burgundy and Flanders, while the arms of the town were described in 1557 as divided with the Imperial eagle and the Flemish lion, a design also used in the seal used in the 18th century. The Imperial-Flanders arms, also used in Aalst, Geraardsbergen (two shields, also on the municipal flag) and Lierde (two shields) recall that the Country of Aalst formed the Imperial Flanders (Rijks-Vlaanderen or Keizerlijk Vlaanderen), under the remote and virtual rule of the German Emperor.

Concerning the colours, the municipal website seems to imply that Ninove used in the past a vertically black-green flag. The arms of Denderwindeke are "Vert three fishes argent", those of Appelterre-Eichem are "Quartered, 1. and 4. sable a lion argent/or (?) armed and langued gules, 2. and 3. azure an eagle argent/or (?) langued gules", after the arms of the Goux family used on a 16th-century seal.

Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 8 September 2007

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