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Fléron (Municipality, Province of Liège, Belgium)

Last modified: 2021-03-18 by ivan sache
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Municipal flag of Fléron - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 3 January 2007

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Presentation of Fléron and its villages

The municipality of Fléron (16,139 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 1,372 ha; municipal website) is located 10 km east of Liège, on the Liège-Aachen road. The municipality of Fléron was established in 1976 as the merger of the former municipalities of Fléron, Magnée, Retinne and Romsée.

Fléron is said to have been named in the Roman times Fletherum or Fleuron, after a local young man called Flos. Very beautiful but very poor, Flos was hired to convey geese to Roma. While the Romans enjoyed the geese from Fléron, their wives enjoyed Flos. When he had to come back home, the ladies offerred him a casket he should not open before being home. Flos was disappointed when discovering that the casket contained only seeds, but he sown them anyway so that the region was covered with flowers (in Latin, flos; in French, fleur).
In the Middle Ages, Fléron was divided into two parts: the village belonged to the Principality of Liège, whereas four or five isolated houses formed the avouerie of Fléron, together with the other municipalities of Vaux-sous-Chèvremont, Nessonvaux, Vaux-sous-Olne, Ayeneux, Romsée, Retinne, Foxhalle, Trois-Chênes and Hotteux; the avouerie belonged to the Notre-Dame's chapter in Aachen. It dates back to the grant of the domain of Fléron by Emperor Otto III to the chapter on 1 August 982. The avouerie was co-ruled by the monks and voués appointed by the Emperor, who attempted to keep an eye on his former domain. As usual, the monks eventually got rid of the voués and were de facto the single rulers of the avouerie. This was officialized in 1439 by a Concordate signed by the Dean of the chapter and Franco de la Roche, avoué of Fléron. On 14 July 1618, the chapter of Aachen sold Fléron to Charles de Longueval, Comte de Bucquoi, Baron de Vaux. His tutor, Herman de Bourgogne, Comte de Fallaix, sold on 23 April 1626 the domain to the Prince-Bishop of Liège. The office of voué was nominally suppressed in 1690 (but seems to have been restablished later, since the last avoué, Charles d'Arberg, also the last Bishop of Ieper, died in 1809).

Being located close to Liège, Fléron was often sacked during the XVIIth century. The village was damaged by the French when they besieged Liège in 1641; on 10 August 1649, the villagers attempted to oppose the German troops called by the Prince-Bishop of Liège to restore his power; the Germans sacked the village once again in 1674, followed by the French in 1678, who blocked the road to Liège. In the last ten years of the 17th century, Fléron was often sacked either by the French or the Dutch, sometimes by both.
In the early 18th century, Fléron flourished thanks to the building of the Liège-Verviers road and the increase of the traffic. Mines opened in 1817-1823 and the railway reached the village in 1871. A tramway Liège-Fléron was built, which allowed several people working in Liège to settle in the neighbouring villages, including Fléron. The village became industrialized in the early XXth century: the Bosson factory produced the first brick presses, mostly for Congo.

From 5 to 14 August 1914, the fort of Fléron, built in 1888 and commanded by General Julien Mozin, heroically resisted the German assault. The fort was rearmed in 1929-1932. During the Second World War, it resisted from 10 to 18 May 1940. On 6 September 1944, several young people from Fléron and the neighbouring villages met in the hiding place of the Secrete Army (the anti-German resistance) in the Del Marmol castle in Forêt; the castle was surrounded and burned by the Germans, who killed 64. Fléron was liberated on 7 September 1944 by the 3rd Armoured Division commanded by Colonel William Lovelady.

Magnée is said to have been named after someone called Magnius; most probably, the village was named after the brook Magnée. In the Middle Ages, Magnée was part of the Bailiwick of Amercœur; the municipality of Magnée was not formed before 1618. In 1649, the villagers preferred not to resist the German troops but paid a "safeguarding" (indeed a ransom).
In 1912, the Province of Liège opened in Magnée a sanatorium for women and children, which was demolished in 1973. The village was mostly made of scattered farms until the 1960s.

