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Herstal (Municipality, Province of Liège, Belgium)

Last modified: 2019-07-30 by ivan sache
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Presentation of Herstal

The municipality of Herstal (37,720 inhabitants on 1 July 2007; 2,354 ha) is located on the river Meuse, bordering Liège in north-east. The municipality of Herstal is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Herstal, Milmort, Vottem (except a few streets incorporated to Liège) and, partly of Liers (split between Herstal and Juprelle).

Already settled in the prehistoric and Roman times, Herstal was a Royal residence of the Merovingian and Carolingian kings and one of Charlemagne's preferred capitals. As a member of the powerful Pippinids' dynasty, Pepin of Herstal played an important role in the progressive overthrowing of the Merovingians by the Carolingians. Pepin II of Landen was the main councillor (Mayor of the Palace) of King of Austrasia Dagobert, the last really powerful Merovingian king. For a while expelled from the power, he was called back in 639 by the Regent and took for him half of the royal treasure. His son Grimoald, considered, like his father, as too ambitious, was preferred Otto, whom he let murdered to take his position with King Sigebert III, Dagobert's son. When the next king, Clovis II, died in 657, Grimoald convinced Sigebert III to adopt his own son and to christen him under the royal name of Childebert; moreover, Grimoald locked Sigebert's legitimate son and pretender into a monastery. The Austrasian barons were not pleased with the usurpator and murdered him, together with his son, in 662. Some ten years later, Grimoald's nephew, Pepin of Herstal, became a powerful Mayor of the Palace of Austrasia; in 687, after two failed attempts, he defeated the Neustrians in Tertry and unified the two rival northern Frankish kingdoms. After Pepin's death in 714, the catastrophic regency by his widow Plectrude caused the rebellion of Neustria; Austrasia was saved by Charles Martel, an illegitimate son of Pepin jailed for a while upon Plectrude's request. After a few years, Charles Martel reestablished the Pippinid power. He was succeeded by his son Pepin the Brief, who overthrown the last Merovingian king, Childéric III, in 751 and founded the Carolingian dynasty, which ruled "France" until 987.
The progressive seizure of the power by the Mayor of the Palace has yielded to the last Merovingian kings the nickname of rois fainéants, lit. "the lazy kings" (fainéant being derived from fait néant, "does nothing"), not because they were so lazy but only because they had nothing left to do but moving from town to town lying in a cart drawn by oxen (there was no fixed royal residence at the time).

A former rural community, Herstal was industrialized from the XVIIth century onwards, with the opening of earthenware, nail, clock and weapon factories. The development of the Basin of Liège in the XIXth century made of Herstal the "Town of Iron and Coal". However, the main fame of the town was due to the opening in 1889 of the Fabrique Nationale d'armes de guerre et de chasse (National Manufacture of War and Hunting Weapons", better known as FN Herstal. The town was also famous for the production of motobikes nicknamed Demoiselles de Herstal. Most of Herstal traditional industries have disappeared: FN employed 9,000 workers in 1960, a number that has decreased today to 1,100; the former motor division of FN is today TechSpace Aéro, employing 1,200 workers producing pieces for the European Ariane launcher.


Ivan Sache, 19 July 2007

Municipal flag of Herstal

According to Armoiries communales en Belgique. Communes wallonnes, bruxelloises et germanophones, the Heraldry and Vexillology Commission of the French Community proposed a flag for Herstal, described as Deux laizes longitudinales jaune et rouge, chargé au centre de l'écu communal, that is, horizontally divided yellow-red with the municipal arms in the middle.

The arms of Herstal are:
D'azur à l'empereur Charlemagne, couronné et à cheval, brandissant de la dextre un glaive et tenant de la senestre un globe crucifère, le tout d'or (Azure an Emperor Charlemagne, crowned and riding, raising dexter a sword and sinister an orb, all or).
The colours of the proposed flag are derived of the arms of the so-called family of Herstal, D'or au sautoir de gueules accompagné de quatre merlettes du même (Or a saltire gules cantonned with a merlette of the same in each quarter).

Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 19 July 2007