Last modified: 2014-01-19 by ivan sache
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Municipal flag of Herbeumont, proposal, use not confirmed - Image by Ivan Sache, 16 July 2007
The municipality of Herbeumont (1,536 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 5,881 ha) is located 20 km east of Bouillon, in the middle of the Forest of Herbeumont watered by the river Semois. The municipality of Herbeumont is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Herbeumont, Saint-Médard and Straimont.
Herbeumont is named either after the Germanic word herb, "harsh" ("the
harsh mount") or the Latin word herba (in French, herbe), "grass"
("the grassy mount"). The forest of Herbeumont was crossed by a Roman way
on the place called today Poteau de Straimont but there is no
historical or archeological hint of a Roman settlement there.
Glassworks might have existed near the bridge over the Antrogne in Charlemagne's times, but they have not left remains either. The oldest written mention of Herbeumont dates back to 1192, while the fortress around which the village developed was built around 1268 by Jehan de Walcourt and ruined by Louis XIV in 1657. Much more recently, Herbeumont became famous in Belgium and elsewhere thanks to its slate-quarries (Ardoisières d'Herbeumont) and tobacco growing. The village lives today mostly from tourism.
The ruins of the fortress of Herbeumont are the place of several legends, including the infernal hunting party of the lord of Herbeumont, a theme very common all over Europe and probably inspired by Odin / Wotan's celestial ride. Count Renauld of Herbeumont was a tough guy who did not hesitate to destroy crop fields with his hounds and horses. Moreover, six days of hunting were not enough and he often went hunting on Sundays, which was at that time very impious. On a Sunday morning and in spite of the warning of his wife, Renaud met two riders on the hill of Dansau, a place famous for its evil spells. The first rider was young and blond and rode a white horse, whereas the second, older and dark, rode a black horse. The count invited them to the hunting party; the young rider recalled him that hunting was banned on the Lord's day but the older one convinced, if necessary, the count to go hunting with him. They chased a big deer that took refuge near the chapel of an hermit, who advized the count not to desecrate the sanctuary. The count expelled the hermit and entered the chapel with his hounds; the earth quaked and the count was welcomed by the Devil, who wrung his neck so well that he could only see his horse's croup when riding. Since then, the count has been riding that way, chased by a pack of hounds sent from hell; it is sometimes possible to hear the ride going through the Dansau woods.
Saint-Médard was mentioned as part of the County of Chiny in 941.
During a hunting party, the daughter of the local lord disappeared;
after having prayed St. Médard, he found her died near a big oak. The
lord built a chapel to remember her daughter and to celebrate the
saint, around which a small village developed. The today's chapel,
built in 1857 and restored in 1985 tells this story through its
St. Médard (aka Mars, 456-545) was a disciple of the famous Bishop of Reims St. Remi. Bishop of Noyon, he converted in 531 the Frankish queen Radegonde to the Christian religion and evangelized Flanders. Very generous, he never punished the pilferers who stole his honey, eggs and fruit. St. Médard is celebrated on 8 June with a famous dictum: S'il pleut à la Saint Médard et que la Saint Barnabé ne lui coupe le pied, il pleut quarante jours plus tard, which means that if it rains on St. Médard's day and still on St. Barnabé's day, it will rain for the next 40 days. A more colloquial version of the dictum is Saint Médard grand pissard, il pleut quarante jours plus tard, "St. Médard, big pisser, it will rain 40 days later". The dictum is recalled by the beautiful song by the Frères Jacques A la Saint-Médard.
Straimont is located on the national road 85 between Neufchâteau and
Florenville. The name of the village might indeed come from Latin
strate, "a paved road". Antonin's Itinerary (280 AD) shows the place
near the Roman way Reims-Arlon-Trier.
The hamlet of Menugoutte, made of a few farms and some ten houses, was in the past crossed by forge workers coming from Neufchâteau. On their way back, they often stopped in the local pub to drink a menue goutte, lit. "a small drop", which "explains" the odd name of the hamlet.
Georges Delaw (Georges Deleau, 1871-1938) was the grand-son of a miller of Herbeumont and considered the village, where he often stayed, as his "rural roots". In the early 1890s, he met Jules Depaquit (1869-1924) and the two friends left their birth town of Sedan for Paris. As drawers, caricaturists, poets and art designers, they joined the Bohemia of Montmartre, working for the famous satiric journals of the time (Le Rire, Le Matin, Je sais tout, Le Chat Noir, La Baïonnette, Le Figaro Illustré) and becoming friends of the painter Maurice Utrillo, the writers Anatole France, Pierre Mac Orlan and Edmond Rostand, the poet Max Jacob and the humorist Alphonse Allais. Depaquit invented the Free Municipality of Montmartre, of which he was the first Mayor. Delaw illustrated several regional books like Sonnez les matines, Chansons de jeu et rondes enfantines and Les mille et un voyages de Placide Serpolet, and often contributed to the regionalist review La Grive. Delaw signed his drawings imagier de la Reine ("imagemaker of the Queen"); when asked for which queen he was working, he answered "for the Queen of Fantasy". After the First World War, Delaw had no longer success and died in destitution in Paris.
Jean Nicolas Perlot (1823-1900) moved from Herbeumont to Paris after the death of his father, a slate-quarry worker, in 1845. He emigrated to America in 1850 and came back to Herbeumont only in 1872, but very rich. Fascinated, his friends convinced him to write his adventures as a gold miner and seeker in California, his meetings with the Yosemite Indians and his very successfull career as a landscape designer in Portland, Oregon. His book Vie et aventure d'un enfant de l'Ardenne was reedited in 1874 as Chercheur d'or - Vie et aventure d'un enfant de l'Ardenne and later as Le filon - La véritable histoire d'un chercheur d'or en Californie en 1850, écrite par lui-même, and translated into English as "GoldSeeker - Adventure of a Belgium Argonaut during the Gold Rush years".
Serge Reding (1941-1975) was born in Auderghem from a familiy of Herbeumont. A non-professional (he was a librarian) weight lifter (heavyweight category), he took part to three Olympic Games and won a silver medal in Mexico (1968), as well as another two silver medals in the World Championships in 1969 and 1970. He was elected Belgian Sportsmen of the Year in 1968, getting ahead of the cyclists Eddy Merckx and Herman Van Springel. His brutal death in Manilla, officially from a heart attack, was the source of several rumours related to the use of anabolic steroids.
Ivan Sache, 16 July 2007
According to Armoiries communales en Belgique. Communes wallonnes, bruxelloises et
germanophones, the Heraldry and Vexillology Council
of the French Community proposed a flag for Herbeumont, as Sept laizes
longitudinales alternativement bleues et jaunes, that is horizontally
divided in seven stripes in turn blue and yellow.
The flag is a banner of the arms also proposed to Herbeumont, which are the arms of the old lords of Herbeumont.
Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 16 July 2007