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Londerzeel (Municipality, Province of Flemish Brabant, Belgium)

Last modified: 2020-02-08 by ivan sache
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Flaf of Londerzeel - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 17 July 2005

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Presentation of Londerzeel and its villages

The municipality of Londerzeel (17,452 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 3,629 ha; municipal website) is located 10 km north of Brussels. The municipality was established in 1976 as the merger of the former municipalities of Londerzeel, Malderen and Steenhuffel.

The name of Londerzeel dates back to 600-750, which was the period when Frankish toponyms ending with the suffix -zele (Dadizele, Liezele, Mazenzele...) were formed, as Lundersala, Lunder's estate. A village was later built on the junction of the Asse-Mechelen and Grimbergen-Puurs roads.

Londerzeel is famous for chicken farming, which was the main source of income in the borough of Londerzeel-Sint-Jozef. Chicken farmers were nicknamed kiekenpoeliers (chicken merchants), a nickname which was quickly extended to all the inhabitants of Londerzeel. Their customers from Brussels were nicknamed kiekenfretters (chicken eaters), because they did not in the least mind being seen fond of Londerzeel chickens. This glorious past is remembered by the Order of the Chicken Leg, which organizes every year the Gouden Kiekenpootworp (Golden Throwing of Chicken Leg). During this event, some 2,500 real chicken legs are thrown towards the crowd from the steps of the Town Hall. The happy catcher of the first thrown chicken leg is awarded a golden jewel offered by juwelmaker Eeraets. There is an other 250 (dead) chicken to be won, offered every year by a different chicken farmer. There is even a bronze statue of a chicken leg made by Pol van Esbroeck placed in a niche on the right of the entrance of the Town Hall. Every year for the Kiekenpootworp, the statue is dressed differently. This is, of course, a veiled reference to Manneken Pis in Brussels.

The St. Christopher pilgrimage takes place in Londerzeel on the first Sunday of August. The blessing of the cars has been organized during the pilgrimage since 1929 by the St. Christopher Brotherhood. St. Christopher, the patron of the travelers, is celebrated on 25 July. The St. Christopher parish of Londerzeel is the only one dedicated to that saint in the diocese of Brussels-Mechelen.

Londerzeel is the birth town of the Belgian writer Gerard Walschap (1898-1989), who published from 1923 to his death. His trilogy of Catholic inspiration, Adelaide (1929), Eric (1931) and Carla (1933), grouped in 1939 into De familie Roothooft (The Roothooft family), stirred a fierce controversy because Walschap did not follow the official canons of the church. The writer progressively broke with the church and his further books expressed materialist vitalism and tolerance (Celibaat, Celibacy, 1934; Bejegening van Christus, Meeting Christ, 1940; Oproer in Congo, Insurrection in Congo, 1953; De verloren zoon, The prodigal son, 1958; Alter Ego, 1964 - the protagonist of this rather gruesome novel, the theme of which is the Double, is a flagmaker or at least owns a firm where banners are made).
Walschap also wrote mystic poems (Liederen van leed, Mourning songs, 1923; De loutering, Cleansing, 1925), fantasy tales (De ongelooflijke avonturen van Tilman Armenaas, The incredible adventures of Tilman Armenaas, 1960), essays (Muziek voor twee stemmen, Music for two voices, 1963) and books for children (De vierde koning, The fourth king, 1935/36).
[Dictionnaire des Littératures, Larousse]

Malderen as a parish originally included Opdorp (today part of the municipality of Buggenhout). In the beginning of the 11th century, Opdorp seceded from Malderen and was incorporated into the County of Flanders. Malderen was shared by the Duke of Brabant and the Berthout, lords of Grimbergen.
In Malderen, the windmill called Heidemolen is said to be one of the oldest mills in Belgium, dating back at least to 1179. However, it seems that this date is a faulty reading of the date encarved on a beam of the mill, most probably 1779. The oldest mention of the mill can be found in a will dated 1475. The mill is listed in the charter granted to Malderen by Jan van Acoleyen on 27 August 1717. The last miller of the Heidemolen, Warken (Eduardus) Leem, retired in 1943. The sails of the mill were changed in 1971 and stays were added in 1981. On 28 January 1990, a violent storm blew the mill down. The municipality of Londerzeel commissioned the Caers millmaking company to rebuild the mill, using when possible parts of the old mill. The Heidemolen mill is now used to grind grain.

Steenhuffel was founded in the 11th century by lord Hobosch of Merchtem. The Bouchout family showed up in Steenhuffel around 1275. Its descendants were vassals of the Duke of Brabant.
The Diepensteyn castle in Steenhuffel is famous for the breeding of the Belgian Draft horse. The origin of this horse bred is very ancient, probably before Christ. The Belgian Draft stems from the Flemish horse, originally bred in the maritime plains of Flanders. The golden age of the horse was the period 1880-1950, when it was widely used in agriculture, to be subsequently superseded by tractors. The Brabant horse is the emblem of the Palm brewery, featured on the bottle lables.

Ivan Sache & Jan Mertens, 29 July 2005

Flah of Londerzeel

The flag of Londerzeel is vertically divided red-yellow-blue, with a shield in each stripe:
- in the red stripe, a white shield, quartered, first and fourth a white field with three red stripes, second and third, a white field with three red axes; the shield is topped with a ducal coronet;
- in the yellow stripe, a shield horizontally divided yellow-blue-yellow with a red saltire overall, surmounted by a yellow clasp;
- in the blue stripe, a white shield with two red lozenges; the shield is topped by a white cat holding a mouse in her mouth.

According to Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel [w2v02], the flag, adopted on 25 October 1977 by the Municipal Council, is prescribed by a Royal Decree issued on 19 July 1978 and published on 9 May 1979 in the Belgian official gazette.
The colors of the flag come from the municipal arms of Londerzeel, which are represented in the center of the yellow stripe, as "Or a fess azure superimposed with a saltire gules. The shield surmounted by a clasp or").
According to Servais [svm55], these arms, granted by Royal Decree on 16 August 1927, are similar to the arms of Grimbergen, whose lord was also lord of Londerzeel until 1764. The seals used by the Municipal Council in the 14th and 16th centuries also shows the arms of Grimbergen. The arms of Grimbergen have been known since the 13th century.
The Gelre Armorial shows "Or a fess azure a saltire gules all over" for Robert III de Grimberghe, lord of Assche (He. v. Asch, #955, folio 81r), while the Lalaing Armorial shows the same arms for Grimberghe d'Assche (Asseren, #14, folio 72r).

The arms of the former municipality of Malderen are shown in the red stripe of the flag, as "Quarterly, first and fourth argent three fesses gules, second and third three (axes) gules".
Those particular axes are called in Dutch disselbijlen, in French doloires. According to Servais, these arms were granted by Royal Decree on 15 October 1951 and the crown is part of their official design. They were the arms of the Barons de Croÿ-Renty. François-Albert of Croÿ married the daughter of Baron de Fay, owner of Malderen since 1662. Their daughter married Henri Wild und Rheingrave, Count de Salm-Kyrbourg. Malderen remained in the Salm family until 1792. The only known seal of Malderen dates from 1748 and shows two shields, the first with the arms of the Croÿ-Renty family and the second the arms of Wild und Rheingrave. The municipality, however, adopted only the first arms as the municipal arms in 1951.

The arms of the former municipality of Steenhuffen are shown in the blue stripe of the flag, as "Argent two spindles gules".

Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 17 July 2005