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Belœil (Municipality, Province of Hainaut, Belgium)

Last modified: 2019-07-30 by ivan sache
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[Flag of Beloeil]

Municipal flag of Belœil - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 26 February 2006

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Presentation of Belœil and its villages

The municipality of Belœil (13,446 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 6,153 ha) is located halfway between Mons and Tournai and close to the border with France. the municipality of Belœil is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Belœil, Aubechies, Basècles, Ellignies-Sainte-Anne, Quevaucamps, Ramegnies, Stambruges (including Grandglise since 1964), Thumaide and Wadelincourt.

Belœil was originally known as Baliolis (868) and Bailleul (1189), which means "an enclosure". Later, the Princes of Ligne changed the name of the place to Belœil, literally "beautiful eye".
The domain and castle of Belœil, owned by the family of Ligne, is nicknamed "the Pearl of Hainaut". The cradle of the family is the village of Ligne, located 8 km north-east of Belœil and today part of the municipality of Ath. The family manor, today disappeared, was located on the river Dendre. Documents from the 11th century mention the noble Linia or Ligna family, but it is impossible to know exactly when the manors of Belœil and Ligne were built. On 6 April 1394, Catherine, Dame of Condé and Belœil declared that "her nephew Jean, Lord of Ligne and Grantbruecq [shall be] her successor for her castle, town, lands, possessions and dependencies of Bailleul [Belœil] in Haynaut." The castle mas modified by its successive owners. In 1511, it was fortified by Antoine of Ligne, aka the Great Devil, and later increased by Claire-Marie of Nassau, Claude Lamoral's widow. Charles Joseph, aka the Prince Charming, improved the comfort of the castle. The main wealth of the castle is its library and furniture, with rare cabinetwork French pieces from the 17th-18th century. The formal gardens were created and improved by ten successive generations of Ligne, from 1515 to 1780.

The Ligne were made Counts in 1545 by Charles V and Princes in 1601 by Rudolf II. The most famous member of the family is Charles Joseph (1735-1814), son of Claude Lamoral II, sixth Prince of Ligne and of Princess Elisabeth of Salm. In 1751, he was introduced to Empress Maria-Theresia and appointed Chamberlain of the Emperor. In 1757-1758, Charles Joseph took part to the battles of Kollin, Schweinitz, Breslau, Leuthen, Olmütz, Hochkirch and Thinnendorf during the Seven Years' War. He was appointed Colonel after the victory of Maxen and sent to Versailles to officially announce the victory to the court of France. On 7 April 1766, Prince Claude Lamoral II died and Charles Joseph became the head of the house of Ligne as the seventh Prince of Ligne. The Prince was appointed Grand-Bailiff and Capitaine-Général of Hainaut by Emperor Leopold II on 20 May 1791. In 1794, after the battle of Fleurus, the Prince left Belœil and settled in Vienna; he never came back to the Low Countries. In 1808, he was appointed Feldmarshall and was particularly upset by the battles lost by the Austrian army against Napoléon. In 1814, the Prince became an international star during the Congress of Vienna. He died the same year in Vienna.
Charles Joseph of Ligne left a huge collection of literature works, including Mon journal de la guerre de Sept Ans, Mes conversations avec M. de Voltaire, Amabile, Mes conversations avec Jean-Jacques [Rousseau], Coup d'œil sur Belœil et les principaux jardins de l'Europe, Lettres à la marquise de Coigny (relating his journey in Tauride with Emperess Catherine II of Russia), Mélanges militaires, littéraires et sentimentaires (34 volumes published from 1797 to 1811 by the Walther brothers in Dresde), and Lettres et pensées du feld-maréchal prince de Ligne (published in 1809 with a preface by Germaine de Staël). He has remained famous as a relativist and sceptic moralist a la Montaigne and for some maxims extracted from his works:
En amour, il n'y a que les commencements qui soient charmants. Je ne m'étonne pas qu'on trouve du plaisir à recommencer souvent.
In love, only the beginnings are charming. I am not surprised that we enjoy beginning again so often.
Nous autres moralistes, nous ne valons pas mieux que ceux qui nous lisent.
We moralists are not worth more than those who read us.
Malheur aux gens d'esprit qui n'ont jamais tort, ils n'ont jamais raison.
Woe to people of wit and learning who are never wrong, they are never right.

Aubechies is known for the Archeosite, a series of rebuilt Prehistoric and Gallo-Roman houses started in 1983 by Léonce Demarez. The Archeosite also includes rebuilt pottery workshops and forges, as well as a Gallo-Roman temple (a replica of the real temple still excavated in Aubechies), villa and necropolis. The St. Géry's Romanesque church is probably the last remain of an abbey built in the 11th century on the site of a pagan temple dedicated to the deities of water. The crypt of the church has kept a Roman hexagonal basin made of sandstone decorated with white marble.

Basècles is a former industrial village known for its marble quarries. The black marble of Basècles was famous in Belgium and abroad. The quarries have all been closed now but the industrial past of the village is recalled by the Museum of Marble and Stone.

Ellignies-Sainte-Anne is known for the "small cathedral", the Blessed Virgin church, built by the priest and architect Vital Duray in 1871. He kept from the former church only the XVIth century tower and added a building in neo-gothic style with Byzantine ornaments. When digging the foundations of the church, Duray found remains of a "megalithic wall", which he revealed only after having finished his "cathedral".

Quevaucamps is the geographical and administrative center of the municipality. Formerly a rural village, it turned at the end of the XIXth century into an industrial center of stone extraction and hosiery. In 1950, some 150 factories employed 1500 workers. A few of them are still active, and the industry is recalled by the Museum of Hosiery and Cloth Trade, opened in 1988 in the ancient railway station of Quevaucamps.

Stambruges, lit. "the Heathers' Pond", is located near an ancient 40-ha pond called the Sand Sea since its draining. The Sand Sea, bordered by marshes and peat bogs is of great biological interest and has been labelled "natural reserve" by the Walloon Region. There are several legends associated to the fairies and the witches of Stambruges. The cheese maker Jacquy Cange, is one of the most famous in Belgium; his speciality is the Moellon Belœil, matured with mead and the famous sirop de Liège.
Grandglise, incorporated into Stambruge in 1964, is known for its sandstone quarries, whose stones were used to build several houses and churches in the region.

Thumaide, Rameignies and Wadelincourt form the Thurawanie, whose name was made buy merging the first syllab of the name of the three villages. Rameignies is the smallest village of the municipality. The St. Vendrégélise church is the place of a pilgrimage to St. Charalampe, invoked against cattle diseases.


Ivan Sache, 26 February 2006

Municipal flag of Belœil

The municipal flag of Belœil is diagonally divided yellow-red.
According to Armoiries communales en Belgique. Communes wallonnes, bruxelloises et germanophones, the flag was adopted by the Municipal Council on 26 September 1990 and confirmed by the Executive of the French Community on 18 December 1991, asTranché jaune-or sur rouge.

The flag is based on the arms of the Princes of Ligne, D'or à la bande de gueules. (Or a bend gules).
The Gelre Armorial shows "Or a bend gules" for Michel of Ligne (Die Here v. Lynge, #1729, folio 3r) and for Michel III, Lord of Ligne (Die He. van Lynge, #1023, folio 83v).

Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 20 May 2007