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Oudenaarde (Municipality, Province of East Flanders, Belgium)


Last modified: 2012-04-05 by ivan sache
Keywords: oudenaarde | audenarde | lion (black) |
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[Flag of Oudenaarde]

Municipal flag of Oudenaarde - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 24 August 2005

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Presentation of Oudenaarde

The municipality of Oudenaarde (in French, Audenarde; in Sterne's Tristram Shandy, Oudenard; 28,820 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 6,806 ha) is located on river Scheldt (in Dutch, Schelde; in French, Escaut), 20 km south-south-west of Ghent and 15 km east of Kortrijk. The municipality of Oudenaarde is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Oudenaarde (including Bevere, Edelare, Eine, Ename, Leupegem, Nederename and Volkegem since 1964; Heurne, Mater, Melden and Welden since 1970) and Mullem. The 1964 municipal merging was the first of that kind in Belgium.
Oudenaarde is a main economical center in Flanders; the luggage manufacturer Samsonite set up its European headquarters there. The other main, traditional activity in Oudenaarde is clothing industry.

Oudenaarde, c. 1000-year old, is often considered as a gift from the Scheldt. The river was a cheap and convenient route for Flemish trade, linking the sea and its recently developed town to the older big townw watered by its southern tributaries, for instance Arras (now in France). The river was also a main route of invasion, and Oudenaarde kept a strategic role for centuries. Two complete destructions and a big blaze did not stop the growth of the town.
A first spei (a primitive lock with a basin) was built in the 11th century for the blossoming shipyard. With years, the economical center of Flanders moved northwards and Oudenaarde increased its role of regional and inter-regional trade town. Oudernaarde was also a main center of tapestry production, particularly famous for verdures (green work).
Oudenarde was of strategic importance for the Counts of Flanders, who increased and embelished the town. The States of Flanders gathered in Oudenaarde several times, and the Counts made of the town a strongthold against their southern neighbours and later against Ghent. In the golden Burgundian period, Oudenaarde was nicknamed the "Residence of the Nobles" (Verblifplaats der Edelen), who were up to 120 to stay in the town.
Emperor Charles V also spent a few months in the town. He got there in 1522 a daughter with the daughter of the tapestry weaver Vanderghynst, Margaretha van Parma, later appointed Governor. The Emperor loved not only the weaver's daughter but also tapestries. He played a major role in the regulation of the tapestry industry. His general ordinance (91 articles) released on 16 May 1544 to fight fraud and to preserve the quality of national trade is considered by the historian H. Pirenne as the oldest document of trade policy in Belgium.

In 1593, Oudenaarde incorporated the old town of Pamele, founded around 1100 on the right bank of the Scheldt. The main heritage of the ancient town is the Our Lady of Pamele church, built in 1235-1300 in the Scheldt Gothic style. A building inscription dated 1234 gives the name of Master Arnulf de Binche. The expensive stone from Tournai was used for the building.
On 11 July 1708, during the War of the Spanish Succession, Duke of Marlborough and Prince Eugene of Savoy defeated the French in the battle of Oudenaarde. After the defeat, the French had to withdraw from Ghent and Bruges they had seized a few days before.

The St. Walburga collegiate church, built in a combination of Gothic styles from Tournai and Brabant, rises above Oudenaarde. The church was rebuilt in 1150 after the big blaze of 1126. The choir of the present-day church belonged to the Gothic church. In 1406, the apsis was added on for Duke of Burgundy John Fearless, who stayed in the town. A complete rebuilding of the church, decided in 1414, was only partially achieved because of money shortage. All the medieval furnishing was destroyed during religious riots in 1566 and afterwards. During three centuries, tapestry weaving was the most important industry in Oudenaarde and the St. Walburga church played an important role in the life of the weavers, as it was the centre of their religious life.
The town hall of Oudenaarde was designed in Brabant Gothic style by architect Hendrik Van Pede; its building was launched in 1526 by Philips de Lalaing, Governor of the town. Since 1538, the gilded brass statue of Hanske de Krijger, made by the local silversmith Willem Blansterins, has been watching the neighbourings of Oudenaarde from the belfry. Like in several other Flemish town halls, the ground floor of the building included rooms for the traders; the Corn House (Korenhuis), the Weight (Waag) and the lower Clothmaker's Hall, used today to show the world-famous tapestries from Oudenaarde. The most important room, the Alderman's Hall, opens through a monumental porch made by the local sculptor Pauwel Van Der Schelden in 1533-1536.
Another museum dedicated to tapestry is the Lalaing House (16th-18th centuries), located in Pamele. A restoration workshop and a modern weaving workshop can be seen there, as well as an historical collection of looms and scientific material related to tapestry.

Oudenaarde was also very famous in the 15th-18th centuries for silversmith's trade, whose masterpieces are shown in the Silver Room of the town hall, for instance, the oldest teapot made in Oudenaarde, dated 1702. There were two-three silversmiths per generation on that period, most of them belonging to two or three families in each century. The number of silversmiths in each town was stictly controlled and each silversmith had his own mark registered with the guild. The St. Egidius' guild was founded in Oudenaarde in 1700.

Source: Municipal website

Ivan Sache, 24 August 2005

Municipal flag of Oudenaarde

The municipal flag of Oudenaarde is horizontally divided red-yellow-red-yellow-red-yellow with a black lion with a red tongue and claws.
According to Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel [w2v02a], the flag was adopted by the Municipal Council on 29 June 1992, confirmed by the Executive of Flanders on 6 October 1992 and published in the Belgian official gazette on 21 June 1994.
The flag is a banner of the municipal arms.

According to Servais [svm55a], the arms of Oudenaarde were granted by Royal Decree on 29 May 1838. The greater arms are crowned and supported by two savages.
The arms of Oudenaarde first appeared on the seal of the town dated 1339. The arms are a combination of the oldest arms of the Looz family and the lion of Flanders. Gerard, lord of Oudenaarde in the early 14th century, descended from the Looz family.
The basic design of the arms did not changed during the centuries, but the arms have been shown with a variety of crowns and supporters. The present savages were already in use in the 17th century.
According to the Early Blazon website, Arnulf IV of Oudenaarde (c. 1180-1242), lord of Oudenaarde and Pamele and Bailiff of Flanders, already used the arms of the Looz family.

Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 24 August 2005

A flag (photo) kept at the local museum (143 cm x 222 cm, made of nylon) has the place name added in black serifless letters on the lowest, yellow stripe. The lion's tongue is red, but not the nails.
Another flag (photo) kept at the local museum (135 cm x 297 cm, painted on linen, wooden staff with iron halberd finial, length 228 cm) is triangular. The lion, rather passant than rampant to nicely fill the field, has a red tongue and nails. The flag is said to date, as the preceding item, from the 20th century: that is rather broad but we may guess that the rectangular flag is fairly recent whereas the triangular one might well date from before the Second World War or even the First World War.

Jan Mertens, 8 September 2011