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Bree (Municipality, Province of Limburg, Belgium)

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

Municipal flag of Bree - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 27 August 2005

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Presentation of Bree and its villages

The municipality and town (Stad) of Bree (14,515 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 6,496 ha) is located in the east of Kempen, 10 km south of the border with the Netherlands. The municipality of Bree is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Bree (including the former municipalities of Beek and Gerdingen since 1964) and Opitter (including the former municipality of Tongerlo since 1970).

Bree was mentioned in the first time in 1007. Countess Eremengardis of Loon ceded the town in 1078 to the St. Bartholomeuw's collegiate church of Liège. The law in Bree was then fairly complicated since there were two municipal "banks" (courts): the inner bank, with competency on the free town, followed the Law of Liège, whereas the outer bank, with competency on the territories extra muros, followed the Law of Loon. The two banks were constituted by the same people. To make the situation even more complicated, some domains located extra muros but belonging to the St. Bartholomeuw and St. John's churches in Liège followed the Law of Liège. In 1366, the County of Loon was incorporated into the Principality of Liège. Bree was then one of the "good towns" (bonnes villes of the Principality of Liège and remained so until the French Revolution suppressed the Principality of Liège.
Bree was fortified in the XIVth century; the four gates of the town and two watch towers are still there. The town was occupied several times (1630-1631, 1654, 1677, 1705-1712, 1743-1747). Blazes damaged the town in 1376, 1601, 1616, 1697 and 1699.
In the XIXth century, Bree made its industrial revolution. Pipes and cigars from Bree were smoked all over the world. The local tile manufacture was one of the biggest ever.

Beek, once owned by the Knights of Alden-Biesen, is the birth village of Jan van Abroek, born in the middle of the XVth century. He studied in Bree, Den Bosch and Cologne, and joined in 1465 the Order of the Holy Sepulcher. Appointed Prior of the St. Odiliênberg's convent near Roermond (today in Dutch Limburg), he started there his reform of the order, known as De Kanunniken van het H. Graf (the Canons of the Holy Sepulcher). Abroek founded several new convents, for instance in Kinrooi and Wimmertingen, the latter being the first women's convent of the order.
The St. Catherine's civic guard (schutterij) of Beek is the oldest guard of that kind in Bree. It was once known as the top guard in both Limburgs for its shooting skills and costumes.

Gerdingen was mentioned for the first time in 834, when Count Sadiger of Austrasia ceded the village to the St. Eucharius' convent. The borough of Nieuwstad, divided between the parishes of Bree and Gerdingen was in the past known as Novum Oppidum de Gerdingen, the new fortified town of Gerdingen. The goat's market is a folkloric event organized on the Monday after the first Sunday of October; it includes a parade of dressed goats through the streets of the village. The Lord of Gerdingen and the Dame of Nieuwstad are the two local giants, inspired by historical characters, Jeanne of Merwede and her son-in-law Jan of Werst, "lord of Gerdingen and Nieuwstad near Bree".

Opitter was ceded as "Itera" by Count Lodewijk of Loon to the abbey of Averbode in 1200. The pride of Opitter is the St. Jozef's brewery, a traditional brewery, specialized in regional beers such as ops-ale, bosbier, bokereyer and pax-pils.

Tongerlo is located on the old road linking Bree to Maaseik. The canal and the tramway line have isolated the village, allowing it to preserve its historical look. Tongerlo is known as the village of the watermills, built on the Itterbeek. The most famous of them, the Galdermans' mill, is named after its first owner, who built it around 1770, and is still working. The Keyart mill, already mentioned in 1139, is probably the oldest mill in the region. In 1978, Tongerlo won the first prize in the Year of the Village (Jaar van het dorp) contest.

Bree is self-styled thuishaven van de internationale top in de sportwereld !, the home place of the top of international sport in the world. It is indeed the home town of two world-ranking champions, Wendy Jans and Kim Clijsters.

Wendy Jans is member of the snooker local club De Kaaihoeve. She is currently 2nd in the world ranking and was the first non-British competitor to win a world-ranking competition, the Scottish Open. Snooker is a fascinating billiard table game with complicated rules, very popular in the British Isles and mostly played by men, who, however, have recently accepted a woman among the top umpires. Belgium seems to be the continental European country where snooker is the most popular.


Ivan Sache, 27 August 2005

Municipal flag of Bree

The municipal flag of Bree is horizontally divided white-green with the municipal coat of arms shifted near the hoist.
According to Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel, the flag was adopted by the Municipal Council on 28 March 1984, confirmed by the Executive of Flanders on 5 March 1985 and published in the Belgian official gazette on 8 July 1986.
There is no explanation on the colours of the flag.

The history of the arms of Bree, as related by Servais, is a bit complicated. The arms granted on 5 March 1985 had already been granted on 26 July 1926. The arms used before, granted on 14 January 1902, were slightly different.
In 1859, the first application for arms by the Municipal Council was rejected; the very same application was accepted in 1898. Those arms are based on an old seal of the town, dating back to 1431. The arms show in dexter the bars of the County of Loon and in sinister red and silver pales of unknown origin.
In 1911, based on seals from 1425, 1676 and 1678, the Municipal Council applied for the use of Archangel St. Michael as the supporter and for the change of the colours of the pales to gold and black, historically correct. The First World War delayed the process until 1926.
After the municipal fusion, it was decided that the new municipality of Bree would keep the arms granted in 1926 to Bree because Opitter, the only incorporated municipality to have arms, also bore the bars of the County of Loon.

Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 27 August 2005

Kim Clijsters' supporters' flag

[Kim's supporters' flag]

Kim Clijsters' supporters' flag - Image by Ivan Sache, 7 May 2007

Kim Clijsters, born in 1983 in Bilzen, was one of the top tennis players of the professional WTA (Women's Tennis Association). She started her professional career in 1999 and retired from competition in May 2007. Kim's record of acheivements is 34 wins in WTA tournaments, including top ones like Eastbourne, Indian Wells, Sydney, Rome, Hambourg, Miami and Filderstadt, and two Masters championships (2002 and 2003). She played five finals in Grand Slam's tournaments, winning the 2005 US Open in Flushing Meadows. Her best year was 2003, when she reached the top of the WTA ranking. Clijsters also won 11 tournaments in doubles, mostly playing with Ari Sugiyama, from Japan. She was member of the Belgian team which won the Fed Cup (the equivalent of the Davis Cup for women) in 2001.
Kim received several awards, including the WTA Rookie of the Year Award in 1999. The same year, she was elected Belgian Champion of the Year, a title she received four more times. In 2001, Justine Hénin and Kim Clijsters were jointly awarded the National Award of Sport Merit. Her opponents of the WTA awarded her the Fair Play Award in 2000 and 2003. Clijsters is famous (and successful) because of her very aggressive game, which yielded her the nicknames of "Killing Kim" and "Kim Kong" and for her splits, made at least once per set, which allowed her to compensate for her relatively small height (1.74 m). However, her very physical game caused her several injuries, and she had to quit competition earlier than exepcted in order to preserve her health.
Kim Clijsters was one of the "two (tennis) queens of Belgium" with Justine Hénin, and has kept a very modest and pleasant behaviour in spite of being so famous so young. The Belgians have nicknamed her "Our Kim" and proudly consider their two queens as their best ambassadors.

Source: Kim Clijster's official website

A group of Belgian supporters used to show all over the world a Belgian national flag, in apparent proportion 1:2, with the letters K (yellow), I (red) and M (black) in the black, yellow and red stripe, respectively.

Ivan Sache, 7 May 2007