Last modified: 2019-06-26 by ivan sache
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Municipal flag of Court-Saint-Étienne - Images by Arnaud Leroy, 6 October 2007
Left, flag in use
Right, flag proposal, not in use
The municipality of Court-Saint-Étienne (9,547 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 2,664 ha) is located half-distance (35 km) between Brussels and Namur.
Court-Saint-Étienne was known in the Middle Ages as "curtius
stephanus", St. Stephen's Court, after the church built in the 13th
century by Cistercian monks sent by Bernard of Clairvaux. However, the
region of Court was settled much earlier,as proved by the famous
necropolis found in Quenique and Plantée des Dames.
Circumstancial findings of very old artefacts in Quenique and Plantée des Dames have been reported at least since the late 18th century. At the end of the 19th century, several remains were found when preparing the soil for a new plantation of firs; a bit later, Count Eugène Goblet d'Alviella organized systematic excavations. In spite of not fitting the modern standards of modern archeological research - several tombs were destroyed, urns were broken, the accurate location of the findings was not recorded and collections from various places were pooled together -, the excavations of Court-Saint-Étienne represent a milestone in the knowledge of the colonization of western Europe in the ancient times. Most of the artifacts found there are kept in the Royal Museums of Art and History in Brussels.
Quinique is a sandy height whose name comes from the local word
quinique, "a stone". Here, quinique refers either to the stones
naturally found in the sandy soil, or, more probably, to the several
flint artifacts abandoned here by the early settlers. The oldest
settlers whose remains are known are Neolithic (2600-1600 BC)
communities; some 1,500 flint tools have been found in Quenique,
including axes, blades, scrapers and javeline points. No remains of any
dwelling have been found yet. The second main period of settlement in
Quenique is the Age of Bronze (1600-650 BC). From 1800 to 1200 BC, the
proto-Celtic civilization spread from the east towards Central and
Western Europe; from 1200 to 800 BC, further invasion waves spread up
to Spain. The result was the so-called Urn Fields' civilization,
characterized by the building of fortified camps on the heights
(oppida), the incineration of the deads and the set up of flat tombs.
The newcomers mixed with the locals and the Gaulish civilization emerged. Several flat tombs, made of rows of urns covered with a schist flagstone and buried 40 cm down into the ground, have been found in Quenique. The urns often included only bone fragments and bronze or terracotta finery artifacts, such as razors, pins or bracelets. There was probably a small mound built over the tomb to mark its location.
In the middle of the 7th century BC, during the First Age of Iron (Hallstatt period, 800-450 BC), warriors using bronze and iron swords settled in Western Europe, where they contributed to the achievement of the Gaulish civilization. Agriculture and war were, progressively, completely changed by the introduction of iron tools and weapons. The Hallstattians used tombs made of a tumulus much bigger (up to 1.80 in height and 25 m in diameter) than the previous mounds. In Quenique, there were probably some 30 such tumulus; the tombs belonged to the upper society, since they included a wide range of expensive stuff: bronze swords, several long iron swords, harnessing pieces, a big chest jewel, urns, vases etc. Most of these artifacts have been found in a very bad state because they had been thrown into the funeral pyre to make them not reusable. However, some tombs have undamaged artifacts, which might indicate a change in the funeral practices. Surprisingly, there are in Quenique no remains from the Second Age of Iron (La Tène period, 450-51 BC), which corresponds to the peak of the Gaulish civilization. The local settlements might have been destroyed later by Scythian invaders.
The castle of Court-Saint-Étienne was built in classical style at the end of the 18th century or the beginning of the 19th century, on
the site of an old castle represented on a plate by Harrewyn (c. 1690).
The old castle itself probably replaced a feudal castle built in the
13th century on a spur watching the confluency of rivers Thyle,
Orne and Dyle.
In 1844, Count Louis Goblet d'Alviella, the son of General Goblet, married Countess Coralie d'Auxy de Neufvilles, whose dowry included the castle of Court. Maps from the 19th century have allowed the reconstruction of the evolution of the castle's park. In the late 1850s, Goblet reclaimed the marshy lands surrounding the Thyle and the Orne; the bed of the Thyle was modified and the old bed became a pond, later filled. A new pond was set up on the right bank of the Orne and a few paths were opened into the "natural" tree, grass and water landscape. The park includes several tree species, some of them having been naturalized in the beginning of the 20th century by Count Félix Goblet d'Alviella, who served as the President of the Belgium Forestry Central Society. The castle is still owned by the Goblet d'Alviella family.
