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Villers-la-Ville (Municipality, Province of Walloon Brabant, Belgium)

Last modified: 2019-07-30 by ivan sache
Keywords: villers-la-ville | bird: phoenix (black) |
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[Flag of Villers]         [Municipal flag of Villers]

Municipal flag of Villers-la-Ville - Images by Arnaud Leroy, 28 July 2005
Left, flag in use
Right, flag not used

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Presentation of Villers-la-Ville and its villages

The municipality of Villers-la-Ville (9,704 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 4,745 ha) is located 10 km east of Nivelles ad 15 km north-east of Charleroi. The municipality of Villers-la-Ville is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Villers-la-Ville, Marbais, Mellery, Sart-Dames-Avelines and Tilly.

Villers-la-Ville (in Wallon, à l'abi d'vilé, "near the abbey of Villers") is one of the most famous places of Walloon Brabant because of the Cistercian abbey of Villers. Gauthier de Marbais (see below) and his mother Judith were convinced by St. Bernard to cede a piece of land to an abbot, twelve monks and five lay brothers, who built a first abbey (Villers I) in 1146. A few months later, they built a second abbey (Villers II) lower in the valley, where water and building materials were easily available. The abbey was completely rebuilt (Villers III) on the same place during the XIIIth century, the golden age of Villers. According to the chronicles, there were then 100 monks and more than 300 lay brothers in the abbey, which grew up up to be the biggest land owner in Brabant, with more than 10,000 ha of lands, some of them located as far as Antwerp and Namur. The abbey was placed under the official protection of the Dukes of Brabant. The crisis started at the end of the Middle Ages and was increased by the wars and troubles; the monks had to leave the abbey nine times in the XVI-XVIIth centuries for safety reasons. In the XVIIIth century, the abbey flourished again and the buildings were revamped in classic style. In 1794, the abbey was plundered by the French troops and sold, along with its land, as "national goods" (biens nationaux) in 1796. The Romantics enjoyed the ruins, which were restored for the first time in 1893. The ruins were registered on the list of historical protected places in 1972 and have been seriously restored since 1984.

Marbais (in Walloon, Marbé) is named after an hydronym and the suffix -baki, meaning "a brook" (see the suffix -beek in the Belgian Flanders, -becque in the French Flanders, -bach in Germany and Alsace, etc.). In the Middle Ages, the powerful lords of Marbais owned several domains in the valley of Thyle, which was disputed between the Duke of Brabant and the Count of Namur. The sly lords of Marbais managed to be vassals of both Brabant and Namur. In 1146, Gauthier de Marbais and his mother ceded the northern part of their domain to the Cistercian monks who built the abbey of Villers. The feudal lineage disappeared in the XVIIth century. The village lived mostly from agriculture, except at the end of the XIXth century when a malt factory employed 102 workers.
The fortress of Chàtelet is one of the rare fortresses of the beginning of the XIIIth century still standing. Its most famous owner was Jean 't Serclaes, Count of Tilly (see below). The Jeu des Pélerins de Saint-Roch (Game of St. Roch's Pilgrims), which takes place in Marbisoux on the first Monday after 15 August, is a humoristic evocation of the medieval pilgrimages. The tradition says that young people wanting to escape draft irreverently showed their ass to the statue of St. Joseph, which explains the dictum Et pourant il l'a moustré [montré] (However, he showed it) told about those who where enrolled.

Mellery (in Walloon, à m'léri) is named after the epithet melin, "yellow", and its yellow brook (ruisseau de Melin). Mellery mostly depended on the Benedictine abbey of Gembloux, which rented the domain to the abbey of Villers in the beginning of the XVIIth century.
In the past, every farmer wanted to be the first to have completed the harvest. The field of the last farmer to have completed the harvest was decorated with a straw man called Djean l'nôji (Tired John). The tradition disappeared in Villers-la-Ville, Marbais and Sart-Dames-Avelines around 1900, but can still be found in Mellery and Tilly. The patron saint of Mellery is St. Lawrence, invoked in the past in the region to cure the cloquettes de Saint Lorint [Laurent] (lit., St. Lawrence's small blisters), mouth ulcers.

Sart-Dames-Avelines (in Walloon, au sâ or au sâtamauw'lène) is named after the Walloon word sart, in ancient French essart, a clearing made by burning the vegetation and spreading the ashes as fertlizer. The origin of Dames-Avelines is not clear. The village belonged to the abbeys of Villers and Affligem, which signed an agreement on the village in 1235. In the beginning of the XIXth century, the inhabitants of the villages were known as good masons and brickmakers.

Tilly (in Walloon, Tiyi) is named after the linden (in Latin, tilia; in French, tilleul) or the hydronym Thil. The village was owned by the abbey of Villers, as confirmed by Duke of Brabant Henri I in 1197 and 1200. The feudal family of Tilly appeared in the XIIIth century; the domain was later transfered to the Warfusée and the 't Serclaes. Count Jean de Tilly (1559-1632) served the Holy Roman Empire and commanded the army of the Catholic League during the Thirty Years' War. He won the battles of White Mountain (1620) over the Czechs and of Lutter (1626) against the Danes. In 1630, he succeeded Wallenstein (1583-1634) as the commander in chief of the Imperial troops. He was defeated and killed by the Swedes in Breitenfeld (1632).
The chapel Notre-Dame-des-Affligés (Our Lady of the Afflicted) is said to have been built by a French soldier who preserved an old statue of the Blessed Virgin from a blaze and brought it back to Tilly. He lived near the abbey as an ermit and begged the money required to build the chapel, completed in 1731.


Ivan Sache, 28 July 2005

Municipal flag of Villers-la-Ville

The flag in use in Villers-la-Ville, which can be seen hoisted on the town hall on the frontpage of the municipal website, shows a stylized black phoenix on a blue field.
The flag is derived from the municipal coat of arms.

According to Armoiries communales en Belgique. Communes wallonnes, bruxelloises et germanophones, the municipal flag of Villers-la-Ville is horizontally divided white-red-yellow (2:1:2), as Trois laizes longitudinales, blanche, rouge et jaune, la laize médiane moitié moins large que les deux autres. These are the traditional colours of Villers-la-Ville.
The municipal administration confirmed that that flag was not currently in use.

Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 28 June 2005