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Kampenhout (Municipality, Province of Flemish Brabant, Belgium)

Last modified: 2019-06-25 by ivan sache
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Flag of Kampenhout - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 29 October 2006

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Presentation of Kampenhout

The municipality of Kampenhout (11,060 inhabitants on 1 January 2006; 3,496 ha; municipal website) is located in the middle of the triangle formed by Brussels,Mechelen and Leuven. The municipality of Kampenhout was established in 1976 as the merger of the former municipalities of Kampenhout (5,394 inh.; 1,675 ha), Berg (3,252 inh.; 889 ha), Buken (459 inh.; 216 ha) and Nederokkerzeel (1,783 inh.; 716 ha).
The most probable origin of the name of the municipality is related to the numerous woods (in Dutch, hout) formerly located there and to its geographical location in Brabantian Kempen.

Kampenhout has always been famous for its vegetables, whereas fruits were hardly grown, except for personal use. Beans, salad and small root vegetables were marketed locally but also shipped to Brussels, Mechelen, Antwerp, Liège and Charleroi. However, Kampenhout has been known as the capital of witloof, locally nicknamed the White Gold, for more than 150 years. Between 1845 and 1870, chicory roots were commonly grown in the north-west of Brussels and used to make a cheap substitute coffee known as peekoffie (carrot coffee). The chicory acreage was 105-125 ha. Due to overproduction, the chicory mills once could not use all the harvested crop and the producers stored the surplus. During a mild winter, the roots exposed to warm temperature produced white leaf sprouts, called in Dutch witloof ("white leaf") or andijvie, still known in French as endive de Bruxelles or chicon (mostly in Wallonia and the north of France). A popular Belgian tradition says that witloof was inadvertently invented by a farmer from Schaerbeek who hid his crop during the Belgian independence war in 1830 and, when back, found the leaf sprouts.
The cultivated witloof was bred by Breziers, the chief gardener of the Brussels botanical garden, who invented witloof forcing. He found that the heart of the plant would form only if the roots were planted very close to each other and were covered with a thin layer of soil. In 1860-1870, witloof was grown in Schaarbeek and Evere by gardeners employed in the botanical garden. In 1867, the first outdoor-grown witloof outdoors was brought to the market of Brussels by Father Joseph Lekeu, who had several followers. In 1873, witloof was shown in the International Horticulture Exhibition in Ghent, from where it was brought back to France by Henri de Vilmorin, who presented it to the French Society of Horticulture in 1875. The first endives de Bruxelles were sold in the Paris market in 1878; in 1883, 1,500 kg of Belgian witloof were sold there for 0.80 franc per kg.
Witloof cultivation quickly spread to several municipalities surrounding Brussels. Like the grapes in the region of Overijse and Hoeilaart and the strawberries in the Pajottenland, witloof became the emblematic crop in the Mechelen-Leuven-Brussels triangle. Witloof cultivation started in Kampenhout only in 1912 but became quickly the main source of income for the villagers. The local, chalky soil contains an excellent mixture of clay and sand very suitable for the growth of witloof. Until the Second World War, witloof was packed in small rush baskets, later replaced by small wooden boxes and cartons. The packaging industry flourished in the region. In the 1970s, some 12 million kg of witloof were produced each year, witloof representing about 1/5th of the cultivated area.
In 1997, a quality label was created to separate the outdoor-grown witloofs (Brussels Grondwitloof / Chicon Pleine Terre) from those obtained in hydroponic culture.

Kampenhout is also famous for its procession dedicated to the Blessed Virgin. During the rule of Archdukes Albert and Isabel (1600-1630), several convents were founded in the Spanish Low Countries to recover from the religious wars. The often exaggerated Spanish religious ceremonials were prescribed. Processions and pilgrimages dedicated to the Blessed Virgin became mandatory. The black plague that scoured the country was fought by penitents' processions. In Kampenhout, 290 out of the 900 villagers were killed by the black plague in 1630-1639. Our Lady of Kampenhout was invoked against the black plague and contagious diseases. The penitents' procession might date from that time, even if there is no mention of the procession route in the local archives before 1682. The church of Kampenhout was already dedicated to the Blessed Virgin in 1123; the current statue of the Virgin dates from c. 1580. The legend says that, on a day with harsh weather, the statue completed by herself the procession route; the next day, it stood with dirty clothes in the church. This miraculous event was the starting point of a procession that walks along the municipal borders for six hours. Originally, the procession took place on Wednesday after Whitsun; some 25 years ago, it was moved to Whit Monday. The beautiful folkloric costumes have disappeared but the old Our Lady's song is still aired through Kampenhout. The old procession banners bear the writing Comt al naer Campenaut de moeder godts vereeren: sy sal door 't heyligh cruys het quaet van u afkeeren, something like "Come all of you to Kampenhout to venerate God's mother: through the Holy Cross, she will repel disease from you".

