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Arlon (Municipality, Province of Luxembourg, Belgium)


Last modified: 2012-10-28 by ivan sache
Keywords: arlon | aarlen |
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[Flag of Arlon]

Municipal flag of Arlon - Image by Ivan Sache, 19 June 2012

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Presentation of Arlon

The municipality of Arlon (in Luxembourgian and German, Arel; in Dutch, Aarlen; 27,986 inhabitants in 2011; 11,864 ha) is located close to the border with the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, 200 km southeast of Brussels ("so far away from Brussels, so close to France, Germany and Luxembourg"). The municipality of Arlon is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Arlon, Autelbas (NidderÄlter), Bonnert (Bunnert), Guirsch (Giisch), Heinsch (Häischel) and Toernich (Täernech).

Arlon is considered as one of the oldest towns in Belgium. The Romans established the Orolaunum vicus on the site of a Celtic village, located near the source of river Semois. Situated at the intersection of the Reims-Trier and Metz-Tongeren roads, Orolaunum developed as a wall-less administrative, economical and religious center. The name of the town is known from the Antonine Itinerary (3rd century) and from en engraving (2nd-3rd centuries) found near the source of the Semois. More than 400 stones pieces from funerary monuments and public buildings excavated or reused in the next centuries are shown today in the town's archaeologic museum, forming one of the richest collections of Gallo-Roman funerary stones in Europe.
At the end of the 3rd century, the inhabitants of Orolaunum, threatened by the Germans, withdrew on the hill, known today as knippchen, where they built a fortified castrum, using stones from older buildings and cemeteries. The wall, 800 m in perimeter, 4 m in average thickness and c. 8 m in height, was protected by gates and towers. Nothing has remained from the Roman fortifications except the underground foundations of a tower, excavated in 1948.
The remains of thermae supplied in water by the Semois were excavated in 1907; on the same site were found the foundations of an early Christian church and a Merovingian necropolis. Twenty-one tombs, dated to the 7th century, yielded several funerary artefacts (golden jewels, weapons, glassware) shown today in the town's archaeologic museum. A triple-apsed church was subsequently built on the ruins of the Frankish church; rebuilt and increased in the 14th century, the church was eventually transferred downtown in 1570.

In the 11th century, Waleran, first Count of Arlon, built a castle on the knippchen hill, which would be destroyed in 1558 during the sack of the town by the Duke of Guise. Settling in Arlon in 1621, the Capuchin monks built in 1628 on the ruins of the castle a monastery dedicated to the Blessed Virgin. In 1681, Vauban transformed the monastery into a citadel. Having noticed that the church was a kind of "lightning attractor", the Capuchins dedicated it in 1719 to St. Donatus of Arezzo (4th century?), invoked in Luxembourg and Rhineland against lightning, storms and blazes. The tradition says that in 1652, the priest translating the relics of the saint near Cologne was hit by lightning, invoked Jesus, Mary and St. Donatus, and was miraculously saved. The monastery was suppressed in 1796, leaving only the church and a 350 years-old dogwood-covered alley.

Arlon was made the capital of the Province of Luxembourg in 1839. To accommodate the new administrative structures, the provincial architect Jamot designed in 1844-1849 the Léopold Square, lined by the Provincial Palace and the Court of Justice, while the Town Hall was rebuilt away (1842-1843). The last walls were suppressed, the streets were lined, street lighting and water pumps were set up. The first- rank railway station, inaugurated in 1858 and rebuilt in 1873 by the provincial architect Van de Wyngaert, on the Brussels-Luxembourg line, significantly contributed to the boom of the town.
The first synagogue in Belgium was built in Arlon in 1865. The town also hosts the oldest active Jewish cemetery in Wallonia, set up in 1856. The new St. Martin church was built in 1907-1914, but consecrated only in 1937, following the suppression of the older, downtown St. Martin church in 1935; its 97-m high tower highlights Arlon as the easternmost town of Belgium.

The Cistercian abbey of Clairefontaine was founded in the village of the same name, located close to Arlon, by Ermesinde, Countess of Luxembourg and Arlon (1186-1247), for noble dames. Consecrated in 1253, the abbey was burned down by the French in 1794, while the nuns fled to Luxembourg. In 1874, the Society of Jesus purchased the remaining buildings of the abbey and discovered the grave of the Countess, today housed in a neo-romanesque chapel.

The emblem of Arlon is a beverage called Maitrank (lit. May drink). Of unknown exact origin, the maitrank was mentioned for the first time in 854 by the monk Wandalbert, from the abbey of Prüm (today in Germany). The monks used to macerate woodruff (Galium odoratum (L.) Scop., aka Asperula odorata L.) in wine to decrease its sourness.
Once very popular but progressively forgotten, the maitrank was recreated in the 1950s by the doctor André Arend and the wine merchant Georges Bestgen, who had a shop in the cellar of the Court of Justice of Arlon where the first maitrank bottles were sold. The plant should be picked up in May, just before flowering, and macerated into Luxembourgian Moselle white wine, usually Elbing. Maitrank produced in Arlon is "certified" by the Maitrank Brotherhood (website), founded in 1964 and counting today some 200 members. The Maitrank Festival is organized in Arlon every year at the end of May.

Source: Municipal website

Ivan Sache, 19 June 2012

Municipal flag of Arlon

The flag of Arlon is horizontally divided white-light blue. It can be seen hoisted over the Town Hall (photo), the Visitor's Center, the Gaspar Museum (photo) and in the Léopold Square.

The flag is a simplification of the municipal arms, which are "Barruly of ten pieces argent and azure a lion gules".
According to Servais [svm55], the arms of Arlon were granted by Royal Decree on 24 November 1841. The oldest known seal of Arlon (1311) shows a lion. Later seals used the arms of Luxembourg. In 1841, the colour of the nails of the lion were changed from or to gules to distinguish the arms of Arlon from those of Luxembourg. The lion is therefore plain red.

Ivan Sache & Pascal Vagnat, 19 June 2012

Former reported flags of Arlon

[Reported flag of Arlon]

Reported flag of Arlon - Image by Ivan Sache, 8 June 2005

Armoiries communales en Belgique. Communes wallonnes, bruxelloises et germanophones [w2v03] shows the flag of Arlon as vertically divided white-blue. Such a flag does not seem to be currently in use (provided it was ever used).

[Former flag of Arlon]

Reported flag of Arlon, c. 1900 - Image by Ivan Sache, 12 June 2005

Nouveau Larousse Illustré, Dictionnaire Universel Encyclopédique (7 volumes, published in Paris, 1898-1904) shows the flags of the main Belgian towns, which were based on the traditional colours of each town.
The flag shown for Arlon is horizontally divided red-white-blue.

Pascal Vagnat, Jan Mertens & Ivan Sache, 18 May 2007