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Doische (Municipality, Province of Namur, Belgium)

Last modified: 2011-05-14 by ivan sache
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Presentation of Doische and its villages

The municipality of Doische (2,861 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 8,402 ha) is located in the south-west of the Province of Namur, on the border with France. The municipality of Doische is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Doische, Gimnée, Gochenée, Matagne-la-Grande, Matagne-la-Petite, Niverlée, Romerée, Soulme, Vaucelles and Vodelée.

Doische is located in the valley of the Joncquière, a tributary of the Meuse. The water-treatment system of Doische, set up in spring 1989, was the first in Wallonia to use the "macrophyte lagooning" technology. Water flows slowly through a series of six basins in which the organic pollutants are mineralized by bacteria and microscopic algae and reused by higher plants (macrophytes) for their growth.

Gimnée might have emerged around Geminius' estate. The farm was fortified in the 8th-9th centuries and became in the Middle Ages the seat of the domain of Blocus. From the 11th century to the end of the Ancient Regime, Gimnée, together with Doische and Vaucelles, belonged to the Barony of Hierges, part of the Principality of Liège since the Crusades' times.

Gochenée was part of the domain of Florennes in the Middle Ages; it has kept three big farms from the 16th-17th centuries. However, its main monument was the old linden, which was unfortunately uprooted by a thunderstorm in 2001. The sculpture workshop of the Academy of Fine Arts of Namur has transformed the trunk of the tree into an artwork placed in the center of the village. The tree was located on the place called Communes, dominating the valley of Hermeton. The perimeter of its trunk was 7 m and the width of its branches 25 m; its age was estimated at more than 300 years. The legend says that when two young men of the villages were enrolled in Napoléon's Grande Armée for the Russian campaign, the mother of one of them placed in a fork of the linden a statue of the Blessed Virgin of Walcourt, protected by a small zink shrine. Every evening, the two mother prayed the statue for the sake of their children. The two men died during the crossing of the Berezina on 26-29 November 1812. However, the pilgrimage was maintained, so that the mothers, wives or fiancees of soldiers fighting in the First and Second World War also prayed the Blessed Virgin in the tree every Sunday.
On 14 July 1943, a Wellington bomber from the 432nd Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force, coming back from a mission over Aix-la-Chapelle, was shot by a German plane and crashed down near Gochenée; the five members of the crew were killed in the crash.

Matagne-la-Grande is known for the Gallo-Roman sanctuary found in 1893 on the heights of the Bois des Noël, 2 km west of the village; the site has been systematically excavated in 1975-1981 and, again, since 1998. The sanctuary, built after 260 AD, was made of a wall including a sacred area with two temples (fanum) and several other buildings. The gods venerated there were probably Mercury, Mars or Minerva. The sanctuary was also a kind of regional forum where people could meet, discuss and trade. The village increased at the end of the 19th century with the opening of the Anor-Hastière railway in 1862-1863 and of the explosive factory in 1881.