Kampenhout has awarded a few of its citizens Honour Citizenship, including two famous champions.
Raymond Impanis (born in Berg in 1925, awarded in 1999) was a professional cyclist from 1945 to 1963. In 1947, he ranked 6th in the Tour de France, winning the 19th stage; in 1948, he ranked 10th, winning the 9th and 10th stages. Impanis won Ghent-Wevelgem in 1952 and 1953, and the Flèche Wallonne in 1957. His best year, however, was 1954, when he won the Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix and Paris-Nice (a race he won again in 1960).

Kim Gevaert (born in 1978, awarded in 2002) is a wonderful and popular sprinter, often nicknamed "The national gazelle", "The Kampenhout gazelle", "The Leuven gazelle" or "The other Kim" (as a reference to the equally wonderful and popular tennis player Kim Clijsters). In 2002, Kim Gevaert made the headlines by winning the gold medal on 60 m in the indoor European Championships (Vienna) and the silver medal on 100 m and 200m in the outdoor European Championships (Munich). In 2004, she won the silver medal on 60 m in the indoor European Championships (Budapest) and ranked 6th in the 200 m in the Olympic Games (Athens), where she led the 4x100 m team to the 6th rank; in 2005, she won the gold medal on 60 m in the indoor European Championships (Madrid). Kim reached the top in 2006 in the outdoor European Championships (Gothenburg) when she won the gold medal both on the 100 m and 200 m, and in 2007, leading the Belgian 4x100 m team to an unexpected bronze medal in the outdoor World Championships (Osaka). She holds the Belgian records for 60 m, 100 m, 200 m, 400 m and 4x100 m. Kim Gevaert is highly estimated in Belgium and elsewhere for her modesty and "the girl next door" behaviour, and, most important in athletics, her very high ethical concerns.

In the hamlet of Relst lived ancestors of Ludwig van Beethoven. Josyne van Vlasselaer, wife of Aert van Beethoven, was prosecuted for witchcraft and condemned to be burned at the stake. In 1595 she was horribly tortured and burned alive in Brussels.
The Ludwig van Beethoven genealogic tree presented by Dominique Prévot shows:
- Jan Van Beethoven - b. around 1485
- Marcus Van Beethoven - b. around 1510 - married in 1571 with Anna Smets in Kampenhout
- Arnoldus (Aert) van Beethoven - b. around 1535 in Kampenhout - d. in 1609 in Kampenhout. First marriage in 1568 with Josiana Van Vlesselaer. Second marriage on 1 February 1600 in Haacht with Petronella (Pierryne) Geerts
- Ludwig Van Beethoven (1770-1827) was from the seventh generation of the lineage from Aerts' first marriage, via Boortmeerbeek, Bertem, Mechelen and eventually Bonn.

Ivan Sache & Jarig Bakker, 15 December 2007

Municipal flag of Kampenhout

The municipal flag of Kampenhout is in proportions 3:4, blue with a yellow chevron and 10 yellow billets placed 3 + 3 + 4.
According to Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel [w2v02], the flag, adopted on 30 September 1977 by the Municipal Council, is prescribed by a Royal Decree issued on 21 June 1978 and published on 6 September 1978 in the Belgian official gazette. The flag is a banner of the municipal arms.

The arms of Kampenhout are described on the municipal website, after the book by Jos Lauwers, Kampenhout, hoofdmeierij en bakermat van Beethovens stam.
These arms, tracing back to the lords of Kruikenburg, were granted to Kampenhout by Royal Decree on 6 February 1909. In 1696, the municipal magistrates (schepenen) used a seal with the Kruikenburg arms. The complete arms are surmounted by an old representation of Our Lady of Kampenhout.
Servais gives the blazon as "Azure billetty or a chevron of the same overall; the shield surmounted by the Blessed Virgin crowned holding a scepter in dexter and Baby Jesus in sinister, crowned and holding in dexter an orb surmounted by the cross; the Blessed Virgin and Baby Jesus argent; the scepter, the crowns and the orb or".
According to Servais, the rights of higher, middle and lower justice were granted in 1638 to the Imperial Baron Filips Theodoor van Fourneau, Count van Cruquembourg, lord of Ranst, Millegem and Vichte, first hereditary Marshal of Flanders. The Fourneau lineage owned Kampenhout until the French Revolution.

Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 11 January 2007