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Esneux (Municipality, Province of Liège, Belgium)

Last modified: 2019-06-25 by ivan sache
Keywords: esneux | tilff |
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Flag of Esneux, left, flag in use; right, flag proposal, not used

- Images by Arnaud Leroy, 16 July 2007

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Presentation of Esneux

The municipality of Esneux (13,073 inhabitants on 1 July 2007; 3,405 ha; municipal website) is located on the river Ourthe, 15 km south of Liège. The municipality of Esneux was established in 1976 as the merger of the former municipalities of Esneux and Tilff.

Esneux was mentioned for the first time in 814 as Astanido. The name was later changed to Astanid, Hastenoit, Astenoit, Asseneur, Asseneu, Asneux and Asseneux. The origin of this name, still disputed, is often related to the Essenian tribe living on the banks of the Ourthe and the Amblève in the time of Julius Caesar. Jules Fellerer has linked Esneux to Astanetum, "a young cluster of trees with thin and right trunks" or "a forest whose wood was used to make spears".
Until the French Revolution, the domain of Esneux depended on the Duchy of Limburg (not of the Principality of Liège). The feudal domain was much bigger than the today's municipality and had several exclaves. On 18 September 1794, the battle of Hamay opposed the routed Austrian army to the French on the plateau of Hamay, near the village of Fontin. A redoubt used during the battle gave its name to the Côte de la Redoute, a famous hill (length, 2.3 km; main slope, 7.4%; elevation 292 m asl) of the cyclist race Liège-Bastogne-Liège, located on the municipal territory of Aywaille.

Until the middle of the 19th century, Esneux remained a fairly poor village, where wheat could not be grown, and with a very limited industrial development (cobblestone quarries and iron mines). In 1865, the railway reached Esneux, which became a summer vacation center highly prized by artists and writers. On 21 May 1905, the first Trees' Festival organized in Belgium was celebrated in Esneux, with the support of famous writers, such as Jean d'Ardenne (President of the Festival), Camille Lemonnier, Léon Souguenet (inventor of the Festival), Maurice des Ombiaux, Albert Mockel and Edmond Picard, and famous painters such as Auguste Donnay, Emile Berchmans and Richard Heintz. Originally aimed at a private meeting of artists, the Esneux Festival attracted many enthusiastic visitors and was succeeded by several festivals of the same kind in Spa, Verviers, Liège, Huy, Frameries, Marcinelle, Saint-Gilles, Boitsfort, Lummen, Wenduine, Antwerp, etc., promoting the "cult of the tree" in Belgium.
The Esneux Festival was indeed the first organized public meeting aimed at nature conservation; quickly, the League of the Friends of the Trees and several conservationist organizations emerged. Their first success was the protection, in 1907, of 508 ha of the forest of Colfontaine that should have been suppressed by an industrial consortium. Jean d'Ardenne was later appointed councillor in the Nature Conservation section of the venerable Monuments' Commission. Léon Souguenet and the local associations (including the Association for the Protection of the Ourthe, founded in 1924 by the industrial Louis Gavage) also obtained the local, regional and, eventually, national protection of the Loop of the Ourthe, located around Beaumont between Esneux and Hony. Esneux is the only Belgian municipality where the Trees' Festival has been maintained until today.

The village of Montfort nearly disappeared at the beginning of the 20th century because several of its houses caved down after the careless exploitation of a big sandstone quarry. Today abandoned, the quarry also engulfed the last remains of the feudal castle of Montfort. There is nearly no historical record on the castle; it was most probably a haunt of rascals, which motivated its destruction. Accordingly, Montfort was celebrated in several local legends, including the famous tale of the Four Aymon Sons, the legend of the Golden Goat etc.

Ivan Sache, 30 June 2007

Flag of Esneux

The flag of Esneux, as confirmed by the municipal administration, is vertically divided green-red.

According to Armoiries communales en Belgique. Communes wallonnes, bruxelloises et germanophones [w2v03], the flag proposed for Esneux by the Heraldry and Vexillology Council of the French Community is vertically divided blue-yellow-blue with another, thin, vertical red stripe in the centre of the yellow stripe. The width of the red stripe is 1/8th of the flag height, that is 1/4th of the width of a vertical stripe (which is the half of the flag height).
The design recalls the geometry of the municipal arms, "Azure a three-tower donjon or gules".
The municipal website shows only the municipal seal, adopted in 1898; based on the seals of the municipal court of the 16th century, it shows a donjon surmounted by three crenelled towers.

Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 16 July 2007

Former municipality of Tilff


Flag of Tilff - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 5 January 2008

Tilff is located on the right bank of the river Ourthe and surrounded by "high mountains" (according to Soumery, Les délices du pays de Liège, somewhat excessive with topography!). Mentioned for the first time in 1235, as Tilves, probably an hydronym, the village took its today's name in the 15th century. Tilff formed a domain depending on the Prince-Bishop of Liège while the parish was ran by the St. Lambert Chapter in Liège.
The inhabitants of Tilff call l'usine (the factory) a group of buildings located along the arm of the Ourthe watering the Mill's island. In 1542, Collor le Moulnier (meunier, "the miller"), from the Presseneux family, built there the village's mill, which was kept by the family until 1695. The new owners of the mill, Sébastien de Buaharmont and Jean-François Heyne built a foundry, later transformed into a rolling mill, beside the old grain mill. When the railway line of the Ourthe was set up (1875-1877), the owners of the factory set up a system of airborne transportation between the factory and the railway bridge. The same system was used to transport coal inside the factory and to transport the products to the railway line. The factory was significantly increased in 1910.

At the end of the 19th century, Tillf became a popular place of leisure located not too far from Liège, and the place of festivals, concerts, fireworks, meetings in the velodrome and in the hippdrome. There was also a famous pilgrimage to St. Léger, reported by the writers Auguste Hock and Jules Chalon. The golden age of Tilff ended with the beginning of the First World War. The carnival, allegedly set up once in Tilff by inhabitants of Liège, where it had been forbidden or because of an epidemic, was maintained but strictly regulated by a Municipal Decree in 1922. The outdoor dancing located near the Hôtel de l'Amirauté remained, however, so famous, that the dancers used to ask railway tickets to L'Amirauté, which was known in all the railway stations of the region. The carnival (website) resumed in 1951.
The Tilff-Bastogne-Tilff race is the counterpart of the cyclist race Liège-Bastogne-Liège for bicycle tourists (some 8,000 every year), with three proposed routes (67 km, 137 km, 237 km) including the most strategic places of the cyclist race.

According to local information, Tilff still uses the municipal flag used before the merging with Esneux, a vertically divided green-yellow flag.

Arnaud Leroy & Ivan Sache, 5 January 2008

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