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Belgium: Municipal flags

Last modified: 2013-08-17 by ivan sache
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Administrative status of the Belgian municipalities

Belgium is divided into municipalities called Gemeenten (Dutch) or Communes (French).
Article 137 of the Constitution adopted in 1831 says that the status of the municipalities should be decided by Law. This Law was adopted on 30 March 1836 and still forms the baseline of the status of the municipalities. The Law on the municipalities was derived from the French legislation, especially from the Decree of 14 December 1789. The Law stated that the Mayor should be appointed by the King. The territorial limits of the municipality were consolidated as they were in 1831 and it was specified in the Constitution that the borders of the municipalities could be changed only by Law.

Some municipalities are officially granted the title of town, (stad in Dutch, ville de in French. This privilege is still mostly based on medieval town rights and freedom charters.
The list of the towns is given on the website of the Union of the Belgian Towns and Municipalities (Vereniging van Belgische Steden en Gemeenten - Union des Villes et Communes belges), as follows (page no longer online):

- Flanders:
Aalst, Aarschot, Antwerp, Beringen, Bilzen, Blankenberge, Borgloon, Bree, Bruges, Damme, Deinze, Dendermonde, Diest, Diksmuide, Dilsen-Stokkem, Eeklo, Geel, Genk, Ghent, Geraardsbergen, Gistel, Halen, Halle, Hamont-Achel, Harelbeke, Hasselt, Herentals, Herk-de-Stad, Hoogstraten, Ieper, Izegem, Kortrijk, Landen, Leuven, Lier, Lo-Reninge, Lokeren, Lommel, Maaseik, Mechelen, Menen, Mesen, Mortsel, Nieuwpoort, Ninove, Ostend, Oudenaarde, Oudenburg, Peer, Poperinge, Roeselare, Ronse, Scherpenheuvel-Zichem, Sint-Niklaas, Sint-Truiden, Tielt, Tienen, Tongeren, Torhout, Turnhout, Veurne, Vilvoorde, Wervik, Zottegem and Zoutleeuw.

- Brussels-Capital:

- Wallonia:
Andenne, Antoing, Arlon, Ath, Bastogne, Beaumont, Beauraing, Binche, Bouillon, Braine-le-Comte, Charleroi, Châtelet, Chièvres, Chimay, Chiny, Ciney, Comines-Warneton, Couvin, Dinant, Durbuy, Enghien, Eupen, Fleurus, Florenville, Fontaine-l'Évêque, Fosses-la-Ville, Gembloux, Genappe, Hannut, Herve, Houffalize, Huy, Jodoigne, La Louvière, La Roche-en-Ardenne, Le Rœulx, Lessines, Leuze-en-HainautLiège, Limbourg, Malmedy, Marche-en-Famenne, Mons, Mouscron, Namur, Neufchâteau, Nivelles, Ottignies-Louvain-la-Neuve Péruwelz, Philippeville, Rochefort, Saint-Ghislain, Saint-Hubert, Sankt Vith, Seraing, Soignies, Stavelot, Thuin, Tournai, Verviers, Virton, Visé, Walcourt, Waremme and Wavre.

Gerard van der Vaart, Jan Mertens & Ivan Sache, 19 April 2008

Status of municipal flags in Belgium

The oldest Belgian municipal flag used at sea is the horizontally divided red-yellow flag of Ostend. Several other big towns have used a flag based on their arms for years, for instance Antwerp, Brussels, Bruges, Ghent, Arlon, Namur, Hasselt, Mons and Liège.
The number of Belgian municipalities was reduced from 2,359 to 596 in 1976, and finally to 589 in 1983. According to the new Belgian Constitution adopted in 1994, the Communities are in charge of the adoption of the municipal flags.


The municipal flags and arms are prescribed by the Decree on local symbols, adopted on 27 April 2007, and superseding earlier Decrees adopted on 21 December 1994 and 28 January 1977.
However, Article 3, § 2, of the new Decree says:

The municipal arms and flags prescribed by Decree of 28 January 1977 prescribing the arms and the flag of the municipalities, as well as the provincial flags and arms, as well as the municipal flags and arms prescribed by Decree of 21 December 1994 prescribing the arms and the flag of the provinces and of the municipalities, shall keep force of law.
These arms and flags can be superseded, only invoking new facts or reasons, by a Decision of the Provincial Council or of the Municipal Council, approved by the Flemish Government, according to the prescriptions of § 3 of Article 4.

The municipal coats of arms are in the public domain. Nobody is allowed to use the coat of arms on a pure individual basis. The use of municipal arms for advertisment, trademarking and politic is not allowed. Only the municipality can use its arms. The Municipal Council has the property right of the municipal arms. Third parties wishing to use the arms must first ask for permission from the Municipal Council, otherwise they run the risk of prosecution.

Ivan Sache, 23 August 2008

French Community

Since 6 July 1985, the Heraldry and Vexillology Council of the French Community in Belgium has been in charge of the adoption rules for municipal flags, seals and arms (Belgian official gazette, 17 October 1985). Every municipality is allowed to adopt arms, a seal and a flag, but adoption is not mandatory as it is in Flanders. Article 4 of the regulation allows the use of the arms or the colours of the arms on the flag. The use of the same flag by different municipalities is forbidden. The procedure of approval of municipal flags was precised in a Decree on 8 August 1988 (Belgian official gazette, 1 November 1988). The municipalities that adopted their flag after the administrative reorganization reducing the number of municipalities are allowed to keep it. On 26 February 1991, the Government of the French Community appointed the Heraldry and Vexillology Council as consultative organism (Belgian official gazette, 7 September 1991).

Region of Brussels-Capital and German-speaking Community

The Heraldry and Nobility Council keeps competency only on the 19 municipalities of the Region of Brussel-Capital and the nine municipalities of the German-speaking Community.

Ivan Sache & Jan Mertens, 2 July 2007

Geographical index of the Belgian municipalities