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Lobbes (Municipality, Province of Hainaut, Belgium)

Last modified: 2012-05-17 by ivan sache
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[Flag of Lobbes]

Municipal flag of Lobbes - Image by Ivan Sache, 5 May 2007

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Presentation of Lobbes

The municipality of Lobbes (5,515 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 3,208 ha) is located mid-distance (10 km) of Charleroi and the border with France; the town is separated from the neighbouring town of Thuin by the river Sambre. The municipality of Lobbes is made, since 1976, of the former municipalities of Lobbes, Mont-Sainte-Geneviève, Sars-la-Buissière and Bienne-lez-Happart.

Lobbes was introduced as follows by Roger Foulon, a writer from Thuin:

Une histoire et l'Histoire ont créé Lobbes, en ont fait une légende vraie, un petit espace de feuillages et d'eaux nourri de passé, de présent, un point sur l'échiquier du monde, au cœur de l'Occident, à trois lieues du beau pays de France.
A story and history have created Lobbes, have made of it a true legend, a small place with leaves and waters nurished by the past and the present, a point on the world's checkboard, in the heart of Occident, three leagues away from the nice country of France).

The town of Lobbes emerged around the abbey of Lobbes, which was once one of the most powerful in the Low Countries. The St. Usmer collegiate church, built in the IXth century on the top of the Sambre hillside (40 m asl), is considered as the oldest church in Belgium.
In 654, St. Landelin (c. 625-686) founded the Benedictine abbey of Lobbes. The semi-legendary hagiography of Landelin claims he was of the lineage of the Frankish King Mérovée (c. 411-457), the root of the Merovingian dynasty. There is hardly no historical data on Mérovée and several historians believe he never existed. Landelin was christened by St. Aubert, Bishop of Cambrai and was about to take the coat when his cousins introduced him to the sinful life. Landelin joined a band of rascals scouring the local forests and became their chief. Landelin, then known as Maurosus, killed, raped and tortured, until the death of one of his prefered fellows. Landelin had then a dream showing a band of demons struggling for bringing the dead's soul into hell; then an angel appeared and asked Landelin to choose immediatly between hell and paradise. Landelin left and ask pardon to Bishop Aubert, which was granted in 643. Anyway, Landelin was ordered by Pope Martin to evangelize Gaul and decided to build an abbey on his crimes' place, helped by an increasing number of disciples.

Landelin was succeeded by St. Ursmer (c. 645-713; canonized in 823), who was encouraged to take the coat by St. Amand, the Apostle of Belgium, and supported by the Merovingian ruler Pepin of Herstal, who needed a base for the evangelization of Flanders. Pope Sergius I visited Lobbes around 697: he exempted the monastery of any control but by the Holy See and offered to Usmer relics of St. Peter in order to promote a yearly pilgrimage. Ursmer built two churches, one in the valley and one uphill, and made of the abbey a center of religion and science. He is considered as the true founder of the abbey of Lobbes.

Ursmer appointed Ermin (d. 737) as his successor. Ermin's domains, located near Laon, produced the wine required for the mass in the abbey. When Ermin's neighbour attempted to confiscate the vineyard in 1104, the chapter of Lobbes send there a reliquary with St. Ermin's relics in order to threaten the potential invader. This was successful but no miracle occurred since the alleged Ermin's relics were indeed St. Théodulphe's relics, whose miraculous properties were unsignificant (at that time, the relics were fiercely disputed and the most precious ones were kept in the monasteries to avoid any theft). However, when the monks stopped at Valenciennes on their way back to Lobbes, St. Théodulphe's relics cured several ill people and the monks had a lot of problems to repatriate the saint to Lobbes. In 1056, the bridge over the Sambre crashed down because of the heavy weight of the carts bringing the wine, but there was no damage either to the men and oxen or to the wine thanks to Sts. Ursmer and Ermin. In 1074, Givard of Hirson intercepted the convey and jailed the monks, only for a few days since an earthquake destroyed his castle. Since then, a dictum says Saint Ermin protège notre vin (St. Ermin protects our wine).

Ermin wrote a Vita Ursmari, into verse, with the first letter of each verse following the alphabetic order, whereas Anson the Blessed wrote a Vita Ermini; however, the scholar activity started in Lobbes in 797 when Charlemagne founded a monastic school opened to the laymen and teaching the seven liberal arts (grammar, dialectics, rhetorics, music, arithmetics, geometry and astronomy), with famous professors such as Wazon, Olbert, Hugues and Thierry. Until the XIth century, Lobbes was a main center of publication, with a famous scriptorium where all kinds of manuscripts were copied and decorated with rich illuminations. Two famous illuminators from Lobbes are Folcuin (late Xth century), author of the Gesta abbatum Lobiensium (History of the abbey of Lobbes) and Goderan (late XIth century), author of the Stavelot Bible and the Lobbes Bible.
After the share of the Carolingian Empire (Treaty of Verdun, 843), the abbey of Lobbes was granted in 863 to Hubert, the brother-in-law of King Lothaire II; one year later, half of the goods and domains of the abbey had been squandered. Lothaire commissioned Bishop of Cambrai Jean to list the remaining domains, a manuscript known as the Lobbes Polyptich (868-869). The descriptio villarium lists 42 domains depending on Lobbes; there are also two lists of 183 and 137 villae, respectively. for each place are given the areas of lands and pastures, the number of cattle and pigs, the breweries, the mills, the dependencies, the income and the yield of the last harvests. The Lobbes Polyptich contains the oldest known mention of several current villages and towns. An authentic copy of the Polyptich, made in the XVIIIth century, is kept in the presbytery of Lobbes.
The abbey was then granted to the bishop of Liège and the collegiate church of Lobbes was rebuilt at the end of the XIth century. Several Carolingian parts are still visible, especially in the crypt. Around 1060, Abbott Adélard organized a "tour" of St. Usmer's relics all over Flanders and Brabant to rise funds for the revamping of the church. In 1084, Canon Oilbaud reused the silver from the saints' shrines and "hired" a domesticated she-bear to bring up the stones from the valley of Sambre. The new church was consecrated in 1095 by Bishop of Liège Otbert.

In the middle of the Xth century, the Magyars scoured the country of Hesbaye and walked over Lobbes. The inhabitants and the monks fortified the abbey church, which was besieged in 955. On 2 April, a dust cloud moving up to Lobbes was the sign of the Magyar cavalry. The church built in the valley was sacked and the monks living there were killed. When the Magyars attacked the makeshift fortifications, two doves left the crypt of the church and flew around the besiegers three times. A huge thunderstorm broke out and slackened the ropes of the Magyars' bows. The besiegers were wiped downhill by the flood. Since then, the hillside is called the Magyars' Ravine and the 2 April is the town day. The abbey of Lobbes was eventually suppressed by the French troops in 1794; it was so wealthy that the looting lasted three days.

Source: The collegiate church of Lobbes, in Excursions scolaires website

Ivan Sache, 5 May 2007

Municipal flag of Lobbes

The flag of Lobbes is vertically divided dark green-white. It is hoisted over the town hall and near the bridge over the Sambre, at the entrance of the town when coming from Thuin.

Ivan Sache, 5 May 2007