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Grimbergen (Municipality, Province of Flemish Brabant, Belgium)

Last modified: 2019-07-30 by ivan sache
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[Flag of Grimbergen]

Municipal flag of Grimbergen - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 28 January 2007

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Presentation of Grimbergen and its villages

The municipality of Grimbergen (34,320 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 3,859 ha) is located 15 km north of Brussels. The municipality of Grimbergen is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Grimbergen (15,897 inh.; 2,217 ha), Beigem (1,916 inh.; 388 ha), Humbeek (3,985 inh.; 787 ha) and Strombeek-Bever (11,517 inh.; 467 ha).

Grimbergen, known as "The Pearl of Brabant", originally developed along the river Maalbeek, which flows into the Zenne north of Vilvoorde. The abbey and the village were built, however, on heights, whereas the Prinsendomein is located in a small depression. The elevation of the municipal territory ranges from 30 m a.s.l. (valley of the Maalbeek) to 67 m a.s.l.
The village was built at the crossroads of two roads of regional significance, the old Brusselsesteenweg (lit., the paved road to Brussels) and the more recent Vilvoordse- en Wolvertemsesteenweg (the paved road to Vilvoorde and Wolvertem), built in the XIXth century. The village has remained quite small, with a population of 1,200 (to be compared with the 15,000 inhabitants of the former municipality of Grimbergen).

In the Roman times, the site of Grimbergen was already a significant crossroads, with the old "sheep's way", linking Mechelen and Geraardsbergen, the Asse (then an important settlement)-Mechelen way and the Leuven-Vilvoorde-Dendermonde way. A In the VIII-IXth century, a fort was built on the crossroads of these ways on the river Zenne; it is recalled by the place name Borgt (in modern Dutch, a fort is a burcht) and a 15-m high motte (a raised earth mound, like a small hill, usually artificial). The local lords, probably from the Berthout family, watched from the fort the crossing of the Zenne, which helped them to set up their power on the region. Accordingly, the domain of Grimbergen progressively emerged, of which nothing is known before the beginning of the XIIth century, when the domain spread from Grimbergen to the rivers Scheldt, Rupel and Dender, with influence up to the towns of Ninove and Mechelen. To increase their spiritual power, the lords of Grimbergen founded around 1128 a Norbertine abbey on the Grimberg hill.

The dukes of Brabant did not accept the increasing power of the lords of Grimbergen. The so-called Grimbergen War started in 1142 with the battle of Ransbeek, followed by skirmishes and murders. In 1159, Duke Godfried II seized the Borgt castle and demolished it, ending the power of the Berthout family. Their goods were shared between the two branches of the family; the municipality of Grimbergen was not divided and kept therefore two lords. The rights of the senior branch were later transferred to the lords of Vianden and to the family of Nassau; the rights of the junior branch were later transferred to, among others, the lords of Bergen. This part of Grimbergen was erected as a Principality in 1686 for Filips-Frans van Bergen, who was appointed Governor of Bergen-op-Zoom and Great Bailiff of Brabant, and eventually Governor of Brussels, by King of Spain Filip V. The part of Grimbergen belonging to Nassau was given back in 1602, after confiscation, to Filips-Willem, the senior son of William of Orange. The Nassau domain was transferred in 1757 to the Merode, who also owned the other part of Grimbergen after a marriage and reunited the domain.
The French Revolution suppressed the feudal domain of Grimbergen in 1794, whereas the abbey was closed for 37 years in 1794. The region of Grimbergen remained rural until the second half of the XIXth century. The building of the provincial road Vilvoorde-Aalst in 1830 attracted industry, which developed along the Brussels-Willebroek canal. The tramway to Brussels was inaugurated in 1887.

The famous Grimbergen beer, originally brewed by the monks of the Norbertine abbey, is today brewed by the Alken-Maes company, part of the Scottish & Newcastle Group since 2000. The label of the Grimbergen beer still shows the symbol of the abbey, a phoenix recalling that the abbey was burned several times but always rebuilt, for the last time in the 1830s. The Grimbergen beer has been brewed at least since the 1600s; when the abbey was reopened after the French Revolution, beer was supplied by a local brewer. In 1958, the monks asked the Maes brewery to make beer on their behalf; production was moved to the Maes brewery of Jumet, located near Charleroi, in 1982.

Beigem was mentioned for the first time in 1155 as Beingem, whereas lord Onulfus van Beigem was known in 1138. The village was nearly completely destroyed before 1592 and its church, burned down, was rebuilt in 1653 only. In 1795, the French administration merged Strombeek, Beigem, Bever and Borcht with Grimbergen, but each village kept a mayor. The village church was burned once again in 1914 by the Germans.

Humbeek was mentioned for the first time in 992 when the St. Rombout abbey in Mechelen was granted the village by Bishop of Liège Notger; the name of the village was written Humbeca in 1150. In 1260, the chapter of Mechelen transfered Humbeek to the Berthout family, with lords such as Gillis Berthout (heer van Honebeke in 1268) and Wouter Berthout (1280). Further lords of Humbeek belonged to the van Boechout and van der Mark families, and the domain was sold to Baudouin Le Cocq, from Normandy, in 1644. Humbeek became a County in 1694. In 1795, the French administration incorporated Humbeek to Londerzeel. Like in Beigem, the village church of Humbeek was burned by the Germans in 1914.

Strombeke was mentioned for the first time as Strumberges in 1132; Bever was mentioned for the first time as Beverna in 1133, as belonging to the abbey of Groot-Bijgaarden. The church of Strombeek was plundered by the Gueuze in 1579. In 1795, the French administration merged Strombeek, Beigem, Bever and Borcht with Grimbergen, but each village kept a mayor. Strombeek and Bever were merged in 1810.

Source: Municipal website

Ivan Sache, 28 January 2007

Municipal flag of Grimbergen

The municipal flag of Grimbergen is horizontally divided yellow-light blue-yellow (2:1:2 / in practice 3:2:3) with a red saltire overall.
According to Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel, the flag was adopted by the Municipal Council on 26 March 1981, confirmed by Royal Decree on 1 December 1981 and published in the Belgian official gazette on 13 January 1982 and again on 4 January 1995.
The flag is a banner of the municipal arms.

According to Servais, the municipal arms of Grimbergen were granted by Royal Decree on 20 December 1846. These were the arms of the lords of Grimbergen, used on the seals on the municipal council from the XIIIth century onwards.
The Gelre Armorial shows "Or a fess azure a saltire gules all over" for Robert III de Grimberghe, lord of Assche (He. v. Asch, #955, folio 81r), while the Lalaing Armorial shows the same arms for Grimberghe d'Assche (Asseren, #14, folio 72r).
The arms of Grimbergen appear on the municipal flag of Londerzeel. Before the municipal reform, Londerzeel used the same arms as Grimbergen.

Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 8 July 2007