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Sankt Vith (Municipality, Province of Liège, Belgium)


Last modified: 2006-01-14 by ivan sache
Keywords: sankt vith | saint-vith | lion (red) |
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[Flag of Sankt Vith]

Municipal flag of Sankt Vith - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 7 May 2005

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Presentation of Sankt Vith

The municipality and town (Ville) of Sankt Vith (in French, Saint-Vith; 9,007 inhabitants, 14,692 hectares) is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Recht, Sankt Vith, Schönberg, Lommersweiler and Crombach. Sankt Vith is the capital city of the Belgian Eifel and part of the German-speaking Community.

No Prehistoric, Celtic or Roman remains have been found on the current municipal terriotory of Sankt Vith. It is therefore believed that the region was a crossing point without any permanent settlement. The two main roads crossing there linked Cologne to Reims (north-south) and the two abbeys of Prüm and Malmédy (east-west). The monk Remacle founded there an abbey in 648; in the XIIth century, Abbot Wibald (1098-1158) obtained the transfer of the relics of the martyre Vitus. Vitus (Guy) gave his name to the village of Sankt Vith, which had developed around the abbey around 900. St. Vitus, said to have been martyrized in the IVth century, was invoked against epilepsy and St. Vitus' dance, a microbial nervous disease known today as chorea.

In the XIIIth century, Sankt Vith was an important market place, belonging to the Duchy of Luxembourg. Around 1350, Johann of Valkenbourg-Montjoie increased the castle and built a city wall with defense towers, and Sankt Vith was confered the title of city and the right of bearing a coat of arms. After the death of Valkenbourg-Montjoie in 1352, the domain of Sankt-Vith was ruled by the Counts of Vianden for the next four centuries. The city became an economical, administrative and military center. Unfortunately, the city was regularly damaged by blazes, wars and epidemics; in the middle of the XIVth century, the black plague epidemics that spread all over Europe nearly killed all the inhabitants of Sankt Vith.

As a part of the Duchy of Luxembourg and therefore of the Spanish Low Countries, Sankt Vith was often trashed during the XVIth-XVIIth centuries wars. In 1632, during the Thirty Years' War, the Dutch troops seized and trashed the city; the black plague hit the city once again at the end of the war. In 1689, King of France Louis XIV, at war with the Holy Empire and the Low Countries, ordered the demolition of all the border fortresses taken to the enemy, including Sankt Vith. The treaty of Utrecht (1713) confered the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg to Austria and the peace of Aachen (1748) was the beginning of a peaceful period in Sankt Vith. Leather industry developed in Sankt Vith during the reign of Maria Theresa.

In June 1794, the troops of the French Republic won the battle of Fleurus and occupied Belgium. The feudal system was abolished and Sankt Vith became a municipality and the capital city of a canton included in the arrondissement of Malmédy and department of Ourthe.
After the fall of Napoléon, the Congress of Vienna incorporated the canton of Malmédy, including Sankt Vith, to Rhenan Prussia, into the administrative division of Aachen. The life improved in Sankt Vith, where the railway arrived in 1887.

After the First World War, the treaty of Versailles reincorporated the Eastern Cantons (Eupen and Malmédy) to Belgium. They were reincorporated to the Third Reich in May 1940.
In December 1944, the last German counter-attack (Battle of Ardennes) severely hit Sankt Vith. Fightings in the vicinity of the city started on 17 December; the 9th Armored Division was awarded the following Presidential Unit Citation:

By virtue of the authority vested in me as President of the United States and as Commander in chief of the Armed Forces of the United States, I have today awarded


Combat Command B, 9th Armored Division is cited for extraordinary heroism in combat in the vicinity of Saint-Vith, Belgium from December 17 to December 23, 1944. Combat Command B, 9th Armored Division was subjected to repeated tank and infantry attacks, which grew in intensity as German forces attempted to destroy the stubborn defenses that were denying them the use of the key communication center at Saint-Vith. By the second day, the flanks were constantly threatened by enemy forces that had bypassed the Saint-Vith area and pushed far to the rear in an effort to encircle the command east of the Salm River. The attacking forces were repeatedly thrown back by the gallant troops who rose from their fox holes and fought in fierce hand-to-hand combat to stop the penetrations and inflict heavy losses on the numerically superior force. As the command continued to deny the important Saint-Vith highway and railroad center to the Germans, the entire offensive lost is initial impetus and their supply columns became immobilized. By 21 December, the German timetable was so disrupted that the enemy was forced to divert a corps to the capture of Saint-Vith. Under extreme pressure from overwhelming forces, Combat Command B, which for 7 days had held the Saint-Vith area so gallantly, was order to withdraw west of the Salm River. By their epic stand, without prepared defenses and despite heavy casualties, Combat Command B, 9th Armored Division, inflicted crippling losses and imposed great delay upon the enemy by a masterful and grimly determined defense in keeping with the highest traditions of the Army of the United States

The Germans occupied Sankt Vith, which was submitted to air bombings on 24 and 25 December. Nearly 90% of the city was destroyed, 153 civilians and more than 1,000 soldiers were killed.
The city of Sankt Vith was rebuilt on the same place; building of the new city was completed in the 1960s. The Büchel Tower, built in the XIVth century and revamped in 1961, is the only remain of the historical city.

Source: Municipal website

Ivan Sache, 7 May 2005

Municipal flag of Sankt Vith

The municipal flag of Sankt Vith is vertically divided red-white-red (1:2:1), with the white stripe charged with the lion from the municipal coat of arms.

The municipal arms of Sankt Vith are, according to Armoiries communales en Belgique. Communes wallonnes, bruxelloises et germanophones:

D'argent au lion de gueules, la queue fourchue, couronné d'or, armé et lampassé d'azur.

That is:
Argent a double-tailed lion gules crowned or armed and langued azure.

A Royal Decree from 3 July 1925 allowed the municipality of Sankt Vith to use the coat of arms of Valkenburg-Limburg. The arms were then shown with the lion of Limburg:

Argent a double-tailed lion gules crowned and armed or.

According to Servais, the lords of Fauquemont (Valkenburg) either descended from the lords of Heinsberg, who used a silver lion on a red shield, or from the Dukes of Limburg, who used a red lion on a silver field. The oldest known use of the double-tailed lion dates from 1342 on a seal form Jean de Fauquemont (Johann of Valkenburg in the above text). Fauquemont is today the city of Valkenburg aan de Geul, in the Dutch province of Limburg, which has a different coat of arms, still supported by two lions with a forked tail.

Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 7 May 2005