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Péruwelz (Municipality, Province of Hainaut, Belgium)

Last modified: 2015-07-28 by ivan sache
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[Flag of Peruwelz]

Municipal flag of Péruwelz - Image by Jorge Candeias, 29 March 2006

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Presentation of Péruwelz and its villages

The municipality of Péruwelz (16,826 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 6,055 ha) is located on the border with France, 20 km north of Valenciennes and 19 km south-west of Tournai. The municipality of Péruwelz is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Péruwelz,Baugnies, Bon-Secours, Braffe, Brasménil, Bury, Callenelle, Roucourt, Wasmes-Audemetz-Briffœil and Wiers.
Péruwelz is built on the river Verne Noire (from Celtic Vernos, "a brook lined with alders"), part of the basin of Middle Scheldt and taking its source in the marshes (locaaly called welz) of Thumaide and Wadelincourt. The town is bordered in the north by the "mounts" of Roucourt (56 m asl) and Péruwelz (52 m).

Péruwelz (Peru-Weiz = "Stone-Water") was mentioned, as Pereweis, in 1095 when its church was given to the abbey of Aubechies. The family of Péruwelz was often mixed up with the family of Perwez, in Brabant. In 1172, Nicolas de Pierewees helped Count of Hainaut Baudouin V during a war against the Duke of Lemborch (Limburg). Count Joseph de Saint-Genois listed in 1263 several lords of Pereweis or Perewes, but they were probably lords of Perwez and not of Péruwelz. It is not completely sure that the lords mentioned later were indeed lords of Péruwelz. Among them, Nicolas de Péruwelz died with his two sons in 1292 during the Third Crusade and Bauduins, lord of Péruwelz, founded a poor's hospital in 1308. In the middle of the XIIIth century, the heiress of Péruwelz married Gilles III de Chin et Berlaymont, still mentioned in 1255. In 1419, the lord of Berlaymont and Péruwelz, most probably Jean I, proposed a new law for his domain. The castle of Péruwelz was burnt down in 1477 by the Duke of Burgundy. Charles de Berlaymont, the councillor of Marguerite of Parma, Governor of the Low Countries, was the first Count of Péruwelz; he is mentioned in a chart dated 1547. His son Florent was captured in the battle of Roermond in 1572 and liberated only in 1577; his second wife Marguerite, Countess of Lalaing, founded in 1626 in Brussels a canoness' order known as the canonesses of Berlaymont. Their single daughter Marie-Marguerite married in 1626 Louis d'Egmont, Duke of Gelderland. The castle of Péruwelz was purchased in 1641 by Ambroise de Croÿ.
The lord of Péruwelz was the hereditary boutillier or botelier (cupbearer) of the Count of Hainaut. Gislebert de Mons (end of the XIIIth century) claims that this office was created by Countess Richilde de Hainaut and her son Baudouin I. In the Carolingian times, the cupbearer was a slave who tasted all beverages provided to the king because of a high risk of poisoning. In the Middle Ages, the office was very symbolic but highly prized.
For a long time, Péruwelz was one of the 44 baronies of Hainaut but it was indeed nothing but a big village. Industrialization and urbanization started at the end of the XVIIIth century with the opening of some twenty woollen stocking factories, tanneries, breweries and quarries. In the XIXth century, the town was completely revamped with the widening of the streets and the modernization of the architecture. On 17 February 1817, a Decree organizing the Provincial States granted the title of town (ville) to Péruwelz.
Wool industry is recalled in Péruwelz by the celebration of the St. Ann's Day on 26 July (the official saint's day as proclaimed by Pope Gregor XII in 1584) or the nearest Sunday. Ann was the Blessed Virgin's mother and is the patron saint of weavers, dressmakers...

Baugnies is mentioned, as Bauvegnies, in a document dated 1186; the village was then located on the former Gallo-Roman diverticulum (secondary way) linking Tournai and Blicquy. The Treaty of Chambord (1669) detached Baugnies from the domain of Ath and incorporated it into Tournaisis. This was reverted by the Treaty of Nijmegen in 1678. At the end of the XIXth century, the municipality of Briffœil was suppressed and the hamlet of Ponange was incorporated to Baugnies.

Bon-Secours developed on a hill around a famous pilgrimage place. In the XVIth century, the hill was still completely covered with woods. Some sources called it then Notre-Dame du Chêne d'entre deux bois (Our Lady of the Oak between two Woods). It is probable that an oak showed the limit between the forests of Blaton and Condé. The tradition says that a picture of the Blessed Virgin placed in the trunk of an oak was the origin of the pilgrimage, which became important in the XVIIth century.
In 1603, an old man named Jean Wateau told the local priest about the miraculous oak. Two small statues of the Virgin were made from the trunk of the oak; a pyramidal shrine was built, with three niches showing the three statues of the Virgin, of St. Quentin, the patron saint of the parish, and of St. Martin, the priest's patron saint. In 1636, Péruwelz was spared a black plague epidemic and the villagers vowed to build a chapel instead of the pyramid. On 21 Novembre 1637, the Archbishop of Cambrai consecrated the chapel and the place was renamed Bon-Secours (Good Help). The Maison de Notre-Dame aka Grand Logis was built in 1653 to house the pilgrims, whose number ever increased. A hamlet developed with pubs, hotels and shops, as described in 1685. The neo-gothic church Notre-Dame de Bon-Secours was built in 1885-1892 by the architect François Baeckelmans. On 25 March 1903, a Decree by Pope Pius X prescribed the crowning of the statue of the Virgin with a golden diadem. This was done on 3 July 1905 by the Bishop of Tournai, and the event was seen by more than 20,000 pilgrims. Pius X granted the title of basilica to the church in 1910. At the end of the XIXth century, some 100,000 pilgrims visited each year Bon-Secours; ten years later, in the beginning of the XXth century, this number increased to 500,000-600,000. For the pilgrimage of 2 July 1929, pilgrims were brought by 12 special trains.
In the XVIIIth century, the economy of Bon-Secours was also based on wood industry and sandstone extraction. However, Bon-Secours was still a hamlet depending on Péruwelz, a status that caused a lot of quarrels. The Royal Decree of 26 August 1907 made of Bon-Secours an independent municipality, to which were incorporated some pieces of land detached from the village of Blaton.