Matagne-la-Petite is built along two streets forming a "T". The village castle was the secondary residence of the lords of Vierves until the French Revolution. The Romanesque (11th century) St. Hilaire chapel was the parish church of the disappeared village of Ossogne.
Matagne-la-Petite is the birth place of Philippe Joseph Benjamin Buchez (1796-1865). A self-made man, Buchez founded in his young years several extreme-leftist groups; in 1820, he was introduced in the free-masonic lodge Les Amis de la Vérité (The Friends of Truth). In 1821, he attempted to raise the east of France against the Bourbons; he was arrested in Metz and sent to Colmar, where Judge Goldberg enjoyed discussing history and archeology with him and contributed to his liberation. Buchez founded with Bazard and Flottard the Charbonnerie française, which had some 80,000 members in 1822. He progressively moved from carbonarism to saint-simonism, resumed his studies in medicine and graduated in 1824, publishing with Trelat the Précis élémentaire d'hygiène. Following the saint-simonian doctrine, he was a main contributor to the Journal du progrès des sciences et institutions médicales. Buchez founded the Club des Amis du Peuple, which was banned by King Louis-Philippe on 25 September 1830.
Embarrassed with the saint-simonian pantheism, Buchez moved to neocatholicism, publishing the Journal des Sciences Morales et Politiques (1831, later renamed L'Européen) and attempting to conciliate the Christian doctrine and the democratic principles. He can therefore be considered as one of the founders of the Christian social movement, and, to some extent, of the Christian democracy. Buchez wrote several books that contributed to his fame among the Christians, the democrats and the Republicans, for instance Essai d'un traité complet de philosophie du point de vue du catholicisme et du progrès social and Introduction à la science de l'histoire ou science du développement de l'humanité (1833). From 1834 to 1840, he compiled the 46 (!) volumes of L'histoire parlementaire de la révolution, made of excerpts of the French official gazette augmented with his own comments, where he attempted to show that the French Revolution was powered by the Christian ethics and to excuse the crimes of the Terreur period. In 1840, Buchez founded the newspaper L'Atelier (The Workshop), which was published until 1850, and proposed social reforms based on workers' cooperatives, which had in practice a very limited success.
Buchez was appointed Deputy-Mayor of Paris by Granier-Pagês in February 1848; he reorganized the National Guard and set up the national workshops. He was elected the first President of the Constituent Assembly on 5 May and resigned on 6 June, having been violently criticized for his irresolution. He was defeated in the legislative election of May 1849, stopped his short political career and completed his last book Traité de politique et sciences sociales in complete oblivion.

Niverlée, built on the plateau of Calestienne, was also a part of the Barony of Hierges. Its parish church keeps several tombstones from the 16th-18th centuries, but also the tombstone of Knight Georges of Niverlée, deceased in 1262. This must be one of the oldest tombstones in Belgium, if not the oldest one. The engraving of the stone shows the knight holding a triangular shield charges with three fleurs de lis.

Romerée is a street village built on a small ridge. During the Ancient Regime, most of the village belonged either to the abbey of Florennes or to the abbey of Brogne. In 1700, the peace signed between France and the Netherlands moved Romerée from the Principality of Liège to France. In 1772, Louis XV retroceded Romerée to Liège, according to the Borders' Treaty. On 30 June 2006, a new weather cock was placed on the top of the municipal church during a very official ceremony.

Soulme is small, isolated village made of c. 60 houses, member of the association of "The Most Beautiful Villages in Wallonia". In 1057, Bishop of Liège Théoduin approved an exchange of territories between the abbey of Florennes and the lord of Florennes, including Soulme. The Council of Florennes merged Soulme and Gochenée in a single parish in 1170. In 1466, Soulme and its mill were destroyed by the Burgundians during the Liège insurrection. In 1554, the parish was divided, Soulme being in the Principality of Liège and Gochenée in the Spanish Netherlands. The first marble quarries were inaugurated in 1757; the last of them were closed in the 1950s.
In 1790, Pierre-Joseph Linard, priest of Soulme, built a new presbytery and dug three caves, which are the origin of the legend of the souterrains of Soueme. In November 1793, the villagers revolted against the French troops that plundered the region and hid the church bells into natural caves, from which they could never be retrieved; this is the origin of the legend of the engulfed bells of Soulme.

Vaucelles is separated from Hierges by the Franco-Belgian border. Hierges is still dominated by the ruins of his castle, which had 365 windows and was built within a single night by Mélusine. The protection by Mélusine did not prevent the castle, which watched the valley of the Joncquière, to be seized and burned several times.

Vodelée is built on the hillside dominating the valley of a small brook tributary of the Hermeton. It was famous in the past for its pink marble quarries, exploited since the 18th century.


Ivan Sache, 17 June 2007

Municipal flag of Doische

According to Armoiries communales en Belgique. Communes wallonnes, bruxelloises et germanophones [w2v03], the Heraldry and Vexillology Council of the French Community proposed a flag for Doische as:
Bleu à deux bars adossés, un écusson de Bouillon posé au point d'honneur.
Blue two barbels accosted, an escutcheon of Bouillon placed in the honour point.
The proposal is a banner of the municipal arms.

However, the municipal website shows a completely different coat of arms, white with a blue wavy descending diagonal and two green pentagons.

Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 17 June 2007