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Le Rœulx (Municipality, Province of Hainaut, Belgium)

Last modified: 2020-02-07 by ivan sache
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Flag of Le Rœulx - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 4 February 2007

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Presentation of Le Rœulx and its villages

The municipality of Le Rœulx (7,969 inhabitants on 1 January 2006; 4,280 ha; website) is located 45 km south of Brussels, between Mons and La Louvière. The municipality of Le Rœulx was established in 1976 as the merger of the former municipalities of Le Rœulx, Thieu, Ville-sur-Haine (including Gottignies since 1964) and Mignault.

Le Rœulx, known in the past as Rues (1166-1188), Ruz (1188-1191), Rueth, Ruels, Roelx and Reux, was probably named after the Latin word rhodus (or Germanic röde), "a cleared charcoal forest". The village developed around the St. Feuillien abbey, built around 1125. Born as Faelan in Western Ireland around 600, Feuillien left Ireland as a missionary with his two brothers. After seven years spent in England and France, Feuillien met St. Gertrude, Abbess of Nivelles in 645. The abbess granted him land in Fosses, where he founded a monastery in 651. In 655, on their way from Nivelles to France, Feuillien and his fellows were killed and beheaded by rascals. The murderers hid the saint's body in a pigpen, where it was found only two months later, and brought back with great pump to Fosses via Nivelles. The place where Feuillien's body had been found became a place of pilgrimage, marked by a cross later replaced by the Sénophe chapel. The lower maxillary of the saint is kept in a shrine shown in the St. Nicholas church of Le Rœulx.

Around 1125, monks from the Norbertine order set up the St. Feuillien abbey around the chapel. The abbey, with an estate spreading over 15 ha, was the origin of the town of Le Rœulx. The abbey only housed 20-40 monks but also a doctor, a surgeon, a chemist, cooks, a brewer, a gardener... The abbey flourished but its power was more and more challenged by the lords of Le Rœulx. The last monks were expelled in 1797, following the French Revolution. The abbey was purchased by Papin, Mayor of Le Rœulx, and in the early 19th century by the Croÿ family. Most buildings were suppressed in order to set up the northern part of the park of the castle. The only remains of the abbey are the gate (1770), the gatekeeper's house, a part of the wall of the vegetable garden and cellars. Paintings and stalls, preserved by Norbert Durieu, last Abbot and later Canon in Tournai, were transferred into the cathedral of Tournai. A monstrance made in 1543, maybe by Estiévin de Bussy, is kept in the Museum of the St. Vincent Collegiate Chapter of Soignies; it is decorated with the three statues of God, Apostle St. Peter bearing a key and St. Paul, and surmounted by the Dove of the Holy Spirit and Jesus on the Cross; the monstrance is brought back to Le Rœulx once a year, on the Adoration's Sunday.
Saint-Feuillin had given his name to the local beer, a top-fermenting ale brewed by four generations of the Friart family since 1873.

The domain of Le Rœulx was one of the twelve Peerages of Hainaut. A local lineage emerged in the late 11th century, with lord Arnould, the second son of Count of Hainaut Baudouin de Jerusalem. Most lords of Le Rœulx were named Eustache (also written Wistaffe in old documents).
Eustache I the Old (1142-1192) fought together with Count of Hainaut Baudouin V against the Duke of Limburg and the Duke of Brabant; he died on the Crusade. His son Eustache II the Young (1162-1188) strongly fortified the castle of Le Rœulx but he died before his father, which was succeeded in 1190 by his grand-son Eustache III Canivet (1190-1210); Eustache III signed several charters, including the Hainaut charter in 1200, and founded the hospital of Le Rœulx in 1202. His son Eustache IV (d. 1221) succeeded him, was caught by King of France Philippe-Auguste at the battle of Bouvines (1214) and released from the Louvre tower in Paris in 1216. His successors were Eustache V (1221-1283), Gilles I Rigaut (1284-1308) and Eustache VI (1308-1337).
Eustache VI died without heir and the domain of Le Rœulx was incorporated into the County of Hainaut. In 1433, Le Rœulx was granted to Antoine de Croÿ, Baron de Renty, lord of Aarschot and Chièvres and Chamberlain of Duke of Burgundy Philip the Good. The castle went down in the annals of Hainaut since it was visited or inhabited by famous rulers, especially the Dukes of Burgundy Philip the Good and Charles the Bold and the Kings of Spain Charles V and Filip II. The dukes and the kings built firm alliances with the Croÿ family through godfathership. In 1713-1760 Duke Ferdinand-Joseph de Croÿ revamped the facade and the parks of the castle and added two wings. In 1814, the Prince of Orange and the Duke of Wellington met in the castle for a few days short before the battle of Waterloo.

