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Beersel (Municipality, Province of Flemish Brabant, Belgium)

Last modified: 2019-07-30 by ivan sache
Keywords: beersel | cross: engrailed (blue) | wittem |
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[Flag of Beersel]

Municipal flag of Beersel - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 30 August 2005

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Presentation of Beersel

The municipality of Beersel (23,578 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 3,011 ha) is located a few kilometers south-west of Brussels. The municipality of Beersel is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Alsemberg (619 ha), Beersel (632 ha), Dworp (961 ha; in French, Tourneppe), Huizingen (284 ha) and Lot (515 ha).

Beersel was mentioned for the first time in 847, as Bersalis. The oldest known lord of Beersel is Godfried of Hellebeke, Seneschal of the Duchy of Brabant, who built a castle around 1300. The castle, built in the same period as the neighbouring castles of Zitter and Gaasbeek, watched the valley of Senne and the road to Halle and Paris. The lords of Beersel kept the office of Seneschal of Brabant. The castle was seized and damaged during the War of Succession of Brabant (1356-1357).
In 1391, Jan I of Witthem (d. 1404) was granted feudal rights over Brussels and the neighbouring places. With the help of the militia of Brussels, he seized the castle of Gaasbeek, where the murderers of Everaard t'Serclaes hid.
In 1489, a civil war broke out after the death of Marguerite of Burgundy. The big towns and several nobles revolted against Maximilian of Austria. The lord of Beersel, Hendrik III of Witthem, took Maximilian's party. His residence located in Brussels in the Voldersstraat (Fuller Street) was destroyed. Led by Filips of Cleves, the angry mob then marched against Beersel with heavy artillery. The castle was defended by Hendrik's son, Filips of Witthem, initially with succes. After a second assault, the castle was severely damaged and the garrison had to surrender. His captain, Willem of Ramilly, was lynched by the mob on the Grote Markt (Market Square). Maximilian took revenge by besieging Brussels, which eventually surrendered. The people from Brussels were forced to rebuild Hendrik's house and to revamp the castle of Beersel.
On 26 May 1491, Hendrik III of Witthem was made Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece and later Chamberlain of Emperor Charles V. He was one of the most powerful lords at the time. After his death in 1515, he was succeeded by his son Filips, who died in 1523. Filips' grandson Jan II of Witthem died in 1591 without a male heir. By the marriage of his daughter Ernestina, the castle was transfered to the family of Arenberg. The castle was abandoned and it was nearly ruined at the end of the XVIIIth century. In 1818, it was used as a cotton mill, with little success. Fortunately, the castle was completely revamped in the middle of the XXth century and is today one of the best examples of the military architecture in late Middle Ages in Belgium.

The Oud Beersel brewery, aka the Vandervelden brewery, after Henri Vandervelden, the owner, is one of the smallest lambic breweries in Belgium. It is producing traditional lambic, geuze and kriek. Dating from 1882, the brewery is still effectively a one-man affair.


Ivan Sache, 30 August 2005

Municipal flag of Beersel

The municipal flag of Beersel is white with a blue engrailed cross.
According to Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel, the flag was adopted by the Municipal Council on 29 April 1985, confirmed by the Executive of Flanders on 2 September 1985 and published in the Belgian official gazette on 8 July 1986.
The flag and arms were designed by the late local artist Herman Elsier.
The flag is a banner of the second (and third) quarter of the municipal arms, officially described as Wit met een blauw uitgeschulpt kruis.

According to the municipal website, the magistrates of Beersel used in the XVIIth century a seal, known at least since 1630, with the arms of the Witthem family. The current municipal arms of Beersel recall the seal used by the magistrates of Beersel in 1694, which show the arms of Hendrik of Witthem. The official description of the municipal arms is:
Gevierendeeld 1. en 4. in sabel een leeuw van goud, geklauwd en getongd van keel 2. en 3. in zilver een uitgeschulpt kruis van lazuur. Het schild geplaatst voor een geplante eikenboom van natuurlijke kleur (Quartered 1 and 4 sable a lion gold armed and langued gules 2 and 3 argent a cross engrailed azure. [...])

According to the International Civic Heraldry website, the birthplace of the Witthem family is the town of Wittem, located today in Dutch Limburg. Jan of Koslar (aka of Cosselaer) purchased the domain of Witthem and built there a castle in 1344. His arms showed the lion of Brabant with a white bend charged with three ermine spots.
The descendants from his second marriage with Catharina of Holset-Scavedries quartered their father's arms with the arms of their mother, a white shield with a blue engrailed cross. In 1390, the ermine spots were dropped from the arms of the Witthem family.
The town of Wittem was granted on 27 January 1897 Catharina's arms, In zilver een uitgeschulpt kruis van lazuur.
The new arms granted on 24 August 1983 to Wittem were the 1390 Witthem arms:
Gevierendeeld : I en IV in sabel een leeuw van goud, getongd en genageld van keel, II en III in zilver een uitgeschulpt kruis van azuur. Het schild gedekt met een gouden kroon van 5 bladeren.
These arms differ from the arms of Beersel only by the ornaments, an oak for Beersel and a crown for Wittem.
In 1999, Wittem was incorporated into the municipality of Gulpen-Wittem. Beforehand, Wittem used a flag similar to the flag of Beersel, only differring by the design of the engrailed cross. The new municipality kept the lion of Brabant and the engrailed cross as the first and third quarters of its arms, respectively.

Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 30 August 2005