Last modified: 2005-12-03 by ivan sache
Keywords: gembloux | keys: 3 (white) |
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Municipal flag of Gembloux - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 16 May 2005
The municipality and town (Ville) of Gembloux (20,784 inhabitants, c. 10,000 ha) is located in the northernmost part of the province of Namur. The municipal territory is mostly part of the basin of river Meuse, except its westernmost part, which belongs to the basin of Scheldt. The two basins are separated by a watershed formerly used by the Roman way Bavay-Tongeren. Gembloux is the crossroads of RN4 (Brussels-Namur) and RN29 (Charleroi-Tirlemont).
The municipality of Gembloux-sur-Orneau was formed by a Royal Decree
from 17 January 1975, merging the former municipalities of Gembloux
(already incorporating Gembloux [7,376 inh.], Lonzée [1,810 inh.],
Grand-Manil [1,397 inh.], Sauvenière [1,784 inh.] and Ernage [1,183
inh.] since 1 January 1965), Beuzet (1,183 inh.), Bossière (930 inh.),
Bothey (332 inh.), Corroy-le-Château (1,136 inh.), Les Isnes (661
inh.), Grand-Leez (2,062 inh., including Petit-Leez) and Mazy (930
inh., famous for its black marble quarries).
The law of 30 July 1979 modified article 464 (paragraphs 1 and 2) of the Royal Decree: the municipality was renamed Gembloux.
The law of 5 June 1998 confered the title of ville (town) to Gembloux.
The name of Gembloux is probably of Celtic origin. In the Gallo-Roman
times, several estates (villae) developed along the strategic way
Bavay-Tongeren. When the German invasions started, the settlements
moved from the way to the countryside, especially up to rocky
The historical center of Gembloux is built on such a spur. A Merovingian tomb, dated from VIIth century was found there in 1935. In the Xth century, knight Wicbertus founded in Gembloux a Benedictine abbey; Wicbertus was canonized in 1110 as Saint Guibert.
The abbey boosted the cultural and economical development of Gembloux
in the XIth century; Abbot Olbert built monastic buildings and a an
abbey-church in Romanic style. The XIIth century was a dark age for
Gembloux; being located in the Duchy of Brabant but too close to the
County of Namur, the city was besieged, seized and trashed three times
by the Count of Namur. In 1153, Gembloux was allowed to build city
walls; the protected area stretched over seven hectares, including three only
for the abbey; the city walls had four fortified gates and was
protected by towers and moats. In 1430, Brabant and Namur were
incorporated into the Duchy of Burgundy and Gembloux lost its
The most famous monk of Gembloux is the historian Sigebert (c. 1035-c. 1112). Sigebert had the charge of the abbey school from 1070 to his death. Beforehand, he stayed at the abbey of St. Vincent at Metz, where he wrote the biographies of Bishop Theodoric I of Metz, of King Sigebert III and a long poem on the martyrdom of St. Lucia. Back to Gembloux, he wrote a poem on the martyrdom of the Theban Legion, a biography of Wicbert and a history of the abbots of Gembloux and of the bishops of Liège. Later he became a violent imperial partisan in the great struggle between the empire and the papacy. His most celebrated work, Chronicon sive Chronographia, is a chronicle of the world from 381 to 1111, which gained a very high reputation, was circulated in numberless copies, and was the basis of many later works of history.
During the second half of the XVIth century, Gembloux was damaged
during the Religious Wars. On 31 January 1578, the battle of Gembloux
opposed the local Protestants (Gueux) to the Spanish troops commanded
by Don Juan of Spain, Emperor Charles V's natural son.
In the XVIth century, the Abbot of Gembloux increased his power: he was successively appointed Councillor of the Duke of Brabant, First Noble of Brabant, and eventually Count of Gembloux. The Abbot had extended judiciary powers and ruled a domain including Gembloux, Cortil, Ernage, Grand-Manil, Bertinchamps, Lonzée pro parte, Sauvenière and Liroux. The Abbot appointed the Mayor and the échevins and could sack them whenever he wanted. The city of Gembloux could not get rid of the Abbot and was not granted municipal rights until the French Revolution. In the XVIIth century, Gembloux was ruined by the wars of Louis XIV against Spain; a fortuitous blaze achieved the ruin of the city on 6 August 1678.
