Last modified: 2016-03-20 by ivan sache
Keywords: chapelle-lez-herlaimont |
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Flag of Chapelle-lez-Herlaimont - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 29 April 2006
The municipality of Chapelle-lez-Herlaimont (14,121 inhabitants on
1 January 2007; 1,100 ha; municipal website) is located between La Louvière and Charleroi. The municipality of Chapelle-lez-Herlaimont was formed in 1976 as the merger of the former municipalities of Chapelle-lez-Herlaimont, Godarville and Piéton.
In Walloon, Chapelle is called èl Tchapèl and its inhabitants Tchaploû, often shortened to Tcha. Recently, Tcha was transformed into Tchat (in Walloon, "cat", see the French word chat), so that Chapelle is known as Cats' Town.
Chapelle-lez-Herlaimont is located in an area originally covered by the charcoal forest (forèt charbonnière), which spread all over Hainaut. The wood of Mariemont is a remnant of the antique forest. After the conquest of Gaul, Julius Caesar ordered the building of eight roads crossing today's Belgium, all starting from Bagacum (today Bavay, in the north of France). Reamins of the road heading to Cologne via Tongeren and
Maastricht; have been found in Chapelle.
During the Frankish period, colonists cleared the forest along the Roman road to set up estates (villae), post houses and inns, which formed the early nuclei of the modernvillages.
The village of Chapelle, however, was first mentioned only in the 12th century as belonging to the domain of Trazegnies, although it had probably been founded earlier, around 1000. In 1136, the lord of Trazegnies ceded to the abbey of Floreffe a piece of land, located between the Roman road and Pièton, called Herlaimont. A priory ran by Premonstratensian monks was built and its church was consecrated by the Bishop of Liège in 1184. At that time, there was already a village there, grouped around a chapel, therefore its name of Chapelle-près-Herlaimont (near) or Chapelle-lez-Herlaimont. In French toponyms, lez, from Latin latus, "side", also written les or lès, means "near" and is much more common than près.
The village had a very odd administrative situation. Chapelle belonged to the Bishopric of Cambrai whereas its suzereign domain, Trazegnies, belonged to the Bishopric of Liège. The political situation of Chapelle was even more complex: the village was located on the border with the County of Hainaut, but it was disputed between the Duchy of Brabant and the County of Namur, as was Trazegnies. Accordingly, Chapelle remained a free domain. In 1222, Chapelle was granted by Othon de Trazegnies a municipal charter with a wide range of rights: the arbitrary duties were replaced by fixed fees and the Abbot of Floreffe, owner of the priory of Herlaimont, had most of the powers usually exercized by the feudal lord.
The village increased with time but still had only 1,000 inhabitants
when the French Revolution broke out. In 1766, concessions were granted
for coal extraction; the building of roads and industrialization
dramatically changed the appearance of the village. The
Mariemont-Bascoup-Chaud-Buisson coal company transformed the small
rural village into an industrial town. Several collieries were set up
at the end of the 19th century. The last active of them, the
Mariemont-Bascoup colliery, was closed in 1961.
During the Second World War, François Lamarche, Socialist Mayor since 1921, was dismissed by the Germans and replaced in 1943 by Alexandre Want, a member of the Rexist (Belgian pro-German) movement. Chapelle became a center of anti-German resistance and several Jewish families were hidden in the village. On 2 September 1944, Chapelle was liberated and François Lamarche was reestablished Mayor of the town, and remained so until 1949.
In 1952, 163 ha of land were used to tip out the material excavated for the increase of the Charleroi-Brussels Canal. An artificial lake (6.4 ha) was created, watered by the brook of Claire-Fontaine, which gave its name to the Recreation Park of Claire-Fontaine, ran since 1968 by the Province of Hainaut.
Piéton is listed on the Polyptich of the abbey of Lobbes, dated 868, as Trans Fluvium Pintun; later names of the village are Pieutencel and Pieuton. In 1163, Jacques de Guise fixed the name of the village to Piéton.
The Knight Templars built a commandery in Piéton, later ran by the Order of Malta. Piéton became the seat of the Commanderie Magistrale de Hainaut-Cambrésis. Nicolas de Frètemoule was the first to bear the title of Commandeur de l'Hôpital de St-Jean de Jérusalem du Piéton. Until 1611, the Commanders were friars; afterwards, they were nobles from the Austrian Netherlands or France, the most famous of them being Louvois and Alphonse de Lorraine. The last Commander of Piéton was André Hercule de Rosset de Fleury (1752-1778). In practice, the Commandery was ran by a Bailiff, the last of them being Alexandre de Treslon (1786). Louis XIV, once staying in the Commanderie, enjoyed the crawfishes from the brook and popularized them in the Royal court. There is still a restaurant called Aux Écrevisses de Piéton in Paris.
Ivan Sache, 29 April 2006
Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 3 June 2007