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Sint-Martens-Latem (Municipality, Province of East Flanders, Belgium)


Last modified: 2019-07-30 by ivan sache
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[Flag of Sint-Martens-Latem]

Municipal flag of Sint-Martens-Latem - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 11 November 2007

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Presentation of Sint-Martens-Latem

The municipality of Sint-Martens-Latem (in French, Laethem-Saint-Martin; 8,256 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 1,434 ha) is located in the valley of the Leie, 10 km south-west of Ghent. The municipality of Sint-Martens-Latem is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Sint-Martens-Latem (5,154 inh.; 891 ha) and Deurle (2,163 inh.; 543 ha).

Latem was mentioned in the IXth century as Lathem, that is lata haim, "the settlement of the laths", "the half-free men". In the XVIth century, the name of the village's patron saint was added to prevent confusion with Maria-Latem and Paulatem.
Deurle was mentioned for the first time, as Durle, in 1114. Further written forms of the name of the village are Dorle (1118 and 1123) and Dorla (1239). In the late Middle Ages, the most commonly used name was Duerle. Gysseling believes that the root dor comes from Middle Dutch doort, "the rye grass" (in modern Dutch, dolik), lo meaning "a small wood on a sandy hill".
The two villages were split between different domains. Deurle mostly depended on the lord of 's Graven Hazele (aka 's Graven Aerseele, the domain directly depending of the Count of Flanders and including also the hamlet of Toutefais in Zevergem), while the lords of Nevele (also owners of most of the village of Brakel) and of Broeckstraete (vassals of the lords of Rode, whose capital was Schelderode) also owned parts of the village. Latem was split between its main lord, the St. Bavo abbey in Ghent, and the domains of Overmeers (itself vassal of the St. Peter abbey in Ghent), Nevele and 's Graven Hazele.

Source: Municipal website

Sint-Martens-Latem was the cradle of Flemish pictural arts in the XIX-XXth centuries. In the XIXth century, the picturesque and peaceful valley of the Leie, together with the small hamlet of Latem, then isolated in the woods, contrasted with the industrial, crowdy outskirts of Ghent.

In the 1850s, the painters César (1818-1896) and Xavier (1823-1904) De Cock went to Paris, where they met the members of the Barbizon school, who had left Paris for the small village of Barbizon, located in the forest of Fontainebleau. Back to Belgium, Xavier De Cock settled in Deurne in 1860, while César, back ten years later, settled in Ghent. The two brothers painted the wooded landscapes of Sint-Martens-Latem. Their fame contributed to the early fame of the village. Xavier De Cock's assistant in Latem, Serafien De Rycke (1840-1915) painted very naive but very authentic scenes of his village; he never considered himself as a painter but strongly influenced the next generations of painters who gathered in Latem.

In 1881, Emile Claus (1849-1924) settled in Astene (a village close to Latem, today part of the municipality of Deinze), searching for the authentic farmers' life. Initially a famous academic painter in Antwerp, Claus followed the Impressionists; in spite of his support to progressist circles, his Impressionist paintings were officially recognized; in 1904, Claus founded the association of the Belgian Impressionist painters Vie et Lumière (Life and Light), from which the name of the Luminist movement was coined. Claus' international fame attracted several young artists to Latem, including two young ladies from the Ghent bourgeoisie, Anna De Weert (1867-1950), who came to Astene in 1883 and was member of the Secession movement in Vienna, and Jenny Montigny (1875-1937), who came to Astene in 1895 and eventually settled in Deurle.

In 1898-1899, an artist' colony, later called "The First Group of Latem" (rather a group than a school) settled in Latem around the Symbolist sculptor George Minne (1866-1941). Supported by the poet Emile Verhaeren, the French symbolists and the leaders of Art Nouveau, Minne settled in Latem in 1899, probably advised to do so by his friend Valerius De Saedeleer. Together with Karel van de Woestyne, Minne was the leader of the group. Valerius De Saedeleer (1867-1941) was invited, probably by Albijn Van den Abeele, to Latem in 1883; experiencing a strong personal crisis, De Saedeleer came back to Latem in 1893, and spent there ten years of "purging".
Albijn (Binus) van den Abeele (1835-1918), born in Latem, can be considered as the "inventor" of Latem as a painter's village since he convinced De Cock, Claus, De Saedeleer and Minne to settle there, as well as the next generations of painters. Gustave Van de Woestyne (1881-1946) moved to Latem in 1900, together with his brother Karel. The first group of Latem dissolved in the 1910s and the First World War caused the exile of most of his members. George Minne was the only member of the group to settle back in Latem after the end of the war.

In 1905, a second group of artists, later called "The Second Group of Latem" (here again, a group rather than a school) settled in Latem. Like the artists of the first group, they were inspired by Claus' Luminism but went much further in their questioning; they kept little contacts with the first group, that they deemed too serious and too religious. The painters of the Second Group of Latem are considered as the precursors of the Flemish expressionism. Gustaff de Smet (1877-1943) settled in Latem in 1908, moved in 1912 and came back to Deurle in 1929; his last house is today a museum. Constant Permeke (1856-1952) settled in 1909 in Latem near de Smet and moved to Ostend in 1912. Albert Servaes (1883-1966) shared in 1904 a house in Latem with Frits Van den Berghe, designed his own house in 1918 and designed the Stations of the Cross for a new chapel, causing a great fuss in the conservative Catholic circles. Frits Van den Berghe (1883-1939) went for the first time in Latem in 1902.

Other artists who settled in Latem, less succesful because of the 1930 crisis, have been nicknamed "The Lost Generation", for instance Hubert Malfait (1898-1971) and Jules De Sutter (1895-1970).

Source: Oscar De Vos gallery website, including detailed biographies of all the painters of Latem

Ivan Sache, 7 November 2007

Description of the flag

The municipal flag of Sint-Martens-Lathem is quartered, 1. A blue field with a striped lion (four white and three red stripes) with yellow nails, tongue and crown, 2. A green field with a yellow cross, 3. A white field with a red cross, 4. A red field with three yellow keys.
According to Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel, the flag was adopted by the Municipal Council on 26 March 1984, confirmed by the Executive of Flanders on 7 May 1985 and published in the Belgian official gazette on 8 July 1986.
The flag is a banner of the municipal arms.

According to the municipal website, the four quarters of the municipal arms, and therefore of the flag, represent the four domains to which Latem belonged in the past:
- the St. Bavo abbey in Ghent, whose striped lion is also depicted on the municipal arms of Sint-Lievens-Houtem and whose arms as the source of the municipal flag of Sint-Lievens-Houtem;
- the domain of Overmeers;
- the domain of Nevele; the Gelre Armorial shows "Argent a cross gules" for Nevele (Mortagne) (He. v. Nevele, #993, folio 82r);
- the domain of 's Graven Hazele; "Gules three keys or" are also the arms of the former municipality of Letterhoutem, as shown by Servais.

Ivan Sache, 7 November 2007