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Olne (Municipality, Province of Liège, Belgium)

Last modified: 2019-01-08 by ivan sache
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Flag of Olne - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 12 May 2007

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Presentation of Olne

The municipality of Olne (3,788 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 1,599 ha; municipal website) is located in the west of Pays of Herve, between Liège and Verviers. The village of Olne proper is surrounded by the hamlets of Saint-Hadelin, Gelivaux, Hansez, Vaux-sous-Olne and Bois-d'Olne.

The cave of La Falise was already settled in the Paleolithic but the first written mention of the village of Olne dates back to the early 11th century. Until then, the Pays of Herve was mostly covered by the forest of Theux. The local toponyms recall the clearings made in the 11-13th centuries, for instance Riessonsart and Vieux-Sart (a sart being a clearing, see also in ancient French essart) and Bois-d'Olne (a bois being a wood). On 13 August 1005, Emperor Henri II granted to the newly founded St. Adalbert church in Aachen the estates (villae) of Soiron (Soron) and Soumagne (Solmania), located in the pagus Lewa / Lirwa, indeed pagus Liuvensis or the County of Liège (Luihgau). The villa Solmania was mentioned in 891 when monks from the abbey of Stavelot stayed there; logically, Solmania would be now the village of Soumagne, but it has been claimed that Solmania might rather have been the hamlet known today as Saint-Hadelin. Until the early 19th century, Soumagne was known as Soumagne-les-Moisnes whereas Saint-Hadelin was known as Soumagne-Saint-Halen.
Olne is not mentioned on Henri II's deed but later documents show that Olne already belonged to the St. Adalbert church in the late 11th century: in 1095, the peasants (rustici manentes) of the vicus alno (maybe a place planted with alders, in French, aune) are listed as dependent of the church (Sancti Adalberti Aquensis familia). The vicus is mentioned as a parish seat in 1103. As usual at that time, the canons of the St. Adalbert church appointed a protector (avoué) to run their domains; the first avoué of Olne was the famous Godefroid de Bouillon.

At the end of the 11th century, the Imperial power declined and the most powerful local lords set up de facto independent feudal states. The County, then Duchy, of Limburg emerged near 1066, as did, near 1071, the County of Dalhem. In 1239, Duke of Brabant Henri II seized the castle of Dalhem and took the control of the County. The last Count of Dalhem, Thierry II, transferred in 1244 his state to the Duke of Brabant. Olne was threatened by the troops of the Duke of Limburg, so that the St. Adalbert canons asked for the protection of Henri II, as the Count of Dalhem. Around 1240, the Duke of Limburg incorporated Soiron, maybe a few years before Olne was incorporated to the County of Dalhem. Olne was then a stronghold of Brabant, enclaved between the Principality of Liège and the Duchy of Limburg, which was eventually incorporated to Brabant in 1288. The Dukes of Brabant and their successors, the Dukes of Burgundy, progressively suppressed all the rights of Olne, which strongly resisted; in 1468, Olne supported Liège revolted against Duke Charles the Bold.
From 1387 to 1396, the Duchy of Burgundy incorporated all the Brabantian possession located outre-Meuse (beyond the river Meuse, that is eastwards, seen from Brussels) and divided them into four autonomous states, the Duchy of Limburg, the County of Dalhem, the Lordship of Rolduc ('s Hertogenrade) and the Lordship of Fauquemont (Valkenburg). Under the Spanish Hapsburgs, the administration of the Low Countries was centralized so that the ban of Olne, part of the County of Dalhem, had the same status as all other divisions of the country.

In the 17th century, the Outre-Meuse territories were threatened by the United Provinces, that took control of Maastricht in 1632. The Treaty of Munster, signed in 1648, ended the war but did not address the status of Outre-Meuse. Following a compromise set up in The Hague in 1661, the King of the Netherlands ceded to the States General of the United Provinces half of the County of Dalhem, including Olne, fulfilling a request already presented in 1658 by the Calvinist Walloon churches of the United Provinces. The treaty was ratified on 15 April 1662 by the States General and on 18 October by the King of Spain; accordingly, the ban of Olne formed a "Dutch" enclave, surrounded by the Duchy of Limburg, the Principality of Liège and the Principality of Stavelot. There were therefore two Dalhem states, the Spanish and the Dutch, the latter keeping the town of Dalhem as its capital. In 1785, the Treaty of Fontainebleau reallocated most of the Dutch Dalhem to the Low Countries, placed under the Austrian rule since 1713.
In 1794, the ban of Olne was transformed into a municipality by the French rulers, who added a part of Vaux in the south, Riessonsart in the north and the tiny domain of Mont-Saint-Hadelin, a former possession of the Principality of Stavelot. The municipal territory has not been changed since then, not even by the 1976 administrative reform.

Olne was once a Barony. In 1703, Guillaume d'Olne built a castle in Louis XIII style, surrounded by a formal garden with ponds and fountains. The main building was 27 x 18 m, with two floors and a chapel, all decorated. Two fireplaces have been preserved, one in the town hall of Visé and the other one in the castle of Argenteau. After the French Revolution, Baron Antoine-Joseph d'Olne exiled to the Netherlands. The castle and the Beron's title were purchased by Borguet, a contractor from Liège, who made his wealth with the building of the railway along the river Vesdre. For the next two generations, the castle was rented by the Wuidart family, whose parties are still remembered in the village.
The castle fell into ruins and was demolished in the 1920s. Only the entrance pavilion, with its carriage entrance surrounded by sculpted stones and surmounted by a triangular pediment decorated with leaves, and flanked by two small square towers, has been kept.

Ivan Sache, 12 May 2007

Flag of Olne

The flag of Olne is red with a white crozier and sword crossed in saltire.
According to Armoiries communales en Belgique. Communes wallonnes, bruxelloises et germanophones [w2v03a], the flag, adopted by the Municipal Council on 17 December 1996, is prtescribed by a Decree issued on 6 November 1997 by the Executive of the French Community, as:
Rouge à une crosse épiscopale, le crosseron contourné, à une épée de justice, la pointe en bas, blanches, disposées en diagonale.
The description states that the crozier is a bishop's crozier and the sword a justice's sword.
The flag is a banner of the municipal arms.

Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 12 May 2007