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Koekelare (Municipality, Province of West Flanders, Belgium)

Last modified: 2021-06-19 by ivan sache
Keywords: koekelare |
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Flag of Koekelare - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 13 January 2007

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Presentation of Koekelare

The municipality of Koekelare (8,325 inhabitants in 2007; 3,918 ha; municipal website) is located in the region of Westhoek, 18 km from the North Sea and in the middle of the triangle Diksmuide-Torhout-Gistel. The municipality of Koekelare was established in 1971 as the merger of the former municipalities of Koekelare, Bovekerke and Zande.

The region of Koekelare was already settled on the Age of Bronze (2000 BC); cemeteries with funerary urns arranged in a circular pattern have been excavated. The settlement was still there in the Age of Iron; ceramics and iron artifacts have been found. In the Gallo-Roman times, the old road to Bruges was revamped and became a Roman road; it forms today a part of the southern border of the municipality. The road crossed an important settlement.
The Franks renamed the settlement Coclars, after the Germanic words coc or kook, "a hill" or "an elevated place", and lars or lare, "an open place in a woody and marshy area". The elevated place is today topped by the parish church and still surrounded by ponds and marshy lands. Coclars was first mentioned in 847 when king of Francia Occidentalis Charles le Chauve granted the big domain known as "villa Koekelare" to the Benedictine abbey of Saint-Amand. The monks evangelized the area and placed it under the patronage of the soldier monk St. Martin, who was particularly venerated by the Franks. Old Germanic traditions, "borrowed" by the church, are still vivid on the eve of St. Martin's Day, the 11 November. Children sing all around, lit by a candle placed in a hollowed out beet; for this first light festival of the winter, they chase away with "ruusbuusbuus" the evil spirits and beseech for apples and pears, the symbols of winter fertility.

Koekelare was plundered by the Norsemen at the end of the 9th century. The villagers built a water castle in the curve of the St. Martensbeek (St. Martin's brook), where later the Oosthof (the residence of the lords of Koekelare) was built. In 1106, the count of Flanders decided the development of the desert area known as Utfanc, located in the north of the municipality, and transferred Koekelare to the Benedictine St. Bertinus abbey in Saint-Omer. The monks built a priory, which is the origin of the modern urban settlement.
Koekelare became in the 14th century the seat of a lordship encompassing Koekelare, Ichtegem, Eernegem and Aartrijke. The administration of the Bruges Freeland (Brugse Vrije) built in Koekelare a regional leperhouse, which was sacked along with the parish church during the Wars of Religion in the 16th century; the village was nearly deserted. In 1759, the population of the village had grown again to 3,500.

The Christiaen brewery-malthouse dates back to c. 1790. It became an industrial complex in 1878 and worked until 1968, being the main source of employment in Koekelare. The brewery was purchased and restored by the municipality of Koekelare in 1985; the municipal administration was awarded the "Flemish Monument" prize in 1993 for this restoration.

Ivan Sache, 13 January 2007

Flag of Koekelare

The flag of Koekelare is blue with three white disks placed 2 and 1.
The flag and arms of Koekelare,adopted on 22 May 1987by the Municipal Council, are prescribed by a Decree issued on 7 July 1987 by the Executive of Flanders and published on 3 December 1987 in the Belgian official gazette.
The flag is a banner of the municipal arms.
[Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel [w2v02]]

The municipal arms, "Azure three bezants argents 2 and 1", belonged to Walter IV van Koekelare who went on the Crusade in 1252, therefore the bezants, who are said to represent coins minted by the Byzantine Emperor.
The arms of Koekelare were granted by (Dutch) Royal Decree in 1818 and confirmed by (Belgian) Royal Decree on 11 May 1840. They are similar to the today's arms but with the bezants or and a letter K (for Koekelare) or in canton. Since there was no colours mentioned in the first grant application, the (then) national Dutch colours were granted "by default", and not changed after the independence of Belgium, as it was the case for several Belgian municipal arms azure and or.
The Gelre Armorial shows "Gules three plates" for Koekelare (Kokelar, #972, folio 81v).
[Wapenboek van de Provinciën en Gemeenten van België [svm55a]]

Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 13 January 2007

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