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Woluwe-Saint-Lambert / Sint-Lambrechts-Woluwe (Municipality, Region of Brussels-Capital, Belgium)

Last modified: 2016-11-05 by ivan sache
Keywords: woluwe-saint-lambert | sint-lambrechts-woluwe |
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Flag of Woluwe-Saint-Lambert / Sint-Lambrechts-Woluwe - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 22 November 2005

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Presentation of Woluwe-Saint-Lambert / Sint-Lambrechts-Woluwe

The municipality of Woluwe-Saint-Lambert (French) / Sint-Lambrechts-Woluwe (Dutch) (48,315 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 767 ha; municipal website) is one of the 19 bilingual municipalities forming the region of Brussels-Capitale.

In the middle of the 11th century, significant clearings were made in the part of the forest of Soignes located on the middle course of river Woluwe. A rural estate was founded in one of these clearings around a church dedicated to St. Lambert, the famous bishop of Liège.
The main source on St. Lambert's life is a lectio (liturgical text) entitled Vita Landiberti episcopi Traiectensis vetustissima, which was mot probably read in church on 17 September, the saint's day. The text was written between 742 and 743; therefore, the author could not have met Lambert personally but met some of his contemporaries. The author wrote in scripta latina rustica, which is the main step on the evolution from classical Latin to the Romance language; this language is called "rustic" because it was accessible to everybody during the religious ceremonies. St. Lambert's Vita is clearly modelled on an earlier similar text, Vita Sancti Eligii, St. Egidius' life; in the Merovingian times, plagiarism of popular sacred texts was the rule; the original material was supplemented with a few, often stereotypical details.
The introduction of St. Lambert's Vita says a lot about his background: "The glorious pontifex Lambert came from Maastricht. He was raised by rich land owners in an old Christian family including respected counts." Like Egidius, Arnoul of Metz and Didier of Cahors, Lambert fits the model of the "culture of the clerical aristocracy", which emerged in the Frankish kingdoms as a way for the aristocracy to reconquer the social and political position it had in the pagan times. Later in the text, Lambert is portrayed as "extremely beautiful, strong and vivacious, very agile and brave at war; with a dispassionate mind and an elegant stature; firm in charity, chastity and humility, he devoted himself to study." This combination of the attributes of saintliness and aristocracy is therefore very coherent.
In the violent Merovingian society, the bishops, involved in the political struggle, had a dangerous life. One of Lambert's teachers, Bishop of Tongeren St. Theodard, was murdered in 669-675 in obscure circumstances. The councillors of King of Austrasia Childeric II (662-675) proposed to grant the bishopric to Lambert, who became a very influential man. After the murder of the king in 675, Ebroin, the former Mayor of the Palace who had had his hair cut and had been locked in a monastery on Childeric's order, escaped and took the power in Neustria and Burgundy, with the support of Austrasia. Ebroinn ruled Neustria and Burgundy "on behalf" of King Theodoric III, whereas Austrasia was ruled by Dagobert II (676-679), "supported" by Duke Wulfoald, a former influential man in the court of Childeric II. During this troubled period, Bishop Lambert was overthrown and replaced by Faramundus, who ruled the Bishopric of Tongeren-Maastricht for seven years. Most historians have supposed that Lambert, like Bishop of Autun Leodegar in Autun, was the victim of the repression exerted by Ebrin; recent data seem, however, to prove the opposite: accordingly, Lambert would have been sacked by Dagobert II and Wulfoald, who suspected him to be too close to Ebroin. The Vita does not give details: sacked because of "iniquitous and false informations" raised against him, Lambert retired in the abbey of Stavelot. Seven years later (at some time between 675 and 682), Faramundus was overthrown and expelled from the "Province" of Maastricht, while the clergy and the people called back Lambert, appointed again bishop by Prince Pippin II. . The quarrel between Lambert and Faramundus was most probably the consequence of a quarrel between two powerful lineages.
After his return, Lambert evangelized the northern part of the Frankish kingdom, probably during the campaign organized by Pippin against the pagan Frisons. Lambert's methods were basic. The Vita says: "He destroyed there several temples and idols." Lambert's tragic end involves new characters. The infamous brothers Gallus and Rivaldus attacked Lambert and his faithfuls, being killed by Lambert's relatives. Dodo, a relative of Gallus and Rivaldus, and Pipin II's domesticus (head of a private militia) rushed to Liège with his henchmen; Lambert hold a sword to defend his life but renounced to kill and dropped his weapon. The foes entered the house and killed everybody there; one of them climbed on the roof, removed tiles, discovered the bishop praying in his room and killed him with his javeline. The murder was committed on 17 September; the year is unknown, it must not be later than 705.
[Trésor de la cathédrale de Liège]

As soon as the end of the 12th century, the canons of the Sts. Michael and Gudula collegiate church in Brussels obtained the ecclesiastic rights on the parish of Woluwe-Saint-Lambert. In the 13th century, charities (Saint-Jean and Ter Aken hospitals) and burghers of Brussels had properties in Woluwe. In the 16-18th centuries, manors and big farms were built in Woluwe, such as the Hof van Brussel, the Hof ten Berg (1750) and the Château Malou (1776), owned in 1829 by the Orangist minister Pierre-Louis Van Gobbelschroy (1745-1825) and, subsequently, (1853-1886), by the minister and banker Jules Malou (1810-1886).
The Dukes of Brabant owned the feudal rights on Woluwe, which they shared among other big landlords, such as the lords of Brussels, the feudal family of Woluwe and the powerful abbeys of Forest and Park-lez-Louvain. Therefore, Woluwe remained a rural area divided in big estates; industry was represented by two paper mills and breweries. The mill of Lindekemale, mentioned in 1119, is one of the oldest known mills in Brussels.

Urbanization started in Woluwe in the 1890-1900s. A posh borough in a grid pattern was set up after the building of boulevard Brand Whitlock (1901-1906). The new borough was built in Art Nouveau and later Modern Art architectural styles. The Town Hall, built in 1937-1939 on place du Tomberg, is emblematic of the fonctionalist Art Déco. It was designed by Joseph Diongre (1878-1963), also the designer of the Maison de la Radio in Ixelles. Woluwe is a busy university center (10,000 students) since the Catholic University of Louvain set up there the Faculty of Medecine and the St. Luc University Clinics.

Ivan Sache, 22 November 2005

Flag of Woluwe-Saint-Lambert / Sint-Lambrechts-Woluwe

The flag of Woluwe-Saint-Lambert (photo) is vertically divided black-white. The colours of the flag are taken from the municipal coat of arms

According to Servais [svm55], the arms of Woluve were adopted by the Municipal Council on 24 July 1934 and prescribed by a Royal Decree signed on 10 February 1936 and published on 20 March 1936 in the Belgian official gazette, as "Sable a chief argent three birds sable beaked and armed gules, the shield placed in front and dexterwise St. Lambert holding dexter a bishop's crozier turned to sinister and sinister an open book and trampling a warrior with an helmet holding sinister a sword all or."
The colours of the arms are derived from the arms of the Hinnisdael family, lords of Woluwe in the 17th century. The village then formed the capital of the County of Hinnisdaal, which existed for around 40 years.
The arms are also used, in a different setting, by
Woluwe-Saint-Pierre / Sint-Pieters-Woluwe although this is not reflected in the choice of municipal colours.

Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat, Ivan Sache & Jan Mertens, 21 June 2011