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Chaudfontaine (Municipality, Province of Liège, Belgium)

Last modified: 2005-11-12 by ivan sache
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[Flag of Chaudfontaine]

Municipal flag of Chaudfontaine - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 30 May 2005

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Presentation of Chaudfontaine

The municipality of Chaudfontaine (20,995 inhabitants on 12 January 2005; 2,551 ha) is located on the river Vesdre, a few kilometers south-east of Liège. It is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Beaufays (5,261 inh., Belfagétains), Chaudfontaine (including Chaudfontaine-Sources and Ninane; 2,846 inh., Calidifontains), Embourg (including Mehagne; 8,114 inh., Embouriens) and Vaux-sous-Chèvremont (4,774 inh., Valcaprimontois).

All the villages of Chaudfontaine, as well as Chênée, belonged to the Carolingian domain of Jupille. This domain was ceded to the Bishopric of Verdun by Emperor Henri II in 1008. The parish of Jupille belonged to the Notre-Dame's Chapter in Aachen until the Concordat. In 1120, the monk Robert built an oratory in the place called Belle-Fontaine (Beautiful fountain); three years later, he was granted a piece of land by Henri, Bishop of Verdun. The grant was confirmed in 1134 by Bishop Alberon: the foundation became a priory whose Superior was appointed by the Bishop of Verdun and blessed by the Bishop of Liège. In 1215, Robert, Bishop of Verdun, granted to Prior Renier a forest called Bellum Fagetum; the village which grew up near the priory was later called Baufays. Fagetum most probably comes from fagus, the beech tree. A document dated 1229 states that the priory followed St. Augustine's rule. in 1226, Bishop Robert ceded Jupille, including Beaufays, to the St. Lambert's Chapter in Liège. The transfer really started in 1297. From that year to the French Revolution, Beaufays belonged to the Principality of Liège and its lord was the Prince-Bishop of Liège. The priory, later an abbey, was sold after the Revolution as "national good".

Chaudfontaine is located on a known geothermal hotspot: the local substratum is exceptionnally warm, which explains the presence of the warm thermal water which gave its name to the municipality (Chaudfontaine literally means "Warm fountain"). The water of Chaudfontaine circulates in a limestone substratum at a temperature of 55 degrees Celsius, normally found at a depth of 1,500-1,600 m. The local abnormal conditions of temperature and pressure explain the specific mineral characteristics of the water. Datation with radioelements has shown that water needs more than 60 years to reach the surface; therefore, the water bottled today percolated through the soil earlier than 1945, that is before the main environmental contamination of the Earth. The water is currently pumped directly from the thermal sheet at a depth of 340 m. Pressure is there 25 bars and temperature at emergence of water 37 degrees Celsius. A safe perimeter has been set up by the municipality of Chaudfontaine in order to preserve the thermal sheet from any source of pollution.

Pitchers bearing the writing Eaux thermales et Bains de Chaudfontaine 1716 were found in Antwerp, which seems to indicate that the water of Chaudfontaine was already marketed. The first spa was built in 1725. In 1805, the water was no longer drunk but used only for bathing; J.B. Leclerc confirmed in 1818 that doctors did not prescribe water for drink. However, at the end of the XIXth century, drinking water of Chaudfontaine was recommended against hypochondria, rheumatism, scurvy, gravel and diseases of kidneys, bladder and liver.
In 1924, the water was bottled and marketed by the company Eau minérale de Chaudfontaine aka Thermale Chaudfontaine, owned by the Canter family. Mayor William Grisard attempted the acquisition of holdings in the company but was rejected by Canter; in 1922, he founded SA Cristal Chaudfontaine, and automatized the bottling process. Eugène Prost showed in 1925 that the water of Chaudfontaine included 2 to 3 millimicrocuries of radium per liter. Even if radium tended to disappear from the water after a few days, it was used for advertizing; radioactivity still had good press at that time.
On 8 May 1935, Cristal Chaudfontaine required the authorization to produce sparkling water and to set up a gaz carboy store; a very same request was made by Thermale Chaudfontaine on 27 May 1935. The municipality bought the goods of Thermale Chaudfontaine on 16 January 1939, including the warm water sources, Grand Hôtel des Bains and the former Hôtel d'Angleterre. Thermale Chaudfontaine was liquidated short after the purchase.
On 12 January 1950, the municipality signed a convention with Cristal Chaudfontaine, which was granted the monopoly of water bottling and renamed accordingly SA Chaudfontaine-Monopole. The company was purchased by Piedboeuf, from Jupille, in 1962 and built a new factory in 1968. Water was automatically processed and bottled by four units producing 40,000, 32,000, 20,000 and 20,000 bottles per hour. In 1972, processing of plastic bottles was initiated (15,000 bottles per hour). 200 millions liters of water were sold in 1977.
In 1988, Piedboeuf merged with Stella Artois to form the Interbrew group. Chaudfontaine-Monopole seceded from Interbrew in 1997; the company produce today only mineral water and fresh drinks. The products are marketed in Belgium, France and the Netherlands. The company was purchased on 1 June 2003 by Coca-Cola.

In 1676, Simon Sauveur understood that the warm spring located on his estate could be used for water cures. Sauveur built a small basin to collect water; a pump sent water to the "baths", located in a small hut. The spa was very popular, but illegal; Sauveur required the authorization of exploiting the water from the Prince-Bishop of Liège, which was granted in 1696, under an obligation to build clean and comfortable housing for the customers. However, Sauveur lacked the funds required to build such an hotel and his customers left Chaudfontaine for better places. in 1712, the lawyer Jean-Rémy de Chestret claimed to be the owner of the land near the source and was allowed to purchase more lands and build modern baths. In May 1714, the building of Hôtel des Bains, rebuilt several times on the same site until 1983, was completed. Water was supplied to the baths by four big pumps powered by a wheel itself powered by an arm of the river Vesdre.
The Municipal Council supported the embelishment of the spa and awarded 800 guilders for the building of a perron, which was also a way to show allegiance to Liège. In 1744, the big monument of Belles-Fontaines was erected over the cold fountain of Gadot; the Gadot sources were heated and used for bathing. In 1711, Laurent de Chession, Captain of Beaufays, built nice buildings for the Gadot baths, and was succeeded by his heirs. The "genuine" Société des Bains created by Chestret sued its competitor; the Gadot baths were forbidden in 1714 but were still exploited in 1757. The burlesque Walloon opera Voëgge di Tchofontinne (1757, music by Jean-Noël Hamal) relates the boat transport used by the customers from Liège. All along the XVIIIth century, the baths of Chaudfontaine were exploited by managers hired by the owners of the site, without a great profit.

Source: Municipal website

Ivan Sache, 30 May 2005

Municipal flag of Chaudfontaine

The municipal flag of Chaudfontaine is vertically divided blue-yellow. The municipal website shows it hoisted in front of the city hall of Chaudfontaine and the former city hall of Embourg.

The former municipality of Chaudfontaine had no arms but used blue and yellow as its colours. The new municipality of Chaudfontaine has no arms either.

Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 30 May 2005