Braffe was settled very early, as shown by Gallo-Roman remains including a necropolis from the IInd century and cradftsmen's workshops. A chart dated 1098 states that the church of Brafia was granted to the abbey of Liessies and listed the domain of Braffe and Quesnoy as a dependency of the Barony of Leuze.

Brasménil is made of the two former hamlets of Bras, located around the church, and Maisnil, located around the eponymic castle. The brickyards active in the XIXth century were closed in the 1970s.

Bury is known for four sigillated ceramic vases dated from the first half of the Ist century. The village was known as Buria in 1147. Its chapel was listed among the parishes of the St. Brice Deanery in Tournai in 1186. The local domain depended on Leuze; it was owned by a local family and then successively transfered to the families of Antoing, Ligne, Blois and Merode, who eventually sold it to the family Visart de Bocarmé. On 5 September 1753, Louis-François Visart, lord of Bitremont and Bury, was made Count by Empress Maria-Theresia. The castle of Bitremont was built in the XIIIth century and revamped in the XVIIIth century. The famous murder with nicotine related by A. Gallez (Le sire de Bitremont) took place in the castle.

Calenelle is named after the river Calonne, which waters the village. It was known as Callenielle in 1186. The domains of Lassus and Callenelle belonged to the lord of Biez in Wiers. In the XVIIth century, the domain was transferred to the family Thiry d'Offignies, who ceded it to Jean-François de Marotte in 1647. The French congregation of the Dames of Saint-Maur settled the castle of Lassus in the beginning of the XXth century. Calenelle is known for its manufacture of billiard balls and cues, set up in a former brewery in 1923 and still active.

Roucourt was known in 1015, as Rotgericurtis, that is "Rotger's domain". Its oldest known lord was Adam de Roucourt. The domain was transferred in the XIIIth century to the lord of Biez in Wiers, and later to the families of Antoing, Werchin and Melun-Epinoy. It was a free domain belonging to the County of Flanders. Roucourt industrialized like Péruwelz at the end of the XVIIIth century.

Wasmes-Audemez-Briffœil is the result of the merging of Wasmes and Audemez (1805), to which Briffœil was incorporated in 1829, except the hamlet of Ponenche incorporated to Baugnies. In the Middle Ages, Wasmes belonged to Tournaisis, whereas Audemez and Briffœil belonged to Ath.

Wiers, as Wières, belonged in 1148 to the St. Médard abbey in Tournai. The main domain was ran from the castle of Biez, known since the XIIth century. In the middle of the XIVth century, its owner Isabelle d'Antoing married Gérard de Werchin, Pair and Hereditary Seneschal of Hainaut. The chronicler Jean Froissart visited the castle during the Hundred Years' War and described its 14 towers, seven of them being on angles. The castle was destroyed and rebuilt several times. During the revolt of the United Provinces against the Spanish rule, Biez was the headquarters of Guillaume de Melun, Prince d'Espinoy, and accordingly confiscated. The castle was abandoned and partially destroyed during the XIXth century. Its only significant remain is the entrance gate, dated 1630 and decorated with the arms of the Espinoy-d'Arenberg family.
Wiers industrialized like Péruwelz and Rocourt in the XVIIIth century. An attempt to open a colliery in the hamlet of Vergne failed in 1861.


Ivan Sache, 29 March 2006

Municipal flag of Péruwelz

The municipal flag of Péruwelz is chequered with five rows and five columns of squares in turn white and black, starting with a white rectangle in the upper left corner.
According to Armoiries communales en Belgique. Communes wallonnes, bruxelloises et germanophones, the flag was adopted by the Municipal Council on 29 November 1979, confirmed by the Executive of the French Community on 5 March 1986 and published in the Belgian official gazette on 4 February 1989, as Echiqueté de blanc et de noir de cinq tires.
The picture in the source shows the flag with proportions 4:5, which is required to keep the pieces square.
The flag is a banner of the municipal arms, rotated orthogonally clockwise.

According to the Heraldus website, Baudouin de Péruwelz bore in 1285 Echiqueté d'or et de gueules de six tires et six points (Chequered or and gules 6x6).
A Royal Decree of 8 October 1888 granted to the town of Péruwelz Echiqueté d'argent et de sable de cinq tires et quatre points (Chequered argent and sable 5x4). Assuming that the tires are the rows and the points the columns of the matrix, the official description of the flag given above is erroneous and incomplete. It should be Echiqueté de blanc et de noir de quatre tires et cinq colonnes, which would described the shield rotated orthogonally clockwise.

Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 29 March 2006