Gembloux recovered some prosperity in the second half of the XVIIIth
century, with the development of cutlery industry. The abbey church and
the monastic buildings, deemed obsolete, were rebuilt under Abbots
Eugène Gérard (1739-1758) and Jacques Legrain (1759-1790), who
commissioned the architect Laurent-Benoît Dewez. The work was completed
The troops of the French Republic invaded the Spanish Low Countries in 1794. The country was incorporated to France in 1795 and the feudal system was suppressed; the County of Gembloux disappeared and Gembloux was moved from Brabant to the department of Sambre-et-Meuse, in the arrondissement of Namur. The abbey of Gembloux was suppressed and its goods were sold in 1797. In 1810, an Imperial Decree allowed the municipalities of Gembloux, Grand-Manil and Lonzée to purchase the former abbey church in order to replace their old parish church.
After the independence of Belgium, Gembloux was linked by railway to
Brussels in 1855 and to Namur the next year.
In 1860, the State Institute of Agriculture (Institut Agricole de l'Etat) was set up in the former abbey. The Belgian Parliament decided in 1855 to create higher education in agriculture in Belgium. Several reasons accounted for the choice of Gembloux: the city was located in a middle of a rich agricultural region with roads and railways; several buildings of the former abbey were available; it was possible to rent arable lands for teaching and experimentation; the agricultural and industrial company Henri Ledocte managed in the former farm of the abbey an estate, a sugar house and a distillery; a stud farm was housed in the outhouses of the abbey. The most important factor was probably the personal links among Charles Rogier, Minister of the Interior and Agriculture, Maurice Ledocte and François-Jospeh Pieton, Senator and owner of the former abbey.
The Institute was inaugurated on 1 November 1860 and the classes started in January 1861 for 37 students. After three years, the students were confered the title of Ingénieur agricole. In 1881, the Belgian State purchased the buildings of the former abbey, except the farm. The Institute was renamed State Institute of Agronomy (Institut Agronomique de l'Etat) in 1920 and State Faculty of Agronomic Sciences (Faculté des Sciences Agronomiques de l'Etat) in 1965. The Faculty eventually bought the farm of the former abbey in 1992. It is currently named University Faculty of Agronomic Sciences of Gembloux (Faculté universitaire des Sciences agronomiques de Gembloux - FUSAGx) and is an autonomous institute depending on the French Community. The three axes of teaching and research in FUSAGx are agronomical sciences, environment sciences and technology, and chemistry and bio-industry. FUSAGx has 1,000 students and 500 staff members, and a well-deserved international reputation of excellence.
On 14 and 15 May 1940, Gembloux was the heart of the Manoeuvre de la Dyle managed by the French army. The Fourth Corps of the First Army, including the First Moroccan Division and the 15th Division of Motorized Infantry, blocked for two days the German 16th Panzer Korps along the Brussels-Namur railway.
Ivan Sache, 16 May 2005
The municipal flag of Gembloux, as confirmed by the municipal administration, is vertically divided black and white, the colours of the municipal coat of arms.
Proposed municipal flag of Gembloux - not used - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 14 May 2005
According to Armoiries communales en Belgique. Communes wallonnes, bruxelloises et germanophones, the Heraldry and Vexillology Council of the French Community proposed a flag made of a gironny of twelve green and yellow pieces, with the municipal coat of arms in the middle. The twelve pieces should recall the twelve former municipalities forming Gembloux.
The municipal coat of arms of Gembloux is:
De sable à trois clefs d'argent.
Sable three keys argent.
The origin of the municipal arms is unknown. It was for long believed that the three keys recalled the gates made in the city walls in the XIIth century; however, there were four gates. In the cloister of the Faculty, a stained-glass window made at the end of the Second World War shows the arms of 35 abbots of Gembloux. The arms of Abbot Arnould de Chastre (1268-1300) show three keys argent, and might have been the source of the arms of the domain of Gembloux.
Servais says that the arms of Gembloux were granted on 15 September 1865, and were based on an image in a book describing the Walloon part of Brabant from 1692. The meaning of the three keys, however, is not clear.
Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 16 May 2005