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Bertrix (Municipality, Province of Luxembourg, Belgium)

Last modified: 2019-07-30 by ivan sache
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[Flag of Bertrix]

Municipal flag of Bertrix - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 6 February 2006

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Presentation of Bertrix

The municipality of Bertrix (8,164 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 13,770 ha) is located in the heart of the plateau of Ardenne, 15 km west of Neufchâteau and 20 km north-east of Bouillon. The municipality of Bertrix is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Auby-sur-Semois, Bertrix, Cugnon, Jehonville and Orgeo.

The villages forming Bertrix are very ancient, and remains of Celtic settlements have been found in the region. The St. Remacle cave is said to be the place where St. Remacle first attempted to evangelize the area in the VIIth century before founding the abbey of Stavelot. Bertrix is called "the town of slate" (la cité de l'ardoise); it is possible to visit the galleries of an ancient slate mine, located 45 m below the ground level. Most villages have characteristic XVII-XVIIIth century slate-roofed houses, whereas very few houses have kept roofs made of a mixture of clay and slate scraps, locally called cornue. The ancient cemetary of Mortehan, located on the bank of river Semois, is famous for its steles made of schist.

The inhabitants of Bertrix are nicknamed the baudets, the donkeys. This nickname seems to have been given to them by the Austrian administration, upset by their stubborn resistance to the occupation. The baudets had a great sense of humor and enjoyed the nickname. In order to poke even more fun at the Austrians, they founded in 1772 the Académie des Baudets, spoofing the Academy founded by Empress Maria-Theresia in Brussels. The members of the Académie expressed their irredentism by writing rhyming verses criticizing the Austrian rule. Joining the Académie was not so easy; there was an examination of the intellectual and physical skills of the applicants, who should finally lash out and gave the "national cry", Hi Han! (Heehaw!). The Academicians wrote a poem celebrating the donkey, called La Bertrixiade, unfortunately lost, and a song for advertizing their fair, called La Bertrijotte. Among the members of the Académie was a notary called Verlaine, who was the ancestor of the poet Paul Verlaine. Lacking support and sponsor, the Académie disbanded in 1842.
Another tradition claims that the inhabitants of Bertrix are called the baudets because they came back from the Crusades riding donkeys.

There was a very famous cyclist race called Les Deux Jours de Bertrix. On 27 September 1967, Daniel Van Rijckeghem won the first stage, Ohain-Bertrix (231 km - 5h 57' 40''), whereas Willy In't Ven won on 28 September the second stage, Bertrix-Bertrix (244 km - 6h 10' 16"). In't Ven won the race with an accumulated time of 12h 11' 08". Eddy Merckx ranked 5th. The race was never ran again since then.


Ivan Sache, 6 February 2006

Municipal flag of Bertrix

The municipal flag of Bertrix is diagonally divided (per bend) red-green with the municipal coat of arms in the middle.
According to Armoiries communales en Belgique. Communes wallonnes, bruxelloises et germanophones, the flag was adopted by the Municipal Council on 14 September 2000 and confirmed by the Executive of the French Community on 15 July 2003, with the following description:
Tranché rouge sur vert, chargé au centre de l'écu communal occupant le tiers du battant.

The municipal arms of Bertrix are white with three black donkeyshoes nailed in yellow:
D'argent à trois fers d'àne mal ordonnés de sable, cloutés d'or, posés en barre.
Armoiries communales en Belgique. Communes wallonnes, bruxelloises et germanophones says that this is a popular coat of arms, recalling a folkloric event; the inhabitants of Bertrix are nicknamed baudets since one of them killed an old donkey he had mistaken for a hare. There is no explanation of the red and green colours of the flag, which might come from the arms of the former municipality of Cugnon:
D'argent au lion léopardé, contourné de gueules couronné d'or et passant sur un rang de quatre rochers de sinople (Argent, a leopard gules crowned or passant on four rocks vert).

The Stecker website gives another tradition explaining the arms of Bertrix.
In the Middle Ages, there was in Bertrix a yokel with extended skills for tourneys. Three local lords, very jalous of him, set up an ambush against him in the forest. They were not able to kill him and exhausted themselves fighting him. Finally, he got rid of them and took as a trophy a shoe from each of their horses and decorated his shield with them. When getting old, he offerred his shield to the town of Bertrix.

Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 6 February 2006