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Houyet (Municipality, Province of Namur, Belgium)

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

Municipal flag of Houyet - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 24 June 2006

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Presentation of Houyet and its villages

The municipality of Houyet (4,471 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 12,231 ha) is located in the region of Famenne, 15 km south-west of Dinant, in the valley of Lesse. The municipality of Houyet is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Houyet, Celles, Ciergnon, Custinne, Finnevaux, Hour, Hulsonniaux, Mesnil-Eglise, Mesnil-Saint-Blaise and Wanlin.

Houyet (1,490 ha) is named after the root huy, also found in the name of the neighbouring village of Hulsonniaux, formerly known as Huy-les-Oneals (1361), and in several local hydronyms. The Ban of Houyet, depending directly of the County of Rochefort, included the domains of Ardenne and Herhet, which do not seem to have had their own lords. In 1673, Anne-Marie de Fürstenberg, Countess of Rochefort, took the title of Dame de Houyet. The family of Houyet, which played a significant role in Dinant, does not seem to have been of any significance in Houyet.
The domain of Ardenne was purchased by King Léopold I, who asked architect Balat to transform it into a royal residence. The tower erected on the rock dominating the Lesse, known as Tour Léopold, was built in 1843 on the model of the tower of the park of Windsor. From 1874 to 1891, King L&reacute;opold II increased the park and restored the castle; then he offerred the domain (4,500 ha) to the Belgian state. In 1897, Ardenne was rented by the Compagnie des Grands Hôtels, which set up the Hôtel du Château d'Ardenne, sport grounds (tennis, golf) and an airfield. Houyet was well-known in the past for its cutlery works.

Celles (2,074 ha) was named after the cells (in Latin, cella) built in a cave in the middle of the forest by the ermits attracted there by saint Hadelin (617-690). He was a monk who retired from the court of King of Austrasia Sigebert, following the example of his master and friend saint Remacle, the founder of the abbey of Stavelot. Hadelin organized the community as a Benedictine abbey; after his death, his disciples appointed an abbot and a provost. Emperor Henri III (1039-1056) granted the abbey of Celles the privilege to mint coins. Due to constant quarrels with the lords of Celles, the monks eventually left and were granted the Decanate of the collegiate church of Visé by the Prince-Bishop of Liège in 1337. As usual at the time, they brought with them the relics of the saint. Later, the reliquary was opened several times and the relics were shared among the abbeys of Stavelot and Orval, the monastery of Cugnon, and the Hermitage chapel of Celles, where some of the relics were officially transferred in 1865.
The hamlet of Gendron, part of Celles, is famous for its cave, locally known as trou des nutons (the nutons are small inhabitants of the holes made by erosion into the limestone rocks), which was used in the Stone Age as a tomb for 17 skeletons. A Roman treasure from the IIIrd century was found in the hamlet of Trussogne.
The castle of Vôves, protected by four towers, is the most characteristic fortress from the XIVth century in Belgium. It is said to have been built by Pépin de Herstal in 685 and destroyed by the Northmen. The castle was rebuilt in 1230 as a big fortress. The castle still belongs to the Liedekerke-Beaufort family.
On 24 December 1944, during the Battle of the Bulge, the German 2nd Panzer Division, heading to the river Meuse, was stopped in Celles by the joint effort of the American 2nd Armoured Division and the British 3rd Tank Regiments.

Ciergnon (1,524 ha) was settled very early, as proved by remains of a Roman fortress still visible in the middle of the XIXth century and by the Merovingian cemetary of Hérock. The parish of Ciergnon was shared between the County of Namur and the Principality of Liège. In 1891, King Léopold II purchased the domain of Feneffe and merged it with the domain of Ardenne (see above).

Custinne (1,030 ha) was in the past the most important of the four Peerages of the County of Rochefort. The family of Custinne was founded by Gilles II, lord of Custinne and Ver, who succeeded his father Gilles de Saint-Vincent, who had purchased the domain in 1271. A branch of the Custinne family moved to Lorraine and exerted high responsabilities at the Imperial court of Austria.

