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Mortsel (Municipality, Province of Antwerp, Belgium)

Last modified: 2012-10-13 by ivan sache
Keywords: mortsel | berthout |
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[Flag of Mortsel]

Municipal flag of Mortsel - Image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg , 3 September 2007

See also:

Presentation of Mortsel

The municipality of Mortsel (24,426 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 778 ha) is located on the south-eastern border of Antwerp.

Ivan Sache, 3 September 2007

Municipal flag of Mortsel

The flag of Mortsel is vertically divided yellow-red-yellow-red-yellow-red-yellow (seven stripes).
According to Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel, the flag was adopted by the Municipal Council on 5 February 1980, confirmed by Royal Decree on 2 February 1981 and published in the Belgian official gazette on 11 March 1981.
The flag is a banner of the municipal arms.

The municipal website shows the complete coat of arms of Mortsel, surmounted by St. Benedict. "Or three pales gules" is, of course, the arms of the powerful Berthout family. Their arms were used on the municipal seals, the oldest known being dated 1477. The local historian J.B. Stockmans describes a green seal appended to a document dated 16 February 1515, kept in the archives of the Commandery of Pitzenburg in Mechelen. The seal shows St. Benedict standing on the Berthout coat of arms and holding in one hand a book and in the other hand a crozier. The seal bears the writing Sigillum Scabinorum de Mortsele et Buyseghem (Seal of the Magistrates of Mortsel and Buizegem). The municipal seals used after the French Revolution bore only text, while a lion was added after the Belgian independence.
In 1878, the Municipal Council applied for the use of the Berthout seal as the municipal arms. A Royal Decree from 5 January 1880 granted these arms, but the original of the grant, written in French only, was lost during the World Wars. On 29 August 1946, a bilingual copy of the grant was released.
The details of the arms have changed with time. Or was rendered as yellow for technical reasons, while St. Benedict was portrayed with the crozier turned either dexter or sinister and the book either open or closed. There is usually artistic licence granted to the artists drawing the coat of arms.

Servais explains the mythical origin of the arms of Berthout as follows:
In the XIIth century, a lordbBerthout helped the King of Aragon in his struggle against the Moors. He fought there three times; the first time, he was rewarded with an estate and the title of provincial governor, the second time he was rewarded with the King's daughter, but refused both and went back to Flanders. The third time, the King asked Berthout what he would like as a reward. Berthout asked for the right to bear the arms of Aragon and was granted them with three pales instead of four, celebrating his three victories over the Moors.

The Gelre Armorial shows several Berthout coat of arms:
- Berthout, "Die He. (the Lord) van Mechelen", 809, folio 72v: "Or three pales gules";
- Henri VII Berthout, "Die He. van Duffel", 833, folio 73v: "Or three pales gules (Berthout) a franc canton ermine";
- Jean de Berlaer (Berthout), "Die He. van Helmunt" (Helmont), 838, folio 73v: "Argent three pales gules (Berlaer)",
- Guillaume Berthout de Duffel, "H. Willem v. Duffel", 893, folio 75v; "Or three pales gules a franc canton ermine a crescent sable".

Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 3 September 2007