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Affligem (Municipality, Province of Flemish Brabant, Belgium)

Last modified: 2006-01-14 by ivan sache
Keywords: affligem | fleur-de-lis (white and red) | crozier (white) | key (red) | rose |
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[Flag of Affligem]

Municipal flag of Affligem - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 22 July 2005

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Presentation of Affligem

The municipality of Affligem is located 20 km north-west of Brussels, near the border of (Flemish) Brabant and (East) Flanders, close to the Flemish cities of Aalst and Denderleeuw. Affligem is world-famous for its abbey (Abdij van Affligem) and its beer. In 1977, following the administrative reform, the three former municipalities of Essene, Hekelgem and Teralfene were merged into the new municipality of Hekelgem. In 1980, the municipality was renamed Affligem.

The abbey of Affligem was founded by six knights who were encouraged to repent and adopt a new life style by monk Wedericus from the St. Peter's abbey in Ghent. With the help of St. Anno, Archbishop of Cologne, they settled in Affligem, maybe in 1062, on the domain of the German Count Palatine Herman II. In 1085, the new monks adopted St. Benedict's rule. After the consecration of the first church in 1086, Count Hendrik III of Leuven offered c. 200 ha from his domain to Affligem. The domain of Affligem progressively increased until being one of the richest domains in the Low Countries. In 1796, the domain included more than 8,000 ha, but it was confiscated by the French Republic. Several monasteries were founded by the abbey of Affligem: Neerwaver (1092-1093), Frasne-les-Gosselies (1009) and Bornem (1120) as well as the abbeys St. Andrew near Bruges (1100), Vorst/Forest near Brussels (1105), Maria Laach in Rhineland (c. 1112), Vlierbeek near Leuven (1125) and Groot-Bijgaarden (1133).

Affligem was known as the Primaria Brabantiae, the most important in the Duchy of Brabant. Five members of the ducal lineage are buried there. The banner of the Duchy was also kept in the abbey in peace time. In 1370, Affligem was given the abbey consecration and the abbots were allowed to wear the miter; in the XVth century, they were granted the primate in the States of Brabant. In the XIVth century, Affligem was member of a religious association of 63 monasteries, including for instance the St. Augustine's abbey in Canterbury (England). Everyone of significance wanted to be Affligem's benefactor. Affligem was considered as a smaller Cluny.

The abbey was trashed twice during the wars between Brabant and Flanders in the XIVth century. The discipline got lax during the exile of the monks in Brussels and the Western Schism caused dissension in spite of the support maintained to Roma by the abbot. In 1523, Affligem was affiliated to the Benedictine Congregation of Bursfeld. From 1569 to 1801, it was incorporated to the new archidiocese of Mechlin and the archbishop appointed non-religious abbots. The supporters of William of Orange trashed the abbey in 1580 and the monks spent another 27 year in exile.
The abbey blossomed again in the XVIIth century under Provost Benedictus van Haeften (d. 1648), a famous religious writer, who commissioned Rubens and De Crayer to decorate the church and the monastery. The troops of Louis XIV trashed the abbey, which blossomed once again under Provost Beda Regaus (d. 1808), the famous historian of Affligem. The rebuilding of the abbey in classical style was stopped by the French Revolution.

The abbey was reopened in 1870. Affligem belonged then to the reformed province of the Cassini Congregation, later to the Congregation of Subiaco. Daughter abbeys were set up in Merkelbeek (Dutch Limburg, 1892) and in Germany (Kornelimüster, 1906; Siegburg, 1914; Ilbenstadt, 1923). The latter abbey was transfered to Vaals in 1923. Affligem sent a mission to northern Transvaal in 1910 and published a missal (Volksmisboek) in 1915. Recently were built the Cultural Center (1967), the St. Benedict's Youth House (1969), the Archeological Museum (1981) and the Religious Center (1988). There are currently 22 monks in Affligem.

The famous Affligem beer was brewed in the abbey from 1574 onwards. During the Second World War, the German soldiers destroyed the vats of the brewery in order to reclaim copper. The Affligem beer is produced today by the De Smet brewery (purchased in 2000 by Heineken) in the village of Opwijk, but the monks have retained the license. De Smet brews also the Aulne and Postel abbey beers.

Essene is a very old settlement, located in the Roman times on the road to the then very important city of Asse. The oldest mention of the castle (Borcht of Castro) of Essene dates back to 1250; the castle was burned down during the religious wars and never rebuilt. Essene was ruled by the lords of Asse or the lords of Brussels, whose heir in the XIVth century was the abbey of Affligem.

Hekelgem got its name during the Frankish period (as "Hakilo Heem", Hakilo's Estate). In the Middle Ages, Hekelgem belonged to the lordship of Asse, located on the border of Brabant and Flanders. The castle of Hekegem was completely destroyed by the Flemish in 1338. War resumed in 1356 between Lodewijk van Male and Wencelyn van Luxemburg and the country around Affligem was trashed. The oldest of the three mills still standing in Hekelgem was built in 1785 by Jozef van Lierde.

Teralfene got its name during the Celtic period.

Source:Municipal website

Ivan Sache, 22 July 2005

Municipal flag of Affligem

The municipal flag of Affligem is (official description, from the municipal website):

Twee even lange banen van rood en van wit met op midden een lelie met twee uitkomende gesteelde rozen van het een in het ander, begeleid links van een gesteelde en gebladerde roos en een abtsstaf, rechts van een omgewende sleutel en een gesteelde en gebladerde roos, alles van het een op het ander.

That is:
Two red-white vertical stripes of equal width, in the middle a fleur-de-lis with two counterchanged roses emerging on each side, on left a leaved rose and an abbot's cross, on right a key and a leaved rose, all counterchanged.

According to Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel, the flag was adopted by the Municipal Council on 31 October 1989, confirmed by the Executive of Flanders on 9 Octobre 1990 and published in the Belgian official gazette on 25 September 1990. Red and white are the traditional colours of the abbey of Affligem.

The municipal arms of Affligem shows the elements described above in white on a red shield (official description, from the municipal website):

In keel een lelie met twee uitkomende gesteelde rozen, begeleid rechts van een gesteelde en gebladerde roos en een abtsstaf, links van een omgewende sleutel en een gesteelde en gebladerde roos, alles van zilver.

Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 22 July 2005