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Chièvres (Municipality, Province of Hainaut, Belgium)

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

Municipal flag of Chièvres - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 13 November 2005

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Presentation of Chièvres

The municipality of Chièvres (6,330 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 4,676 ha) is located 10 km south-east of Ath. The municipality of Chièvres is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Chièvres, Grosage, Huissignies, Ladeuze, Tongre-Notre-Dame and Tongre-Saint-Martin.

The name of Chièvres comes from Latin Cervia, that is "deer or doe's park". It evolved from Cervia to Chièvres, fixed in the XVIIth century, through Scrivia (1093-1110), Cirvia (1127), Cirve (1194 Chart-Law), Chilvia (1200) and Chirvia (1210).
Chièvres, already settled in the Prehistoric and Gallo-Roman times, was mentioned, as de villa Cervo in Eginhard's Translatio et Miracula SS. Marcellini et Petri, written in 830. Chièvres was later allowed to mint coins for King of Francia Occidentalis Charles le Chauve (869-875): such a coin bears the writing + Cervia Moneta.

The region of Chièvres, included in the ancient pagus of Brabant, was incorporated into the County of Hainaut in the middle of the Xth century. The feudal family of Chièvres, known since 936 (Egbert de Chièvres) and probably related to the Counts of Hainaut, owned a big free domain. The last member of that lineage was Eve de Chièvres (1115-1180), daughter of Guy de Chièvres (d. 1127) and Ide d'Ath. Eve, described as beautiful (moult fut belle), had three husbands. Her first husband, Gilles de Chin, defeated the dragon in Wasmes and was killed during the siege of Roucourt in 1137; Eve remarried with her cousin Rasse VI de Gavre (Gavere), killed during another siege of Roucourt in 1148; Eve eventually remarried with Nicolas III de Rumigny, who died in 1170-1175. Eve then retired in the abbey of Ghislenghien, founded in 1128 by her aunt Ide. Eve de Chièvres, who built the St. Nicolas' hospital and the Ladrerie and St. Jean's chapels, set up a pilgrimage to the Blessed Virgin of Chièvres, still active today as a procession; the chapel was known as a "respite chapel", where the newborn dead without baptism were placed and christened at the first miraculous sign of life.
After Eve's death, the domain was shared between her two sons, who were half-brothers, Rasse VII de Gavre and Nicolas IV de Rumigny; an agreement was signed in 1193. In 1194, the two lords of Chièvres granted a chart to the village. The chart is known by an authentic, sealed copy, made in 1586 in Chièvres and kept in the Kingdom General Archives. That copy was rediscovered by R. de Liedekerke in 1961. According to M.A. Arnould, it is the oldest known document written in langue d'oïl (Romanic). The original chart was lost before the French Revolution and might be kept in a private collection.
The chart set up a written legal status for Chièvres, which was a free town (franche ville) in the County of Hainaut. The urban evolution of the town started with the set up of a market (1336), a horse fair (1363), a city wall and a crossbowmens' company (1366-1388) and a cloth-making factory (1389). In 1406, Chièvres was granted the title of good town (bonne ville) of Hainaut.
However, the economical development of the town was limited by the black plague epidemics (1349 and 1414), blazes (1436, 1459, 1476), the military and economic competition with the neighbouring city of Ath, and the wars in the XVI-XVIIth century. In the XVIIIth century, the road linking Ath and Mons was rebuilt north of the town, which was excluded from trade. The title of town was confirmed by Royal Decree in 1825, en considération de sa fortune passée (taking in consideration its past fortune).

The airfield of Chièvres was built by the Belgian government in 1939. After the invasion of Belgium, the Germans completed the building of the airfield, which was transformed into a diversion airfield by the Luftwaffe. The allied forces took control of the airfield on 3 September 1944; the airfield, destroyed by the Germans, was revamped by the US Engineers Corps and used by the US Air Force. The 123th Wing, including the 609 Squadron with Belgian pilots, stationned in Chièvres during the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944.
In 1945, the US Air Force retroceded the airfield to the Belgian army. It was transferred on 8 March 1947 to the Belgian Air Force. On 1 December 1950, the 7th Wing, made of the 7th, 8th and 9th fighter squadrons, was created. The 8th and 7th squadrons were disbanded on 31 July and 28 October 1963, respectively. The 7th Wing was disbanded in 1964. From 14 November 1963 to 3 July 1967, the Blind Flight School was stationned in Chièvres. The base was ceded on 31 December 1967 to SHAPE (Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe), the General Headquarters of NATO in Europe, formerly established in Rocquencourt, near Paris, in 1951.
The International Museum of the Airforce Base of Chièvres was founded in 2003. There is a project - or at least a lobbying action - of transforming the airfield of Chièvres in a new international airport, the current airport of Brussels-National in Zaventam being heavily congested.


Ivan Sache, 13 November 2005

Municipal flag of Chièvres

The municipal flag of Chièvres is vertically divided red-yellow, with three crowned yellow lions in the red stripe, placed 2 (back to back) and 1.
The flag follows the proposal made by the Heraldry and Vexillology Council of the French Community, described in Armoiries communales en Belgique. Communes wallonnes, bruxelloises et germanophones as:
Deux laizes transversales rouge et jaune, la laize rouge chargée de trois lions couronnés jaunes, les deux premiers adossés.
The colours of the flag are taken from the municipal arms, which, moreover, constitute the left part of the flag.