Finnevaux (661 ha) was known as Fineval in 1020. The village is located at the end (in French, fin) of a long depression called le Fond de Famenne. The domain belonged very early to the abbey of Stavelot, which appointed in 1131 the Count of Luxembourg as its avoué (manager). In 1237, Henri de Luxembourg gave Finnevaux to Henri II, Count of Agimont. Emperor Charles V made of Agimont a powerful border province; like the other villages of the County of Agimont, Finnevaux was incorporated to France on 17 December 1678 (Treaty of Nijmegen) and retroceded to the Low Countries on 3 December 1699 (Convention of Lille).

Hour (1,171 ha) was known as Our in the XIIIth century. The place was also settled very early, as shown by the remains of a Roman fort found on the left bank of the Lesse and the Gallo-Roman villa with an hypocaust (heating system) found in Lissoir. The name of the river Lesse was derived from the Celtic root lec, "stone", and the bed of the river is indeed stony. Some historians claim that Lissoir was Liciodurum, the fortress on the Lesse.

Hulsonniaux (947 ha) was known as Huy-les-Oneals (1361), the oneals being aunias (Walloon) or aulneaux (French), that is small alders (aulnes). The hamlet of Chaleux, built in a curve of the Lesse, is famous for its Prehistoric cave. The cave is now located 18 m above the river; it yielded more than 30,000 man-cut flints, human and animal bones and a mammoth cubitus. The limestone spurs located near Chaleux are known as Aiguilles de Chaleux (Chaleux needles).
On 14 July 1943, an Halifax aircraft from the Royal Canadian Air Force crashed down in Hulsonniaux.

Mesnil-Eglise (in Walloon, Moinne-Egliche; 992 ha) is named after the Low Latin word manile, "a house", from Latin manere, "to sta"y. Philippe de Senzeilles, lord of Moisnil-Eglise in 1535, represented the nobility of the County of Namur in the States General in 1557. In the XVIIth century, Mesnil-Eglise was incorporated to the County of Agimont but the villagers still paid the tithe to the Prince-Bishop of Liège.
The village of Ferage was in the past a domain linked to Finnevaux. The farm-castle of Ferage was bequeathed to the Belgian state by the royal family.

Mesnil-Saint-Blaise (1,222 ha) is built on a plateau settled very early, as proved by remains of Neolithic stations from the Stone Age. Like Mesnil-Eglise, Mesnil-Saint-Blaise was incorporated into the County of Agimont.
During the First World War, the Austrian howitzers that hammerred the fortress of Charlemont in Givet (France) were located on the heights of Mesnil-Saint-Blaise.

Wanlin (479 ha) had among his lord Everard de Merode, who was banished by Duke of Alba on 28 April 1568 because of his support to the uprising against the Spaniards. He recovered his domain in 1576 after the agreement known as the Pacification of Ghent.

Source: Municipal website

Ivan Sache, 24 June 2006

Municipal flag of Houyet

The municipal flag of Houyet is yellow with a green triangle spreading from the hoist (point) to the fly (base) of the flag.
According to Armoiries communales en Belgique. Communes wallonnes, bruxelloises et germanophones, the flag was adopted by the Municipal Council on 16 September 1991 and confirmed by the Executive of the French Community on 18 December 1991, as Vert embrassé de jaune à la hampe.
The flag is a simplification of the municipal arms, De sinople à une couronne royale d'or, chapé ployé du même.

According to Brian Timms, chapé: is not used in English heraldry: "It is a partition of the field used by French heralds, and formed by two lines drawn from the centre of the upper edge of the shield, diverging towards the flanks and leaving the field ressembling somewhat a wide pile reversed."
Ployé is not listed by Timms; in French, ployer means "to bend". Therefore, chapé ployé describes the partition formed as described by Timms for chapé but with curved (ployé) lines.
When designing the flag, the crown was suppressed, the curves lines were made straight and the partition was rotated to the flag hoist.

Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 24 June 2006