Last modified: 2005-12-03 by ivan sache
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Municipal flag of Bree - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 27 August 2005
The municipality and town (Stad) of Bree (14,000 inhabitants) is located in the east of Kempen, 10 km south of the border with the Netherlands. It is made of the city of Bree and the former municipalities of Beek and Gerdingen (incorporated in 1964) and Opitter (incorporated in 1976, including Tongerlo, incorporated in 1970).
Bree was mentioned in the first time in 1007. Countess Eremengardis of
Loon ceded the city in 1078 to the St. Bartholomeuw's collegiate church of Liège. The law in Bree was then fairly complicated since there were two municipal "banks" (courts): the inner bank, with competency on the
free city, followed the law of Liège, whereas the outer bank, with
competency on the territories extra muros, followed the law of Loon.
The two banks were constituted by the same people. To make the
situation even more complicated, some domains located extra muros but
belonging to the St. Bartholomeuw and St. John's churches in Liège
followed the law of Liège. In 1366, the County of Loon was incorporated
into the Principality of Liège. Bree was then one of the "good cities" (bonnes villes of the Principality of Liège and remained so until the French
Revolution suppressed the Principality of Liège.
Bree was fortified in the XIVth century; the four gates of the city and two watch towers are still there. The city was occupied several times (1630-1631, 1654, 1677, 1705-1712, 1743-1747). Blazes damaged the city in 1376, 1601, 1616, 1697 and 1699.
In the XIXth century, Bree made its industrial revolution. Pipes and cigars from Bree were smoked all over the world. The local tile manufacture was one of the biggest ever.
Beek, once owned by the Knights of Alden-Biesen, is the birth village
of Jan van Abroek, born in the middle of the XVth century. He studied
in Bree, Den Bosch and Cologne, and joined in 1465 the Order of the Holy
Sepulcher. Appointed Prior of the St. Odiliênberg's convent near
Roermond (today in Dutch Limburg), he started there his reform of the
order, known as De Kanunniken van het H. Graf (the Canons of the Holy
Sepulcher). Abroek founded several new convents, for instance in
Kinrooi and Wimmertingen, the later being the first women's convent of the order.
The St. Catherine's civic guard (schutterij) of Beek is the oldest guard of that kind in Bree. It was once known as the top guard in both Limburgs for its shooting skills and costumes.
Gerdingen was mentioned for the first time in 834, when Count Sadiger of Austrasia ceded the village to the St. Eucharius' convent. The borough of Nieuwstad, divided between the parishes of Bree and Gerdingen was in the past known as Novum Oppidum de Gerdingen, the new fortified city of Gerdingen. The goat's market is a folkloric event organized on the Monday after the first Sunday of October; it includes a parade of dressed goats through the street of the village. The Lord of Gerdingen and the Dame of Nieuwstad are the two local giants, inspired by historical characters, Jeanne van Merwede and her son-in-law Jan van Werst, "lord of Gerdingen and Nieuwstad near Bree".
Opitter was ceded as "Itera" by Count Lodewijk of Loon to the abbey of Averbode in 1200. The pride of Opitter is the St. Jozef's brewery, a traditional brewery, specialized in regional beers such as ops-ale, bosbier, bokereyer and pax-pils.
Tongerlo is located on the old road linking Bree to Maaseik. The canal and the tramway line have isolated the village, allowing it to preserve its historical look. Tongerlo is known as the village of the watermills, built on the Itterbeek. The most famous of them, the Galdermans' mill, is named after its first owner, who built it around 1770, and is still working. The Keyart mill, already mentioned in 1139, is probably the oldest mill in the region. In 1978, Tongerlo won the first prize in the Year of the Village (Jaar van het dorp) contest.
Bree is self-styled thuishaven van de internationale top in de sportwereld !, the home place of the top of international sport in the world. It is indeed the home city of two world-ranking champions, Wendy Jans and Kim Clijsters.
Wendy Jans is member of the snooker local club De Kaaihoeve. She is currently 2nd in the world ranking and was the first non-British competitor to win a world-ranking competition, the Scottish Open. Snooker is a fascinating billiard table game with complicated rules, very popular in the British Isles and mostly played by men, who, however, have recently accepted a woman among the top umpires. Belgium seems to be the continental European country where snooker is the most popular.
Kim Clijsters, born in 1983 in Bilzen, is one of the top tennis player of the professional WTA (Women's Tennis Association). She started her
professional career in 1999. As of 14 August 2005, Kim's record of
acheivements is 26 wins in WTA tournaments, including top ones like
Eastbourne, Indian Wells, Sydney, Rome, Hambourg, Miami and Filderstadt
and two Masters championships. She played four finals in Grand Slam's
tournaments but unfortunately won none of them. Since then, she won the 2005 US Open in Flushing Meadows. Her best year was 2003,
when she reached the top of the WTA ranking. Clijsters also won 11
tournaments in doubles, mostly playing with Ari Sugiyama, from Japan.
She was member of the Belgian team which won the Fed Cup (the
equivalent of the Davis Cup for women) in 2001.
Kim received several awards, including the WTA Rookie of the Year Award in 1999. The same year, she was elected Belgian Champion of the Year, a title she received four more times. In 2001, Justine Hénin and Kim Clijsters were jointly awarded the National Award of Sport Merit. Her opponents of the WTA awarded her the Fair Play Award in 2000 and 2003. Clijsters is famous (and successful) because of her very aggressive game, which yielded her the nicknames of "Killing Kim" and "Kim Kong" and for her splits, made at least once per set, which allowed her to compensate for her relatively small height (1.74 m). However, her very physical game caused her several injuries, and she recently announced she would quit competition in two years in order to preserve her health.
Kim Clijsters is one of the "two (tennis) queens of Belgium" with Justine Hénin, and has kept a very modest and pleasant behaviour in spite of being so famous so young. The Belgians have nicknamed her "Our Kim" and proudly consider their two queens as their best ambassadors.
Ivan Sache, 27 August 2005
The municipal flag of Bree is horizontally divided white-green with the
municipal coat of arms shifted near the hoist.
According to Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel, the flag was adopted by the Municipal Council on 28 March 1984, confirmed by the Executive of Flanders on 5 March 1985 and published in the Belgian official gazette on 8 July 1986.
There is no explanation on the colours of the flag.
The history of the arms of Bree, as related by Servais, is a bit
complicated. The arms granted on 5 March 1985 had already been granted on
26 July 1926. The arms used before, granted on 14 January 1902, were
In 1859, the first application for arms by the Municipal Council was rejected; the very same application was accepted in 1898. Those arms are based on an old seal of the city, dating back to 1431. The arms show in dexter the bars of the County of Loon and in sinister red and silver pales of unknown origin.
In 1911, based on seals from 1425, 1676 and 1678, the Municipal Council applied for the use of Archangel St. Michael as supporter and for the change of the colours of the pales to gold and black, historically correct. The First World War delayed the process until 1926.
After the municipal fusion, it was decided that the new municipality of Bree would keep the arms granted in 1926 to Bree because Opitter, the only incorporated municipality to have arms, also bore the bars of the County of Loon.
Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 27 August 2005