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La Roche-en-Ardenne (Municipality, Province of Luxembourg, Belgium)

Last modified: 2012-05-17 by ivan sache
Keywords: la roche-en-ardenne | lion (white) | label (blue) |
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[Flag of La Roche]

Municipal flag of La Roche-en-Ardenne - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 28 January 2007

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Presentation of La Roche-en-Ardenne

The municipality of La Roche-en-Ardenne (4,348 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 14,752 ha, half of them being covered with forests), is known as "the Pearl of Ardenne". The village of La Roche is located in the valley of Ourthe but the municipality spreads over the neighbouring plateaux of Bastogne and Les Tailles, so that its highest point is located close to the Baraque de Fraiture, 652 m a.s.l. The municipality of La Roche-en-Ardenne is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of La Roche-en-Ardenne, Beausaint, Halleux, Hives, Ortho and Samrée.

The valley of Ourthe was already settled in the Neolithic. The Celts built an oppidum (fortified camp) on the rocky spur that was later the site of the castle of La Roche. After the submission of the region by Caesar in 57, the oppidum was replaced by a Roman fort; coins portraying Emperors Domitian (81-96) and Constantine II (337-340) have been found there. In the early Frankish times, the Roman fort was transformed into a hunting lodge by Pepin of Herstal.
The first castle of La Roche was built in the XIth century; it was strategically significant from the XIIth to the XVIIth century. It started to decline in 1721 and a project of restoration failed in 1744. The ruined castle was then used as a quarry by the inhabitants of the town.
Tourism developed in La Roche at the end of the XIXth century, mostly with English enjoying fly fishing in the Ourthe and its tributaries. La Roche was promoted by Pastor Perk, who wrote the first local tourist guide in Dutch, and his son Pierre, who dedicated poems to the town. La Roche was not damaged during the First World War but was nearly completely (90%) destroyed during the Second World War. The town was liberated by the Allied troops on 10 September 1944 but Von Rundstedt launched a counter-attack in winter 1944-1945; La Roche was seized by the Germans on 21 December 1944 and hit by some 70,000 American shells until the 11 January 1945, when the 51st Highlander Division (Black Watch) of the 30th British Corps and the 1st US Army liberated the two banks of the Ourthe and the town as well.

The romantic ruins of the castle are haunted by the ghost of Countess Berthe de La Roche, who can be seen sometimes at night fall rambling on the place of her death (but the ghost does not show up on rainy days!).
Berthe was the only child and heir of the lord of La Roche, who announced that the loyal winner of a big tourney would marry his daughter. The first pretender to register was Count de Montaigu; the Count was not so loyal, since he was already engaged with Countess Alix de Salm, but was very mighty and undefeated in turneys. Accordingly, nobody else dared challenge him; however, short before the closure of the aborted turney, a child-looking knight entered the combat area, hardly armed and riding a small horse without any armour. He caused great mirth and Montaigu prepared to crush him. The shabby knight proved to be very skillful and avoided all Montaigu's assault. The Count steamed with sweat and decided to end the game; he took he big run up and aimed at his opponent with his heavy sword. Once again, the shabby knight quickly moved and Montaigu, unseated, fell down to the ground, where his opponent easily finished him off. The Countess Berthe and her husband spent their wedding night in the highest room of the donjon of the castle. The next morning, the lord of La Roche found the room empty; leaning out of the wide open window, he saw two spots, one black and one white, down into the precipice on the bank of the Ourthe. The shabby knight was indeed Countess Alix de Salm, who had signed a pact with the devil and had taken revenge on Count de Montaigu and Countess de La Roche.

The emblematic beverage of La Roche is called purnalet, made with sloes (in French, prunelles). The tradition says that purnalet dates back to the Celts; after the conquest, the Roman colonists got rid of the sloes and brambles and attempted to grow vine instead, to no avail. The sloes have to be picked-up after the first frosts and are macerated for three months in brandy with honey and ginever into big terra cotta pots. The purnalet tradition is maintained by a brotherhood ruled by the Maistres de la Confrérie du Purnalet.
Another speciality of La Roche is the small cake made with marzipan and butter cream, invented in 1950 by the local pastry-cook Léon Danloy, who called it Les Baisers (The Kisses). The main food product of Ardenne is, however, the Ardenne ham (jambon d'Ardenne), whose name is controlled and protected by Royal Decree of 4 February 1974.

Source: La Roche-en-Ardenne tourist office website

Ivan Sache, 28 January 2007

Municipal flag of La Roche-en-Ardenne

The municipal flag of La Roche-en-Ardenne is vertically divided white-red-white (2:3:2) with a white lion charged with a three-pointed blue label in the red stripe.
According to Armoiries communales en Belgique. Communes wallonnes, bruxelloises et germanophones, this flag was proposed by the Vexillology and Heraldry Council of the French Community as:
Trois laizes transversales blanche, rouge et blanche (2-3-2), la rouge chargée d'un lion blanc à queue fourchue et traversée d'un lambel bleu à trois pendants à hauteur de l'épaule du lion.
The description states that the lion has a forked tail and that the label "cuts" the lion's shoulder. The shield is the municipal coat of arms.

According to Servais, these arms (de gueules au lion à la queue fourchée d'argent au lambel de trois pendants brochant sur le tout) were already used by the municipality of La Roche-en-Ardenne before 1976.

Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 28 January 2007