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Huy (Municipality, Province of Liège, Belgium)


Last modified: 2018-04-07 by ivan sache
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Flag of Huy
Left, flag in use - Image by António Martins, 21 March 2018
Right, official flag, not in use - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 29 July 2007

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Presentation of Huy

The municipality of Huy (20,232 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 4,774 ha; unicipal website) is located between Namur and Liège, on the confluency of the rivers Hoyoux and Meuse. The municipality of Huy was established in 1976 as the merger of the former municipalities of Huy, Ben-Ahin and Tihange (including Neuville-sous-Huy since 1970).

Huy was mentioned for the first time, as Hoium, in a testament dated 636. A village was probably built earlier near a Roman castrum (fortified camp) set up on the right bank of the Meuse. It is also said that St. Maternus dedicated a shrine to the Blessed Virgin there in the 2nd century.
In the 7th century, the area was evangelized by St. Domitian, Bishop of Tongeren and first patron saint of the town. Accordingly, two churches dedicated to the Blessed Virgin and saint Cosmo were built. A shrine dedicated to St Maternus is mentioned in a document dated 634. In the Merovingian times, Huy was a small but very active river port. Coins with the writing choe castro were minted in the town, showing that a castle already existed in Huy. The castle was explicitely mentioned for the first time in 890 in a bill of sale. Grapevine was grown on the slopes of the spur. Bronze foundry workers, bone and horn cutters and potters had workshops in the borough of Batta.

In 941, German Emperor Otto I created the short-lived County of Huy, encompassing most of the regions of Condroz and Hesbaye. The last count, Ansfried, ceded it to the Bishop of Liège in 985. Huy was then included as a "good town" (bonne ville) in the Principality of Liège.
In the 11th century, Huy was an important industrial center. Blacksmiths formed the most powerful guild. Water wheels built on the Houyoux allowed the development of several ironworks and smelting furnaces. Copper beating was exported all over Europe thanks to two famous artists from Huy, R&enier de Huy (baptismal founts in St. Bartholomeuw's church of Liège) and Godefroid de Claire (reliquaries of St. Mengold and St. Domitian in the collegiate church of Huy).
In 1066, Bishop Dietwinus of Bayern needed funds to rebuild the cathedral Notre-Dame. The citizens of Huy ceded him half of their loose goods against a charter of rights, which was the first ever granted to a town in western Europe. Remains of the crypt of Dietwinus' church, housing the relics of saints Domitian and Mengold, were discovered in 1906.
In the 13th-14th centuries, the fortune of Huy was due to cloth trade. Coins from Huy found in Russia and in Scandinavia are evidence of the international fame of the town. The building of a Gothic cathedral started in March 1311, requiring the demolition of Dietwinus' Romanesque church. The choir was consecrated in 1377, whereas the vaults are dated 1523 (transept crossing) and 1536 (great arch below the tower).

The prince-bishops of Liège increased the castle of Huy, known as Tchestia, and improved its defense system with towers and walls. In 1328, Prince-Bishop Adolph de la Marck, challenged by the citizens of Liège, entrenched himself in the castle of Huy. So did John of Bayern in 1408. In the 15th century, Huy was one of the richest and most pleasant towns in the Duchy of Burgundy. In 1472, Duke Charles the Bold completely revamped the castle. At the same time, Prince-Bishop Érard de la Marck let dig the 90 m deep well. The castle was then chosen as the symbolic emblem of the town.
However, this castle, built in a strategic location and protecting Liège on the west, caused the decline of Huy in the 16th-17th centuries. It was for instance seized by the Dutch governor Heraugiere in 1595, who was then expelled by Count de la Motte. Another attempt of Dutch invasion failed in 1602. In the next 30 years, the castle was besieged and seized 12 times by Louis XIV or his opponents' coalition. Most of the vineyard disappeared. In 1715, the treaty of la Barrière prescribed the destruction of all fortresses, including Huy, in order to secure the end the War of the Spanish Succession. The inhabitants of Huy were so happy to get rid of the cause of their misfortune that they destroyed themselves the castle stone by stone. For one century, the rocky hill on which the castle had been built remained bare and abandoned.

