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Rochefort (Municipality, Province of Namur, Belgium)

Last modified: 2013-12-12 by ivan sache
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[Flag of Rochefort]

Flag of Rochefort - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 7 May 2005

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Presentation of Rochefort and its villages

The municipality of Rochefort (12,1334 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 16,527 hectares) is located in the west of the Province of Namur, close to the Province of Luxembourg. The municipality of Rochefort is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Rochefort, Ave-et-Auffe, Belvaux, Buissonville, Éprave, Han-sur-Lesse, Havrenne, Jemelle, Lavaux-Sainte-Anne, Lessive, Montgauthier, Villers-sur-Lesse and Wavreille.

Remains of the Age of Iron have been found in the caves dug by the river Wamme in Rochefort. The site seems to have been fortified in the Roman period to increase the security in the area. Several Merovingian cemetaries scattered along the road from Rochefort to Éprave indicate a high density of population.
The domain known as Behogne, a Deanery depending in 943 on the church of Liège, was renamed Rochefort (lit., "rock - fort"), alluding to the highest point of the site where a feudal castle was built, probably replacing the Roman fortress. Rochefort was granted a chart of rights in 1285.
The County of Rochefort was the most powerful feudal domain in the Principality of Liège. The successive Counts belonged to the families of Montagu, claiming to descent from a Norseman lord from the 9th century, Duras (1147), Walcourt-Rochefort (1187), Stolberg (1544), Loewenstein (1574), Stolberg (1737). A smaller part of the land of Rochefort was not included into the County; it was part of the domain of Hamerenne, depending on the Provostship of Durbuy, in the Duchy of Luxembourg.
In 1230, Gilles de Walcourt founded in Rochefort the abbey Notre-Dame-de-Saint-Rémy for Cistercian nuns; they were replaced by monks of the same order in 1464, who were expelled during the French Revolution. In 1887, a group of Cistercian monks from the abbey of Achel resumed monastic life in Rochefort. Saint-Remy is famous for a coloured marble extracted in neighbouring quarries and exported all over Europe and, mostly, for its genuine Trappist beer, brewed in the abbey since 1595.
The chapel of Lorette was founded in 1625 by Josine de la Marck, Countess of Rochefort. A legend says that the Countess promised to build a chapel if she could recover her son, kidnapped by a monkey. The choir of the chapel is the perfect replica of the Santa Casa in Loreto, said to be the house of the Blessed Virgin, transported by angels from Nazareth to Italy.
The French Revolution made of Rochefort a municipality. At the independence of Belgium (1830), the municipality had an area of 2,861 hectares and 200 houses, hardly 40 of them being built with stones.

Ave and Auffe (in Walloon, Lauffe; written Harfia in 934, Arfia c. 1087, Arfe c. 1297, Aff in 1501, Affe in 1531) were merged into the municipality of Ave-et-Auffe on 13 February 1826. Remains of ancient fortifications and of Merovingian tombs have been found near the crossing of two Roman ways.

Belvaux (written Belva in 1274, Belevas in 1304 and Belvalz in 1330) was administratively split before the municipal reform: the part of the village located on the left bank of the Lesse belonged to the municipality of Resteigne, whereas the part located on the right bank belonged to Wavreille. Frankish tombs have been found in the place called Rymont or Montis, where a vanished village existed according to a local tradition. The inhabitants of Belvaux are nicknamed carcolis.

Buissonville (in Walloon, Bouchonveye; written Basunville in 1104 and Bussonville in 1322) had in the beginning of the 20th century very teasing inhabitants, who were nicknamed chinards di Bouchonveye. chiner is a colloquial verb for "to rag".

Éprave (written Erpruvium in 1030, Erproeve in 1285, Ieprave in 1407, Erpreuve in 1373 and Yeproeve in 1537) is famous for its 800 Merovingian tombs (5th-8th centuries). There were several brick factories in the village in the beginning of the 20th century. The inhabitants of Éprave, nicknamed chovelettes, were known in the past for making at home lops brooms called ramons (the word ramon is listed in Grand Robert de la Langue Française as a "regional word").

