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Zonnebeke (Municipality, Province of West Flanders, Belgium)

Last modified: 2012-10-13 by ivan sache
Keywords: zonnebeke | sun: 28 rays (yellow) | letters: bk (yellow) | miter (white); crozier (white) | rebus |
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[Flag of Zonnebeke]

Municipal flag of Zonnebeke - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 2 December 2005

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Presentation of Zonnebeke and its villages

The municipality of Zonnebeke (11,908 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 6,757 ha) is located 10 km west of Ieper, in the hilly part (Zandberg, 64 m a.s.l.) of the Westhoek. The municipality of Zonnebeke is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Zonnebeke, Beselare, Geluveld (including Zandvoorde since 1970) and Passendale.
The hilly ridge of Zonnebeke was the border between the territory of the Gaul tribes of the Morins and the Menapians. Later, it was the border between the bishoprics of Tournai and Thérouanne. In the Middle Ages, most of the region was ruled by the Augustine abbey of Zonnebeke (1072-1097) and the Benedictine women's abbey of Nonnebossen. The other rulers were the Marquisate of Berselare and the domains of Geluveld, Zandvoorde and Passendale, in which the Provostship of Ieper had several possessions.
The complete destruction of the region during the First World War radically changed the local organization. Five completely new villages were rebuilt out of the ruins in the 1920s. Due to the economical crisis of the 1930s, several inhabitants had to work as seasonal workers in neighbouring France. Until the early 1960s, work in France was a main source of income for the villages.

Zonnebeke (1,774 ha) was mentioned in 1072 as Sinnebecche in a chart granted by Bishop Drogo of Thérouanne to Fulpoldus, the lord of Ieper, who lived in Zonnebeke. The exact meaning of sinne is not known; a beek is "a brook". Fulpoldus founded and funded a chapter of three canons, which evolved into a monastery and later to a powerful Augustinian abbey, suppressed in 1797 by the French revolutionaries. The village was abandoned by its inhabitants in 1914 and remained on the front line all along the war. Accordingly, it was completely destroyed and resettled in 1919. The Onze-Lieve-Vrouw church, built in 1924 by architect Huib Hoste, is the first modern religious building in Belgium. Zonnebeke is the birth town of the chemist and Flemish militant Berten Pil (1892-1940).

Beselare (1,433 ha) is named after a person name and the word laar, "a grazed wood". The village was made a Marquisate in 1705 by Louis XIV. It was owned by the noble family van der Woestine. In 1428, Knight Olivier van der Woestine was allowed by Duke of Burgundy Philip the Handsome to create the St. Sebastian bowers' guilde, still active today. Beselare was completely destroyed during the First World War.
The village is the birth place of the writer Edward Vermeulen, alias Warden Oom (1861-1934), known for his social novels. Beselare has been known for ages as the witches' parish (toveressenparochie) and its inhabitants as the witches (toveressen). The nickname was even more popularized by Warden Oom. In his novels, he explained how serious people believed in witches' tales or were conned by pranksters. He also explained how old women getting senile were called witches and considered as the source of all kinds of unpleasant events. The villagers from Beselare had the reputation to always involve witches in their tales. However, research made in the archives of Bruges by André Hauspie seems to prove that there was never any witch trial in Beselare. The Witches' Parade (Heksentoet) takes place there any odd year on 31 July. There is a bronze Witch Monument on the village square and several places are associated with witches' tales.

Geluveld (1,477 ha) is literally "a yellow (geel) field (veld)". The village was mentioned for the first time in 1109 as Gelevelt. The domain of Geluveld was ruled by two courts depending of the feudal court of Ingelmunster. Owners of the domains were, among others, the families Van der Gracht (XVIth century) and De Vooght (1578-XVIIth century). The village was also bristled with enclaves belonging to the domains of Zaal, Zillebeke and Kruiseke and to the abbeys of Zonnebeke and Nonebosse. The castle, completely rebuilt in 1928, belonged to the family Keingiaert de Gheluvelt.
Geluveld was a strategic place during the battle of Ieper in October 1914. Accordingly, the village was completely destroyed.
Zandvoorde (668 ha), lit. "a sandy (zand) ford (voord)", was mentioned for the first time in 1102, as Santfort. The church of Zandvoorde was placed under the patronage of the abbey of Voormezele in 1102 while the domain of Santfort was vassal of Comines. The village was completely rebuilt after the First World War. Romain Brel, father of the singer Jacques Brel, was born in Zandvoorde.

Passendale (2,222 ha), known in 844 as Pascandale, might have been named after a Paulus, Pascan or Pasko and dal, "a valley". The battle of Passendale (then written Passchendaele), during which the village was completely destroyed, has been described as one of the bloodiest battles ever. From 4 October to 6 November 1917, during the third of the five battles for Ieper, some 400,000 men were killed for a territorial gain of a few square kilometers. On 28 September 1918, the Germans were definitively expelled from the place by the 4th Carabineers and the Grenadeers.
The Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917 was opened in 2004. On the road to Zonnebeke is located the impressive Tyne Cot Cemetary. This is the biggest British cemetary in continental Europe, designed by Reginald Bloomfield. The Tyne is a river in Northumberland. The section Battle Cemetary is the "natural" grave of the 11,856 soldiers killed there in 1917.
The Cross of Sacrifice was erected on a German bunker seized by the Australian troops in October 1917. The Missing Memorial is a long vaulted wall on which are written the names of the 34,959 soldiers missing in action after 15 August 1917. There is also a New British Cemetary, a Canadian Memorial and a New Zealand Forces Memorial in Passendale.
Passendale is also famous for its cheese, produced since 1932, and has a cheese museum.


Ivan Sache, 2 December 2005

Municipal flag of Zonnebeke

The municipal flag of Zonnebeke is red with a yellow sun with 28 rays. A red shield charged with the yellow letters "BK" is placed over the sun and surmounted by a white miter and the upper part of a white abbot's crozier.
According to Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel, the flag was adopted by the Municipal Council on 6 June 1988, confirmed by the Executive of Flanders on 5 October 1988 and published in the Belgian official gazette on 8 November 1989.
The flag is a banner of the municipal arms.

The municipal website shows and explains the municipal arm and flag as well as the arms of the former municipalities.
After the municipal fusion, the new municipality of Zonnebeke designed a strongly modified and improved version of the arms of the former municipality of Zonnebeke. The current arms are based on a seal of the parish and domain of Zonnebeke dated 1792. They show a sun with 28 alternately right and wavy rays, charged with a shield bearing the Capital letters BK. The arms are a rebus: the sun stands for Zon(ne), the sun in Dutch, and BK for beke. The shield is surmounted on dexter by a miter and on sinister by the upper part of a crozier. The seal is surrounded by the writing ZEGEL DER PROCHIE EN HEERL. VAN ZONNEBEKE. This seal shows the arms of the abbey of Zonnebeke (XVIIth century) augmented with the miter and the crozier. Since the abbey of Zonnebeke owned most of the villages merged into the new municipality of Zonnebeke, the use of its arms as the arms of the new municipality is logical.
Before the municipal fusion, Zonnebeke used "Azure a sun or charged with a rectangle bearing the letters BK all azure". Servais says that these arms, granted on 30 May 1953, are based on the arms of the abbey, showing a sun rising from a green brook (beek) and the red letters "BK".

Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 2 December 2005

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