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Binche (Municipality, Province of Hainaut, Belgium)

Last modified: 2015-07-28 by ivan sache
Keywords: binche | lion (black) |
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[Flag of Binche]

Municipal flag of Binche - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 27 March 2006


See also:


Presentation of Binche

The municipality of Binche (32,508 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 6,066 ha) is located 20 km west of Charleroi and 15 km east of Mons. The municipality of Binche is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Binche, Bray, Buvrinnes, Épinois, Leval-Trahegnies, Péronnes-lez-Binche, Ressaix and Waudrez.

Binche was founded near 1120 by Yolande of Gelderland, widow of Count of Hainaut Baudouin III, as a new town originally depending on the parish of Waudrez. A special status granted to merchants and craftmen allowed the quick development of the town. In order to protect Hainaut against the Kingdom of France, Yolande's son, Count Baudouin IV, surrounded the town with a wall. The fortifications were already completed when St. Bernard of Clairvaux visited Binche in 1147; a few years later, Baudouin V heightened the walls. Because of the increase of the town, a second wall, achieved in 1365 and revamped at the end of the XIVth century, was built. In the XVth century, Binche was the main component of the defense system of Hainaut.
In 1409, the relics of St. Usmer and his fellows, as well as the chapter of the collegiate church, were transferred from Lobbes, then in the Principality of Liège, to Binche, and the Notre-Dame church was renamed the St. Usmer collegiate church. The wealth of Binche peaked under Emperor Charles V; his sister, Mary of Austria, aka Mary of Hungary, was appointed Governor of the Low Countries and her court often stayed in Binche, where Mary had replaced the old feudal fortress by a nice palace built in Renaissance style.
In 1554, the troops of King of France Henri II sacked the town, the palace and the countryside. In 1578, binche was besieged by the Spanish troops commanded by Jean of Croÿ after the town had revolted against Governor Don Juan of Spain. The French besieged Binche in 1643 and 1654; by the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle (1668), Binche was incorporated to France and Louis XIV ordered in 1675 to lower the walls by two meters. The town lost any military role in the XVIIIth century. The fortified gates were suppressed in the XIXth century and the walls were used as stone quarries. The excavation and restoration of the walls was ran by the Walloon Region in 1995-1999.

The economical development resumed under the French First Empire, with the opening of coal mines, brickeries, tanneries, glassworks, breweries, lime kilns and soap factories. The manufacturers made huge profit whereas the workers settled in the old downtown and the mining villages (corons) built on former agricultural lands. Thousands of workers work from home (cobblers, lacemakers, tailors...). After the second World War, Binche experienced a second economic boom and the clothing industry employed thousands of workers; most of the textile workshops were closed in the 1970s.
Binche is famous for its lace, whose tradition dates back to the end of the XVIIth century. The Binche lace is considered as more complicated than the Valenciennes, Paris and Flanders lace. It is possible to be awarded the official title of Binche lacemaker after five years of study at the Lace Center and the making of two masterpieces. The speciality of Binche is called the Duchesse.

Binche is the home of the most famous carnival in Belgium, which celebrates the return of spring in a cycle lasting six weeks and ending with the three days gras. The very famous Gilles of Binche are the main characters of the carnival, which has very strict rule: the Gilles shall neither appear outside the carnival period nor outside of Binche. In contrast to other carnival characters, the Gilles can therefore not participate to other carnivals in Belgium or elsewhere. On Sunday Gras, thousands of costumed people march in the street; Monday Gras is calmer, with the young people marching in the morning with violas and in the afternoon with drums and horns; Tuesday Gras is the only day gras during which the Gilles show up.
In the morning, the Gilles, who are the high priests of the carnival, shall not be recognized; they wear a mask made of oilcloth, a pair of glasses, a moustache and a beauty spot a la Napoléon III. At noon, they are received by the Mayor and pull out the mask. In the afternoon, the Gilles wear their famous hat weighing 3 kgs and decorated in the past with rooster or marabout feathers, today with ostrich feathers, and give out thousands of oranges. The Gilles also wear a belt decorated with small bells called apertintaille and a bigger bell on the chest. The day ends with fireworks on the Grand Place, but the Gilles keep marching in the streets until Ash Wednesday.
The legend says that the carnival of Binche dates back to 22 August 1549, when Mary of Hungary welcomed the Spanish court with a seven-day festival. This would be the orgin of the Spanish proverb Mas bravas que la feistas de Bains ([There are] no more beautiful festivals than in Binche). During the festival, some members of the court dressed as salvages in order to celebrate the Spanish conquests in America, which would have inspired the inhabitants of Binche. This tradition was popularized by journalists at the end of the XIXth century and became "the Origin". It was added that Gille was derived from the common Spanish name Gil and that the oranges, so important in the carnival, are also a reference to Spain.
However, a carnival called Quaresmiaux, Caresmiaux, with a Cras Dimence (Dimanche Gras - Sunday Gras) already existed in Binche in 1395. In the same period, there was a tradition of big fires in Wallonia and elsewhere in Europe. It is clear that the carnival of Binche is a survival from very old, pagan festivals celebrating the return of spring and fertility.
On 7 November 2003, UNESCO added the carnival of Binche to the list of the World Heritage as "a masterpiece of the oral and immaterial heritage of humanity". The carnival of Oruro (Bolivia) was among the first 19 masterpieces added to the list in 2001.

Gilles de Binche (aka Binchois, c. 1400-1460) is the most famous musician from the Burgundian Franco-Flemish school. His known work includes 55 polyphonic profane songs and religious pieces. Binchois started as a soldier (see the Déploration sur la mort de Binchois, composed by Jean Ockeghem) and was later ordained priest. He was hired by William de la Pole, Count and then Duke of Suffolk, in 1424 and joined the court of Duke of Burgundy Philippe the Good around 1430, where he stayed until his death as second chaplain and cantor. In 1437, he was appointed Canon of Mons, Soignies and Cassel.
After Encyclopaedia Universalis.

Binche is the home of famous local pancakes called doubles. The pancakes, made with wheat and buckwheat flour and perfurmed with Binchoise beer, are eaten as two pieces (therefore their name) filled with a strong Belgian cheese (Herve or boulette).

Sources:

Ivan Sache, 27 March 2006


Municipal flag of Binche

The municipal flag of Binche is white with a black lion with a red tongue and nails.
According to Armoiries communales en Belgique. Communes wallonnes, bruxelloises et germanophones, the flag was adopted by the Municipal Council on 18 March 2002 and confirmed by the Executive of the French Community on 17 July 2003.
The flag is a banner of the arms of the municipality of Binche before the 1976 reform, D'argent au lion de sable armé et lampassé de gueules (Argent a lion sable armed and langued gules).
The municipal flag of Binche is virtually identical to the municipal flag of Edegem.

The current coat of arms of the municipality of Binche, as shown on the municipal website, is blue with a yellow castle flanked by the shields of Hainaut and Binche (before 1976).

Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat, Jan Mertens & Ivan Sache, 27 March 2006


 
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