Retinne is said to have been named after the Gallo-Roman lord Retinius or Rittius. A chart dated 847 states that Retinne then belonged to the St. Remy abbey of Reims. Retinne was eventually sold to the Prince-Bishop of Liè:ge in 1598. The colliery of Hasard was inaugurated on 3 June 1846 and closed on 31 March 1973. From 1923 onwards, with the arrival of the first Polish miners, the colliery employed several foreigners, including Spanish, Italians, Moroccans and Turks, who mostly lived into two housing estates built in the 1950s by the Foyer Fléronnais.
On 6 August 1914, a few Belgian soldiers grouped near Retinne and resisted all the night long some 100 German soldiers. The German group had to be rescued by fresh troops. The next day, the German took reprisals against the civil population and burned down the town hall, the school and a few houses.

Retinne is the birth village of St. Juliana of Liège (Julienne de Cornillon, c. 1192-1258), who promoted the introduction of the Feast of Corpus Christi. Aged 5, Juliana lost her parents and was brought up by the Augustinian nuns of Cornillon. She became a nun in this convent in 1207. Shortly after, around 1210, she saw the moon divided into two equal stripes by a black stripe. She did not understand the vision, which was repeated several times. Neither did the other nuns, so that God eventually revealed her that the moon symbolized the church and the black stripe a missing feast dedicated to Corpus Christi. In spite of having ordered by God to promote the new feast, Juliana was too humble to believe she could succeed. In 1222, she was appointed Prioress, but she waited until 1230 to fulfil her mission. She spoke with the recluse Eve of Saint-Martin and the virgin Elisabeth of Huy and then with the wise Jean de Lausanne, Canon at the Saint-Martin church. The canon warmly welcomed Juliana's proposal and gained the support of famous theologians such as Archdeacon of Troyes Jean Pantaléon, the Dominican Prior of Liège Hugues de Saint-Cher, the professors Gilles, Jean and Gérard, and Gui de Laon, Chancellor of the University of Paris. Juliana asked the clark Jean from Cornillon to compose the Corpus Christi office, which was approved by the aforementioned theologians. The next step was the approval of the new office by the bishops; Juliana did three pilgrimages at Cologne, Tongeren and Maastricht. However, Prior Roger set up a conspiracy against her, so that the convent was invaded and sacked in 1040. Juliana took refuge with the recluse Eve and Jean de Lausanne, but was rehabilitated three months later by Prince-Bishop of Liège Robert de Langres, who sacked Roger and locked him in the hospital of Huy. However, Robert was not very interested in a new feast, in spite of his admiration for Juliana. Around 1245, he received a godsend, whose exact nature is not known, and decided to prescribe the feast. The day of the Feast of Corpus Christi was fixed as the Thursday after Whit octave. Robert died in Fosses on 16 October 1246 before having proclaimed the feast during a general synode. The proclamation was postponed because of political troubles in Liège until the former Prior Hughes de Saint-Cher arrived in Liège in 1251 as the Pope's Legate. He decreed the Feast of Corpus Christi on 29 December 1252, as did another Legate, Pierre Caputius, on 30 November 1254. Archdeacon Jacques de Troyes was elected Pope as Urban IV on 29 August 1261 and proclaimed the universal Feast of Corpus Christi by Bull Transiturus, confirmed by a letter to recluse Eve on 8 September 1264. The Bull was confirmed by the General Council hold in Vienna in 1311. After the death of Robert de Langres, the infamous Prior Roger was rehabilitated and expelled Juliana from Cornillon. She settled in 1248 with her three sisters in different convents. In 1253, Abbess Imaine, the daughter of the Count of Loon, welcomed her in the abbey of Salzinnes. The abbey was sacked shortly after and Juliana moved to Fosses, where she died on 5 April 1258.

Ivan Sache, 3 January 2007

Flag of Fléron

The flag of Fléron is red with a vertical yellow stripe in the middle, charged with three black chevrons.
According to Armoiries communales en Belgique. Communes wallonnes, bruxelloises et germanophones [w2v03], the flag was proposed by the Heraldry and Vexillology Council of the French Community.
The width of the yellow stripe is one fourth of the flag height.

Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 3 January 2007

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