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Dilbeek (Municipality, Province of Flemish Brabant, Belgium)

Last modified: 2019-01-12 by ivan sache
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Municipal flag of Dilbeek - Image by Filip van Laenen, 26 October 2001

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Presentation of Dilbeek and its villages

The municipality of Dilbeek (39,585 inhabitants on 1 July 2007, therefore the second biggest municipality in Flemish Brabant after Leuven; 4,118 ha; municipal website), located in the Pajottenland on the western border of the Region of Brussels-Capitale. The municipality of Dilbeek was established in 1976 as the merger of the former municipalities of Dilbeek, Groot-Bijgaarden (in French, Grand-Bigard), Itterbeek, Schepdaal, Sint-Martens-Bodegem (Bodeghem-Saint-Martin) and Sint-Ulriks-Kapelle (Chapelle-Saint-Ulric).

Dilbeek was mentioned for the first time in 1075 as Dedelbeccha, a name probably formed of the Prehistoric hydronym Didilone and the Germanic word baki, "a brook" (in Dutch, beek). Originally, Dilbeek belonged to the lords of Aa, from Anderlecht. In the 11th-12th centuries, the early domain was split in several smaller domains; in 1172, the free land of Hongersveld was transferred to the abbey of Groot-Bijgaarden, whereas the Crainhem family succeeded the Aa. The domain of Kraainem-Dilbeek had its municipal council with a Mayor. Another part of Dilbeek was transferred to the Sottegem family in the 12th-13th centuries. They transferred parts of their domain to the abbey of Vorst and to the abbey of Dielegem in Jette, that owned in Dilbeek a domain with a municipal council and a Mayor. The bishop and the chapter of Cambrai owned several rights in Dilbeek since 1491; Dilbeek was one of the preferred residences of the bishops. A part of the early Aa domain was transferred to the lords of Gaasbeek; together with Itterbeek and Sint-Martins-Bodeghem, Dilbeek formed the New (or Lower) Domain of Gaasbeek, which had a municipal council and a Mayor and was purchased in 1687 by Louis-Alexander Schockaert to form, together with other domains, the County of Trimont, granted in 1690 by King of Spain Charles II. In 1716, the Count of Trimont purchased the domains owned in Dilbeek by the bishops of Cambrai.
The inhabitants of Dilbeek are nicknamed konijnenfretters (rabbit eaters) because the local inn once served rabbit meat to Emperor Charles, who sentenced the villagers to bear this nickname.

Groot-Bijgaarden was mentioned for the first time in 1110 as Bigardis, from Germanic bigarda, "an enclosure". Groot ("greater") was added later to differentiate the village from Klein-Bijgaarden (Smaller Bijgaarden). In the 9th century, Bijgaard was part of the West Brabantine possessions of the St. Bavo abbey in Ghent. The Counts of Leuven formed a free land and the lords of Bijgaarden ("de Bigardis") emerged in the early 12th century; the oldest known is Almarik of Bijgaarden ("Alermicus de Bigardis"), mentioned in 1110-11333. Several of his successors were named Arnulf. They transferred several goods to the abbeys of Affligem and Groot-Bijgaarden. Through the marriages of Florens of Bijgaarden with Catharina Veele and of Catharina of Bijgaarden with Willem Veel, the domain was transferred in the second half of the 14th century to the powerful family Veele, aka Rongman, from Brussels. Willem II Rongman, lord of Bijgaarden, was Captain of the Brussels militia in 1422-1424. Jan of Ranst became lord of Bijgaarden in 1444 after his marriage with Johana Rongman, who transfered the domain in 1486 to her nephew Willem Estor, amman of Brussels in 1477. Estor was sentenced in 1547 as heretic and the domain was sold; in 1741, it became a Marquisate for the Counts of Königsegg-Erps. The inhabitants of Grote-Bijgaard did not pay customs tax anywhere in the Duchy of Brabant.
Around 1125, a few nuns founded an oratorium in the woods of Groot-Bijgaarden; the small convent followed St. Benedict's rule and was protected by the abbey of Affligem. Following several donations by the Dukes of Brabant and the local lords, the convent increased and became a priory, autonomous in 1245 and upgraded to an abbey in 1548. During the Iconoclasts' troubles, the nuns escaped to Dendermonde in 1578 and then to Brussels; it took them 20 years to come back to their ruined abbey. The abbey was sold and demolished after the French Revolution.

