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Martelange (Municipality, Province of Luxembourg, Belgium)

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

The municipality of Martelange (in Luxemburgian, Maarteleng or Maartel; 1,567 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 2,967 ha) is located 20 km east of Neufchâteau, on the border with the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. The village of Haut-Martelange (Uewermaarteleng) is located in the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg.

Martelange is mostly known for the national road RN4, which forms the border with the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, and, accordingly, for the gas stations and alcohol and cigarettes shops that are located on the right side of the road, that is in the Grand Duchy, where taxes are much lower.
This odd, but so convenient administrative status, is due to a mistake made during the redaction of the Treaty of London in 1831, fixing the borders of the new Kingdom of Belgium. The redactors wisely decided to place the whole Bastogne-Arlon road (today the RN4) within the Belgian territory to avoid unnecessary customs posts and surveillance. Unfortunately, they based the border definition on an obsolete map showing the old road built by Empress Maria-Theresia, whose layout had been changed in 1826. Accordingly, most of the historic territory of Martelange, including the village of Haut-Martelange (Uewermaarteleng) was allocated to the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg. Mayor Martin Kuborn protested and the whole of Martelange was retroceded to Belgium. However, the Dutch set up boundary stones along the new border following the Treaty of the Twenty-Four Articles, signed in March 1839, and Martelange was eventually split between Belgium and the Netherlands - later the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.

On 31 August 1967, a driver lost control of his truck transporting 45,000 liters of liquid gas in the "death toboggan" of the RN4. The truck crached into a 15,000 V electric pole on the bridge over the Sûre, supplying the spark required for the explosion. The truck driver, four Spaniards in their car and 17 inhabitants of the village heading to the café after the mass were killed, while another 120 were burned more or less severely. More than 20 houses, including the pharmacy, the hotel, the post-office, the grocery shop, the gas station and the bank were completely destroyed. In April 1990, another truck fell down into the Sûre, causing a chemical pollution of the river and destroying the commemorative stele of the 1967 accident.

The National Monument to the Chasseurs Ardennais, located near the RN4, 1 km north of Martelange, was inaugurated by King Baudouin on 11 May 1952. It was built on the battlefield where the 4th Company of the 1st Chasseurs Ardennais, commanded by Commandant Kelecom, fought against the German 1st Panzerdivision on 10 May 1940. The same day, the 5th Company of the 1st Chasseurs Ardennais, commanded by Commandant Bricart, attempted to stop the Panzerdivision near Bodange. The idea of the monument was proposed by Lieutenant Greindl, who joined the anti-German resistance ans was murdered in Büchenwald.

Located in the schistose upper valley of Sûre, Martelange (Belgium) and Haut-Martelange (Luxembourg) were once famous for their slates. Exploitation started in the last years of the Ancient Regime, when Jean-Sébastien Bourgeois exploited a quarry in Haut-Martelange, owned by Jean Maus. Since Bourgeois was a careless quarryman, Maus sacked him and rented the quarry to the Dupuis family, from Villers-la-Bonne-Eau. Lacking experience, the Dupuis were not successful either. Bourgeois attempted to exploit the quarry by himself but failed too, and had to sell the quarry to Jean-Pierre Kuborn, from Martelange, who successfully exploited it until the end of the XIXth century. In 1820, Nicolas Rosset purchased a slate concession in the place called Fooscht; so did three ladies Bourgeois in Haut-Martelange in 1857. In 1898, the Rother brothers, from Francfort (Germany) purchased the Rosset, Kuborn and Bourgeois quarries; Ardoisières de Haut-Martelange S.A. was incorporated on 10 February 1923. The slate quarries were exploited until the death of Christine Rother in 1985 and the company was sold off in 1986. In 1992, the association Les Amis de l'Ardoise was founded to preserve the slate heritage in Belgium and Luxembourg; they set up the Slate Museum in Haut-Martelange, which was purchased by the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg in 2004.


Ivan Sache, 1 September 2007

Municipal flag of Martelange

According to Armoiries communales en Belgique. Communes wallonnes, bruxelloises et germanophones, there is no municipal flag used in Martelange.

Pascal Vagnat, 1 September 2007