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Meix-devant-Virton (Municipality, Province of Luxembourg, Belgium)

Last modified: 2021-03-18 by ivan sache
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Flag of Meix-devant-Virton - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 8 May 2005

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Presentation of Meix-devant-Virton and its villages

The municipality of Meix-devant-Virton (2,675 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 5,420 ha; municipal website) is located in the south of the province of Luxembourg (Gaume), on the border with France. The municipality was established in 1976 as the merger of the former municipalities of Meix-devant-Virton, Gérouville, Robelmont, Sommethonne, and Villers-la Loue.

The name of Meix (in Walloon, Maiche) means "a garden". It is believed to come from the Latin word mensa, literally, "a table", here "a field providing food" (products placed on a table). Some 50 villages and hamlets are called Meix in Lorraine, Burgundy and Champagne. The origin of the village was most probably a clearing near the confluency of brooks that provided water for market gardening. Early documents call the village Meix in Spelunca (in the cave); no cave has ever been found in Meix and the cave might recall the clearing surrounded by a thick, dark forest.
Due to the plenty of water, mills were set up very early in Meix, one of them depending on the abbey of Orval.
On the old maps, the village is called Meix or Mex. The qualifier "devant-Virton" (in front of Virton, the neighbouring town) seems to have been added under the Dutch rule in 1815, for the sake of differenciation with Meix-le-Tige, located in the Provostship of Arlon.
The parish priest N.J. Lenoir proposes to rename the municipality to Meix-en-Gaume, "since it is located neither in front of nor behind Virton".

In 1636, black plague spread over Belgium, but Meix was hardly hit. In early June, a detachment of the Austrian army including Croats and Poles (then called Granates and Polaques) entered Meix and commited "harassment to the inhabitants". When the soldiers finally left, someone fired at them from the cemetery, killing the Croat captain of the detachment. The Croats came back to the village on 11 June to take their revenge. They burnt down all the 129 houses of the village but one at each end. A few inhabitants could hide in the woods, but most of them locked themselves into the parish church. The soldiers piled up bundles of firewood all around the church and lit the fire. Mayor Arnould Lambinet, his Lieutenant Didier of Coulon and échevin Didier Toussaint jumped out of a skylight of the bell-tower and escaped the arsonists. The church was burnt down and 567 villagers were burnt alive.

Gérouville belonged to the abbey of Orval until the French Revolution. In 1070, Count Arnoux II de Chiny ceded the domain of Orval to a group of monks, replaced in 1108 by canons sent by Bishop Brunon of Troyes, themselves replaced in 1131 by Cistercians monks. Orval owned most of Gérouville, then called Gérousart. By an agreement signed in 1258 by the Count de Chiny and the Abbot of Orval, Gérouville was submitted to the law of Beaumont: on Pentecost, the community elected its Mayor, his Lieutenant and two Echevins. In May 1273, Count Louis V de Chiny and his wife Jeanne de Blamont granted a weekly market to Gérouville. In 1538, a sawmill and forges were set up in La Soye (locally known as La Souie, "the saw"), powered by waterfalls from ponds. A listing of the abbey of Orval, dated 1659, recalls that the Croats destroyed in 1636 the village of Limes, which was not rebuilt.
In 1659, Gérouville, belonging to the Provosthip of Malmedy, was incorporated to France (Treaty of Pyrénées); in the beginning of the 18th century, Gérouville was an advanced post on the road to Malmedy, fortified by Vauban. Gérouville was incorporated to the Austrian Lower Countries in 1769.
In 1823, Gérouville, Limes and La Soye were merged into a single municipality; the forges of La Soye were suppressed in 1858.
Gérouville was famous for its linden (or was it an elm?), planted in 1259 and fallen down in 1877.

Villers-la-Loue has Roman origins, as an estate called Villare-Allodium. Foundations of a Roman villa and several remains of tiles, bricks and pottery have been found near the modern farm of Grihir. In the Frankish times, Villers was probably a village, as shown by two tombs founded in 1876 by quarrymen. A complete Frankish cemetery was excavated, which yielded paved tombs, human bones and teeth, scramasaxes (single-sharped war swords), javeline heads, shield handles and belt buckles filigreed with gold and silver. All these artefacts are shown in the National Museum in Brussels.
The name of Villers dates back to 1225. A census dated 1656 lists "Jean Connerot, foundry worker in the forge of Berchu". Berchu is a brook, which most probably gave its name to the hamlet of Berchiwé, well known for its cannon forge in the 17th century.
Villers and Houdrigny were two municipalities until the French Revolution; Villers, Houdrigny, Robelmont and Sommethonne were later merged into a single municipality, with 1,387 inhabitants in 1841.

Robelmont (written Robermont until 1850) was probably founded by someone called Robert (Roberti Mons). The municipality peaks at 240 m a.s.l. at Harpigny (lit., "the manor on the wooded mount").

Ivan Sache, 8 May 2005

Municipal flag of Meix-devant-Virton

The flag of Meix-devant-Virton is red with five white javeline heads placed 2 and 3 and a thin vertical stripe along the hoist, horizontally divided in ten alternating blue and white stripes.

According to Armoiries communales en Belgique. Communes wallonnes, bruxelloises et germanophones [w2v03a], the flag, adopted on 4 March 2003 by the Municipal Council, is prescribed by a Decree issued on 17 July 2003 by the Executive of the French Community.
The flag is based on the municipal arms, "Gules five javeline heads argent placed 2 and 3, a diminished chief per fess azure and argent)".
The javeline heads recall the Frankish arms found in Villers-la-Loue; their arrangement 2 and 3 recalls the letter "M" and the colours are those of the Province of Luxembourg.

Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 8 May 2005