Itterbeek was mentioned for the first time in 1173 as Jetterbeca, from the Indo-European roots eud, "water" and jatara, "the current". Itterbeek was originally part of the free land of Sint-Pieters-Leeuw, but belonged for most of its history to the lords of Gaasbeek and was eventually part of the County of Trimont (see above).

Schepdaal was mentioned for the first time in 1260 as Scepdale, referring to "a lower place where water could be drawn" (in Dutch, scheppen means "to draw water"). The village was until 1827 a hamlet of Zierbeek (known since 1172 as Sirebeke); in 1172, the lords of Sirebeke owned the domain of Schepdaal, which belonged from 1497 to 1577 to the lords of Gaasbeek. The hamlet of Sint-Gertrudis-Pede is named after the legend reporting that St. Gertrud of Nivelles had there her cart stuck in the mud and had to finish her journey on foot (in Latin, pede).

Sint-Martens-Bodegem was successively known as Bodingaheim (in Frankish, "Bodo's estate"), Bodenghem (1086), Bodeghem (1267), Boedeghem (1411), Buedeghem (1491), Beughem (1761), Beugem, Bodeghem and eventually Bodegem. The village was divided into two domains, the first belonging to the lords of Dongelberg and the second belonging to the lords of Gaasbeek and later to the County of Trimont.

Sint-Ulriks-Kapelle was mentioned for the first time as Capella in 1150 (at least in a 18th-century copy of the original document) and 1184. The village was built in the 11th century around a small chapel depending on the parish of Asse. In the 13th century, the place was named Capella Sancti Ulrici (1263) and transferred to the lords of Bijgaarden. In 1500, the lords of Kapelle owned the domain of Ten Broeck, later a hamlet of Sint-Ulriks-Kapelle, which became a Barony in 1650.

Ivan Sache, 16 June 2007

Flag of Dilbeek

The flag of Dilbeek is vertically divided yellow-blue.
According to Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel [w2v02], the flag and arms, adopted by the Municipal Council on 19 December 1989, are prescribed by a Decree issued on 17 April 1990 by the Executive of Flanders and published on 8 December 1992 in the Belgian official gazette.
The colors of the flag are the main colors of the municipal coat of arms.

The official description of the flag is "Two equal vertical stripes yellow and blue". The official description of the arms is "Per pale, 1. Or a fess azure in chief an eagle sable armed and langued gules, 2. Per fess or in chief chequy argent and gules of ten pieces azure billety or a chevron of the same. They feature heraldic elements recalling the six former municipalities merged to form Dilbeek:
- the arms of Louis-Alexander Schockaert, Count of Trimont (1633-1708), representing Dilbeek, Itterbeek and Sint-Martens-Bodegem, which formed the County of Trimont;
- the former arms of Groot-Bijgaarden, designed after the municipal seal from 1349 showing the arms of the lords of Bijgaarden, bore for the first (known) time in 1110 by Almericus de Bigardis.
[Municipal website]

The Gelre Armorial shows "Or a chief chequy argent and gules of ten pieces" for Florent of Bijgaarden (Bigaerden, #844, folio 73v) and "Quarterly I and IV or a chief chequy argent and gules of ten pieces II and III gules a lion argent" for Michel Scalye (H. Mychyel Scaelye, #900, folio 75v).
The Lalaing Armorial shows "Or a chief chequy argent and sable of ten pieces" for Bijgaarden (Bigarde, #9, folio 71v).

According to Servais [svm55a], the old arms of Dilbeek, granted by Royal Decree on 24 June 1921, were "Per pale or a fess azure in chief an eagle sable armed and langued gules", surmounted by a crown and supported by two griffins. As said above, they were originally the arms of the Schockaert family, shown on a municipal seal dated 1773.

Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 16 June 2007