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Cerfontaine (Municipality, Province of Namur, Belgium)

Last modified: 2019-01-12 by ivan sache
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Presentation of Cerfontaine and its villages

The municipality of Cerfontaine (4,579 inhabitants on 1 July 2007; 8,345 ha; municipal website) is located 10 km west of Philippeville, on the border with the Province of Hainaut. The municipality of Cerfontaine was established in 1976 as thec merger of the former municipalities of Cerfontaine, Daussois, Senzeilles, Silenrieux, Soumoy and Villers-Deux-Eglises.

The municipal territory of Cerfontaine covers the geographical center of the region of Entre-Sambre-et-Meuse, that is the watershed between the basins of the Sambre, in the north, and of the Meuse, in the south. Several rivers have their source here: the Eau d'Heure, which forms the lakes of Eau d'Heure, the biggest artificial lake in Belgium, shared with the neighbouring municipality of Froidchapelle; the Hantes; and the Brouffe, a tributary of the Eau Blanche, whose confluency with the Eau Noire forms the Viroin, a tributary of the Meuse. From the French Revolution to December 1815, the six villages forming Cerfontaine were allocated to different administrative entities.

Cerfontaine was settled very early, as proved by Prehistoric scrapers and a Gallo-Roman cemetary. The village was mentioned for the first time in the 10th century, with a straightforward etymology, "the stags (cerfs)' fountain (fontaine). In the Ancient Regime, Cerfontaine belonged to the Principality of Liège and was located on the border with Hainaut. The village lived mostly from stone and marble extraction and from wood industry. It has kept its traditional bandstand (like Momignies) and its railway station built on a bridge (today the local museum, after the suppression of the railway line in 1970).

Daussois is an old free domain , as confirmed on 4 May 1611 by Archdukes Albert and Isabelle. The oldest known lord of Daussois is Esquire Jean de Robaulx (1581-1655), Provost of Beaumont from 1622 to 1655 and a great defensor of the border of Hainaut. Daussois had in the past iron and clay mines, only the latter being still active.

Senzeilles was the seat of a Gallo-Roman villa, destroyed in the middle of the 10th century and excavated in 1907.The village was protected by a castle, of which have been kept three angle towers, a terrace and a building surmuonted by a tower. The Senzeilles family, known in the 12th-16th centuries, played an important civil, military and religious role in Hainaut, Liège, Namur and also in England. The village was transfered in 1706 to the Duke of Orléans. Senzeilles was famous for the quarry of Beauchâteau, where red marble was extracted, today a protected monument.
Simone Gerbehaye (1899-1987), owner of the castle of Senzeilles, was deported to Ravensbrück by the Nazis in 1944. Her husband Julien Lehoucq was killed together with eleven fighters of the maquis of Senzeilles in Breendonck on 25 February 1944; their son Julien Lehoucq died in the camp of Bautzen on 25 February 1945; after the war, Ms. Gerbehaye was the first woman elected Senator in Belgium (1950-1961); she was also Mayor of Senzeilles from 1947 to to 1976.
The astronomical clock of Senzeilles was made by the self-taught clockmaker Lucien Charloteaux (1870-1950), member of the French Society of Astronomy, Charloteaux' clock has 13 dials run by a single mechanism.

Silenrieux is said to have been named after the silene, a genus of flowering plants of the family Caryophyllaceae (red campion and white campion are silenes). The village is very elongated and had three railway stations, Gerlimpont, Silenrieux and Falemprise. The boroughs of Battefer (lit., "beats iron", known since 1554) and Féronval (from fer, "iron") recall the ancient iron industry in the village, which has kept a fish farm and a traditional brewery. Silenrieux is the birth place of Piret (1758-1838), lawyer of the Prince-Bishop of Liège and founder of the first Belgian commercial sugar mill in Liège in 1812, and of the painter Jules Léonard (1825-1897), known for its local landscapes and portraits.

Soumoy was part of the Barony of Florennes, until Baron Gabriel de Glimes transferred on 9 December 1516 the village to Jacques de Robaulx, who built a castle in the village. On the 16 Ventôse of the Year II (6 March 1794), the Austrians were defeated by the French army on the heights of Rowlé, near Soumoy.

Villers-Deux-Eglises is named after the two churches (in French, deux églises) that existed here until 1588. The first church depended on the abbey of Floreffe and the second one on the abbey of Florennes. On 19 July 1588, the abbey of Floreffe sold its church rights to the abbey of Florennes and the village has only one church since then.

Ivan Sache, 3 June 2007

Flag of Cerfontaine

According to Armoiries communales en Belgique. Communes wallonnes, bruxelloises et germanophones [w2v03], Cerfontaine has no flag.

Pascal Vagnat, 3 June 2007