After the fall of the French Empire and the incorporation of Huy to the Netherlands, the strategical interest of Huy was reevaluated. On 6 April 1818, the building of a new fort started, patroned by prince Frederick. The plans of the fort were drafted by engineer Cammerlingh and the building site was directed by captain Ammamaet. The Dutch state allocated 1,200,000 guilders to the building of the fort, whose main role was to protect the country from an attack coming from the south. The fort was achieved in 1823; it was a big rectangular fortress made of limestone, including several loopholes and 17 m high curtains. The side of the fortress watchinh the river Meuse was 148 m wide while the two other sides, watching the town and the Condroz plateau, were 108 m wide. The fort was equiped with 50 cannons served by 100 men. However, those cannons were never used but for festivities.
In 1848, the citadel was transformed into a state jail. The Risquons-tout workers, who had proclaimed the republic against the monarchy, were jailed there for seven years. In 1876, the municipality of Huy purchased the fort for 30,000 francs, but General Brialmont reincorporated it to the national heritage as a part of the defense system of the Meuse. The industrial revolution made of Huy the "Billionaires' Town". Among the ancient industrial traditions of Huy, pewterware production is still significant.
During the First World War, the fortress of Huy was used by the Germans as a disciplinary camp for their own troops and Russian prisonners. During the Second World War, it was used as a jail for more than 6,000 French and Belgian political opponents.
The municipality purchased the fort in 1973 for one symbolic franc. On 28 June 1992, the Museum of Resistance and Concentration Camps was inaugurated, following a convention with the municipality of Huy.

The source cascading from Mont-Picard to the Meuse, known as the Fontaine d'Ahin, has been the natural border between the County of Namur and the Principality of Liège for ages. In 1505, it was known as the spamicon. It is shown on all military maps used by Louis XIV when he besieged Huy. It was also the limit between the municipalities of Huy and Ahin. The fountain was used as a watering and washing place until 1938, the year water conveyance was set up in Huy.
The castle of Beaufort was located on the territory of the former municipality of Ben-Ahin, part of Huy since 1976. The family of Beaufort is very ancient: its early members are reported to have fought the Normans in a chronicle dated 881. Lord Wauthier of Beaufort is mentioned in 1044. A chart dated 1127 says that Lambert and Arnoud of Beaufort built an oratory on their domain of Benz (later shortened to Ben). The castle of Beaufort seems to have been built in the 12th century by the prince-bishops of Liège as an advanced defense of their town against the counts of Namur. Arnold of Beaufort is called in a charter, dated 1227 and probably the oldest mention of the castle, the chief of the "Men" of the prince-bishop.
In 1271, a Beaufort betrayed Liège and placed the castle under the homage of the count of Namur. Accordingly, the castle was a permanent threat for the town of Huy, located only 5 km from the castle and still in the domain of Liège. In 1276, the inhabitants of Huy besieged Beaufort in the so-called Cow's War, to no avail. John II, count of Namur, purchased the domain of Beaufort in 1330 and ceded it to his brother Robert.
In the 15th century, the Count of Namur sold his county to Duke of Burgundy Philip the Good. In the same time, the inhabitants of Dinant, a town located on the Meuse and belonging to Liège, fortified their castle. Philip complained to the prince-bishop of Liège, who appointed commissioners in order to watch the two castles. However, the inhabitants of Dinant and Huy allied, seized Beaufort in June 1430 and completely demolished the castle. Archeological excavations done by the University of Liège in the 1970s did not yield anything more recent than the 15th century, definitively showing that the ruins of the castle had been immediatly abandoned.
Around 1850, Duke of Beaufort-Spontin purchased one hectare of land bristled with rocks, ruins and thickets, in order to preserve the birthplace of his ancestors. The family still owns the domain, which was inscribed on the Register of Historical Monuments by a Royal Decree signed on 3 July 1984. The municipality of Huy signed a convention with Duke Friedrich of Beaufort, allowing a public access to the ruins in summertime.

Ivan Sache, 11 April 2004

Flag of Huy

The flag of Huy is horizontally divided yellow-red with a blue border, except along the hoist.
According to Armoiries communales en Belgique. Communes wallonnes, bruxelloises et germanophones [w2v03], this "traditional" flag was not approved by the Heraldry and Vexillology Council of the French Community.
Yellow and red are the traditional colours of Liège, while the blue border might come from the port and windows of the fort on the municipal coat of arms.

The municipal administration communicated the "official" flag of Huy, horizontally divided yellow-red with a white key placed along the hoist. The key recalls the strategic location of the town. However, the flag in use seems to be the "traditional" flag (photo of the Town Hall). The only flag visible in the town in May 2008, on the Town Hall, inside the fortress and in other places, was indeed the "traditional" flag.

The coat of arms of Huy is "Gules, a fort or port and windows azure a base vert".

Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 30 May 2008