Thieu is the southernmost village of the municipality of Le Rœulx. The village is divided into two parts by the recently built Canal du Centre. The ship funicular lift of Strépy-Thieu was inaugurated on 30 August 2002, after 20 years of work; it is located on the new canal, on the limit of Thieu and Strépy (in the municipality of La Louvière). The Canal du Centre connects the basins of the Scheldt, the Meuse and the Rhine and the port of Dunkirk. The lift allows ships up to 1,350 tons to "climb" a 73-m slope; the height of the lift is 110 m for a length of 135 m. The tanks for the ships are 112 x 12 m, for a volume of 8,000 tons of water. They are powered by cables and pulleys at a speed of 20 cm per second. The ship transfer operation lasts at least 40 minutes. The funicular lift replaces four old hydraulic lifts, built on the ancient canal in 1882-1917. These lifts have been registered by UNESCO on the World Heritage List.

Ville-sur-Haine is located in the south-west of the municipality of Le Rœulx. In the small valley known at least since 1347 as Val de Creuse, a shepherd once found near a source a black statue of the Virgin made of oak. He brought it to the village church but the next morning the statue was back to the source. After three similar events (this story is the mythic origin in several sanctuaries in Belgium and elsewhere), the inhabitants decided to build a plinth for the statue. In 1820, a nasty shepherd overturned the statue and was immediatly it by fever, from which he never recovered. The Mayor, a rich farmer and the villagers decided to found the Notre-Dame-de-Creuse chapel to keep the statue. The chapel was rebuilt in 1912 and again in 1991, including the two miraculous sources used for long against fever by the villagers. The miraculous statue was stolen in 1980 and found back th next year at a fence in Brussels; since then, it has been kept in the church of Ville-sur-Haine.
On 11 November 1918, a few minutes before the Armistice and the end of the war, a Canadian regiment entered Ville-sur-Haine. The soldier George Price was killed by a German snijper. He is considered as the last Commonwealth soldier killed during the First World War. A memorial was built in 1968. In 1990, the local history circle got in touch with George Barkhouse, George Price's nephew, who came in 1991 to Ville-sur-Haine for the inauguration of the George Price footbridge that crosses the Canal du Centre near the place where the soldier was shot. During the ceremony, George Barkhouse was given a small crucheted flower George Price was wearing when shot and that he had given to the lady trying to help him.
Gottignies is the smallest village of the municipality of Le Rœulx. The tiny St. Joseph chapel, built in 1702, is the oldest chapel-on-plinth in the municipality of Le Rœulx.

Mignault is the northernmost village of the municipality of Le Rœulx. It is an agricultural village with big farms, such as the Cense de Belle Maison, built under the Spanish rule and revamped at the end of the 16th century.

Ivan Sache, 4 February 2007

Flag of Le Rœulx

The flag of Le Rœulx is yellow with the municipal arms in the center.
According to Armoiries communales en Belgique. Communes wallonnes, bruxelloises et germanophones [w2v03], this flag was proposed by the Heraldry and Vexillology Council of the French Community.

The municipal arms, granted by Royal Decree on 30 June 1838, are "Vert a lion proper holding in dexter a five-ray wheel all or".
Servais [svm55] shows similar arms for Le Rœulx before 1976, but with a red-tongued lion. The images on Armoiries communales en Belgique. Communes wallonnes, bruxelloises et germanophones as well as the coat of arms shown on the municipal website indeed show the lion with a red tongue, therefore in contradiction with the description. The municipal arms, based on a seal from the 15th century, are partially canting since a wheel is in French a roue, which is not so different from "Rœulx". The arms of the early lords of Le Rœulx, from the Ath-Chièvres branch of the house of Hainaut, were "Or three lions gules 2 and 1".

Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 25 August 2007