In 1886, the Goblet family was granted an isolated concession in the middle of the cemetery of Court, with a personal entrance protected by gates. Count Eugène Goblet (1846-1925), Professor of Religious History, then Rector, at the Brussels Free University, Senator and Minister, free-mason, and member of the Royal Academy, commissioned the architect Adolph Samyn to built the family mausoleum, which should bear signs and emblems of diverse religions, to symbolize the Infinite and the hope of afterlife, as well as the writing L'Être unique a plus d'un nom (The unique Being has more than one name) in Sanskrit, French, Egyptian and Greek. Samyn took the model of old Hindu tombs made of two floors surmounted by a dome. The mausoleum was achieved in 1889, with the decoration made by the sculptor Houtsont, from Brussels. All the members of the Goblet family since General Albert Goblet are buried in the 12-m high mausoleum, registered as "Walloon exceptional heritage" on 23 September 1988. The numerous symbols found on the mausoleum are explained by Samyn in the booklet Un essai d'application de la symbolique comparée à l'architecture funéraire : cimetière de Court-Saint-Étienne, published in 1889.
Court-Saint-Étienne grew from a rural village to a small industrial town at the end of the 19th century. In 1847, a foundry producing enamelled stuff and a forge producing axle-trees and hoops for cart wheels was set up at the Fauconnier mill, on the bank of the Dyle. The products sold well, especially after the building in 1855 of the Grand Central railway, that linked the Charleroi coal-mining basin to the port of Antwerp. The two factories belonged to General Count Goblet d'Alviella, who hired a few years later a young engineer from the University of Liège, Émile Henricot, as the director of the factories that would later be known as Usines Émile Henricot (U.E.H.). In 1885, Henricot became the owner of the factories and a four-generation success-story started in Court. Henricot invested in the most modern technologies and became world famous for the production of pieces in cast iron and wrought iron; the factory specialized in the production of oil boxes for railway cars. In 1897, Henricot purchased Bessemer converters and started the production of the famous Henricot cast steels. The first railway automatic couplings were made by Henricot in 1905 in the new factory built in 1901 near the Dyle for the mass production. Henricot made casings for the coal mines and, later, the caissons used for the building of the tunnel under the Scheldt in Antwerp. In 1929, electric ovens allowed the production of high-quality special steel. The forge and rolling mill for the allied steel was built in 1935, allowing in 1947 the building of Auguste Piccard's bathyscaphe. The pod of the "Piccard's Bowl" was built by Henricot from 15 July 1946 to 19 July 1947; it allowed Piccard to dive down to 4,500 m below the sea level and was reused several times by the French Navy for research purpose. In 1958, Henricot worked for the emerging nuclear industry. The two factories increased up to an area of 26 ha and employed up to 2,500 workers producing 30,000 tons steel per year, 70% of them being exported. The last oven was switched off in 1984, ending the industrial history of Court-Saint-Étienne. The association Patrimoine Stéphanois a.s.b.l. (website) has saved the archives of the factory and attempts to preserve the few buildings that have survived the closure of the factory.
Ivan Sache, 9 June 2007
The flag of Court-Saint-Étienne, as confirmed by the municipal administration, is vertically divided green-white.
According to Armoiries communales en Belgique. Communes wallonnes, bruxelloises et germanophones [w2v03], the Heraldry and Vexillology Council of the French Community proposed a flag for Court-Saint-Étienne as divided green-white by a diagonal starting from the upper right corner and reaching the second third of the lower edge of the flag; in the lower fly, a stylized green tree stands on a terrace. The green triangle symbolizes the slope of a tumulus whereas the tree represent the Justice tree used in the Middle Ages to hang the condemned persons.
The arms of Court-Saint-Étienne, granted by Royal Decree on 4 March 1914, are "Quarterly, 1. Argent a mound vert, 2. Or a St. Stephen azure, 3.
Argent a tree vert, 4. Sable a cogwheel or".
The mound represent the hilly soil of the village and, mostly, the tumulus of the necropolis of Quenique; St. Stephen is the patron saint of the parish church and of the town; the tree is the Justice tree, the tree shown today in Sart as the Justice tree being indeed a shoot of the old, genuine tree; the cogwheel recalls the industrial past of the town.
[Michel Duboisdenghien. Derrière chez moi - Court-Saint-Étienne de 1830 à 1990, Quorum, 1993]
Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 9 June 2007