Han-sur-Lesse was written Ham in 1139, Hans Sur Lesche in 1266, Han Sur Lece in 1465 and Ham sur lez in 1528. Its inhabitants are nicknamed ayets. Han was known in the Middle Ages for its sheep herds. In 1915, Lucien Stalars provided electricity to Han by plugging a dynamo on the wheel of the old watermill. Two electric wires brought electricity to one lamp per family. When bad-tempered Stalars had a problem with someone in the village, all families were deprived of electricity. The caves of Han are a main Belgian beauty spot.

Havrenne (300 inhabitants) belonged to the municipality of Humain, in the province of Luxembourg, before the municipal reform.

Jemelle (written Gamedella in 816; Gimelle in 1139, Juniale in 1262, Gimenal in 1288, Gemelle in 1319, Junial in 1320, Gemeal in 1330, Jemil in 1333: Jemil, Geminalle in 1354, Jemelle in 1507 and Gemaill in 1541) is named after a diminutive of the Germanic word Gamunda, meaning "mouth", "confluenc"y (see the German toponym Gmund). In the beginning of the XXth century, Jemelle was a wealthy village with two family breweries, a marble mason's yard owned by Félix Clamot and several cafés, hotels and restaurants. There was also in Jemelle a big workshop for the repairing and maintenance of steam locomotives, employing 1,500 workers. The workshop caused a sixfold increase in the population of the village within thirty years.

Lavaux-Saint-Anne (in Walloon, Al'vaux) is built along a street on a small hillock separating the valleys of Wimbe and Gongon. Its inhabitants are nicknamed petias (small, wild pears). The village had several breweries in the 19th century.

Lessive (written Licievra c. 1030, Lichivre in 1407, Licive in 1537 and Lessive in 1640) is located in a small valley parallel to the Lesse. Several Merovingian tombs were found there. There was a brewery in the village in the beginning of the XXth century. Its inhabitants are nicknamed tchabots, after the name of a small fish (chabot).

Montgauthier (in Walloon, Malautchi, written Mons Walcheri in 1139, Monlevachier in 1330, Mont Le Wauthier in 1512 and Molwachier in 1597) is built on a small ridge dominating the Famenne. Gallo-Roman cemetaries dating back to the 3rd century were found near the village in 1856.

Villers-sur-Lesse (in Walloon, Villers; written Vileir in 1139, Villari sour Leche in 1316 and Villers sur Lech in 1483) is located in the alluvial plain of the Wimbe. Its inhabitants are nicknamed cwarnayes.

Wavreille (written Wavereis in 922, Wavrelia in 1079, Wavereih in 1303, Waurelle in 1304 and Waverelhe in 1558) was known in the past for its fountains, pumps and ponds.

The cyclist Thierry Delculée came back to his birth town of Rochefort on 24 April 2005 after having pedaled round the world.
Justine Hénin smashed her first tennis balls when a very little girl in Rochefort.

Source: Municipal website
The sources of the historical and local information available on that website are listed as:

  • G. Lamotte. Etude historique sur le comté de Rochefort, Namur, 1893.
  • C.-G. Roland. Les seigneurs et comtes de Rochefort, Annales de la Société archéologique de Namur, t. XX, 1893, pp. 63-114 and 329-448.
  • A. Van Iterson & S. Genicot. Rochefort, images du passé, Rochefort, 1978.
  • A. Collard, P. Collignon & J. Berg. L'entité de Rochefort à la Belle Epoque.

Ivan Sache, 29 October 2007

Municipal flag of Rochefort

The municipal flag of Rochefort is yellow with a red eagle with a blue beak, tongue and claws.
According to Armoiries communales en Belgique. Communes wallonnes, bruxelloises et germanophones [w2v03a], the flag is prescribed by a Decree adopted on 5 September 1991 by the Municipal Council and confirmed on 18 December 1991 by the Executive of the French Community, as Jaune à l'aigle rouge becquée, languée et membrée de bleu.
The flag is a banner of the municipal arms of Rochefort, adopted at the same dates.

The Gelre Armorial shows the arms of Weri of Rochefort (Die Here v. Rotsifoort, #399, folio 49r) as "Quarterly, 1. and 4. or an eagle azure beaked and armed gules, 2. and 3. azure a semy of fleurs de lis or". On the municipal arms, the colours of the eagle and of her beak and legs are swapped.

Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 29 October 2007