The municipal arms are slightly different from the old arms of the municipality, granted by Royal Decree on 18 December 1837 as De gueules à trois lions rampants mornés d'or (Gules three lions disarmed [depicted without tongue, teeth or claws] or). On the modern arms, the two upper lions are accosted and the three lions are crowned, armed and langued or.
Chièvres was a Pairy in the County of Hainaut. According to the Heraldus website, the oldest known arms of Chièvres are those of the Gavre family, de gueules à trois lions d'argent, armés, lampassés et couronnés d'or (Gules three lions argent armed langued and crowned), bore by Ida de Chièvres, mother of Rasse IV de Gavre, lord of Chièvres. The three white lions on a red field are the arms and flag of the Flemish municipality of Gavere.

The website of the modern Liedekerke family gives a detailed history of the lineage, with coat of arms.
The oldest known lords of Gavere were all named Rasse; one of the oldest Flemish charts lists Razo, maybe one of them. For 300 years, the head of the lineage would be named Rasse.
Rasse IV (1062-1096) was lord of Gavere and Baron of Flanders; he bore the first known arms of Gavere, "Or a double tressure vert with fleurs-de-lis of the same". The lions of Gavere appeared only in the early XIIIth century. Rasse IV went on the Crusade with the Count of Flanders and Godefroid de Bouillon but never came back.
Rasse V (1088-1149), lord of Gavere and Baron of Flanders, married Ide of Ghent-Aalst, co-heir of the domain of Liedekerke. He was appointed "bottler" of Count Charles the Good around 1127. The "bottler" was originally the manager of the wine cellars of the Count, but the office became progressively hereditary and more administrative; the "bottler" could sign some charts on the Count's behalf, attend the Council and fix the limits of the uncultivated pieces of lands to be sold or transferred. Rasse V was involved in the political struggles of the time; after the murder of Charles the Good, he took the party of Thierry of Alsace against William of Normandy, supported by King of France Louis XI. After the death of William, Thierry became Count of Flanders and appointed Rasse in his council. The stormy life of Rasse V ended during a meeting between Hainaut and Flanders supposed to solve border quarrels and that ended into a riot.
Rasse VI (1112-1150), lord of Gavere and Baron of Flanders, married the famous Eve of Chièvres in 1138 and became Peer of Hainaut. He spent most of his life in the castle of Chièvres, whose only remaining tower is nicknamed "Gavere tower". Being Baron of Flanders and Peer of Hainaut, Rasse VI had to obey two suzereigns who were in permanent war. He took the party of Flanders and died during the siege of Rocourt.
Rasse VII (1139-1190), lord of Gavere and Chièvres, Baron of Flanders, Baron and Peer of Hainaut, married in 1161 Mathilde of Liedekerke and became lord of Liedekerke. His seal, used on several charts he signed on behalf of the Count of Flanders, is one of the oldest in Flanders. A fiercy warlord, Rasse VII fought against Count of Hainaut Baudouin IV, aliied with his son Baudouin V against Brabant and Limburg, and eventually supported the Count of Flanders against King of France Philippe-Auguste and the Count of Hainaut.
Rasse VIII (1162-1218) was captured in 1214 during the battle of Bouvines, won by Philippe-Auguste against the Emperor of Germany and the Count of Flanders. His elder son was killed during the battle.
Rasse IX (1185-1241) survived Bouvines. In 1226, he was member of the embassy sent by Countess Jeanne of Flanders to pay the ransom of her husband, Count Ferrand of Portugal. Around 1220, Rasse IX decided to adopt new arms as a tribute to his elder son killed in Bouvines. This is the origin of the three lions still shown on the municipal arms of Chièvres and Liedekerke.
After Rasse IX's death, his nephew Rasse, son of the killed brother, became lord of Gavere and Chièvres and the root of the later lords of Gavere.
Rasse X (1209-1291), lord of Liedekerke, joined the Crusade led by Saint Louis in 1248, together with his brothers Arnoud and Jean. They fought under the banner of the Virgin in the siege of Mansurah and promised to build a chapel if the Virgin helped them. The Virgin appeared riding a white mule, the brothers were saved, came back home and built the Onze Lieve Vrouw ter Muylen (Our Lady with the Mule) chapel in Liedekerke, still the place of a pilgrimage. Aged 77, Rasse X inherited from her mother the town of Breda and the surrounding 50,000 ha.
Rasse XI (1241-1306) fought in the battle of Woeringen together with the Duke of Brabant and his two sons Rasse and Philippe. The modern lineage of Liedekerke stems from Rasse of Liedekerke, aka Rasse I of Herzele (1275-1339), the seventh son of Rasse XI. Charles-Antoine of Liedekerke (1659-1696) was made Count of Liedekerke by Empress Maria-Theresia; the title and the arms were confirmed by King of the Netherlands William in 1816.

Source: Liedekerke family website

Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 26 August 2007