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Jemeppe-sur-Sambre (Municipality, Province of Namur, Belgium)

Last modified: 2018-06-28 by ivan sache
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Flag of Jemeppe-sur-Sambre - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 3 May 2005

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Presentation of Jemeppe-sur-Sambre

The municipality of Jemeppe-sur-Sambre (18,056 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 4,679 ha; municipal website) is located at mid-distance of Charleroi and Namur, in the industrial basin of river Sambre. The municipality of Jemeppe-sur-Sambre was established in 1976 as the merger of the former municipalities of Jemeppe, Balêtre, Ham-sur-Sambre, Mornimont, Moustier, Onoz, Saint-Martin, and Spy. The qualifier "sur-Sambre" was added for the sake of differentiation from Jemeppe-sur-Meuse, part of the municipality of Seraing since 1976.

The main industrial sites in Jemeppe-sur-Sambre belong to the Solvay Group (Ixelles (headquarters), Neder-over-Hembeek (Solvay Research & Technology), Jemeppe-sur-Sambre (chemicals and plastics), Lillo (chemicals and plastics), and Oudenaarde (plastics and transformed products).

Ernest Solvay (1838-1922) was the son of a quarry master from Rebecq-Rognon. At the age of 23, he developed with his brother Alfred a new process for the industrial production of sodium carbonate. They founded Solvay & Cie on 24 December 1863, flirting with bankruptcy on several occasions during the nearly 10 years it took them to perfect the process.
From 1870 to 1880, Solvay promoted the global expansion of the company. Factories were set up in Belgium, France, England, Germany, Russia and the United States. Ernest Solvay oversaw the organization and development of his industrial empire with remarkable insight. For example, he was one of the first to make industrial use of electrolysis.
Ernest Solvay was also a man of progressive social ideals, which he implemented within his factories. He established before legal obligations a social security system, pensions for the workers in 1878, an 8-hour workday in 1897, and paid vacations in 1913. After becoming wealthy, he looked to society at large, and founded several scientific, philanthropic, and charitable foundations, including the Institutes of Physiology (1895) and of Sociology (1901), as well as the prestigious School of Business (1903) which still bears his name.
His overriding passion for science was again expressed in 1911 when he organized a meeting in Brussels of most of the famous physicists and chemists of the time. Participants included Marie Curie, Albert Einstein, Max Planck, Ernest Rutherford, Henri Poincaré and Duke Louis de Broglie. This was the birth of the Solvay international physics council, which has met 20 times between 1911 and 1991, assembling some of the most brilliant scientists in the world. Ernest Solvay bought in 1893 the castle of La Hulpe and was confered the title of Count Solvay of La Hulpe by King Albert I.

The castle of Mielmont was built in the 12th century on a spur dominating the valley of Sambre. The building is protected by four towers, including a donjon with 2.1-m thick wall. Due to the building of the castle directly on the rock, some rooms do not have a single right angle. The castle was severely damaged during the French Revolution and revamped by the Beauffort family in 1870-1875. It is owned today by the de Cock family.

The cave of Spy (website) is one of the most important Paleolithic caves in Europe. Excavations made in 1886 by the archeologist Marcel de Puydt, the geologist Max Lohest and the paleontologist Julien Fraipont are considered as a milestone in the history of science. They provided definitive evidence of the existence of an archaic human being older than the modern man, that is the Neanderthal Man.
The cave opens south-south-west on the valley of Orneau, flowing there in a fomer meander of the Sambre, in layers dating back to Carboniferous (Visean level, 300 millions BP). The cave is made of a main room and a few, short gullies, and has three entrances. The human skeletons found in the cave date back to 40,000-50,000 BP; they belonged to Neanderthal men. The cave was also inhabited in later periods (Later Paleolithic, Neolithic and Gallo-Roman times).
The first excavation in the cave of Spy was made by Dr. Rucquoy, from Namur, in 1879. He found 2500 hyena teeth, deer and reindeer antlers, and seven mammoth tusks. In 1885, de Puydt and Lohest started the excavation of the terrace of the cave, using explosives. They found remains of a human skull, flintstones, pottery and bones. They hired the miner A. Orban, who dug a gallery (like in a coal mine) and followed a "lode". The excavation disrupted several layers of settlements, which were irreversibly destroyed. In 1886, the explorers found more human remains and invited Fraipont on the site of the cave. Fraipont wrote a scientific report of the findings and described the skeleton, fairly complete, of a young man, the skull and the arms of an elder woman, bones from a child etc. The remains were dated 40,000-50,000 BP, according to the mammoth remains found beside them. Further campaigns of excavations analyzed the "rubble" from the first excavations and found remains of later periods.
The first Neanderthalian remains seem to have been found around 1700 in Canstadt, near Stuttgart. At that time, nobody dared to identify them as human remains. In 1830, Phlippe-Charles Schmerling, a practitioner from Liège, discovered two skulls in Engis; he claimed they belonged to a fossil human being, but nobody wanted to believe him. In 1857, Dr. Fühlrott analyzed human remains excavated by workers in the valley of Düssel. He identified them as the remains of a fossil human being, but Pr. Virchow, the German top anthropologist at the time, said there were remains of a modern man suffering from rachitism and arthritis. At that time, the Darwinian ideas were not widely accepted and the theory of the evolution of the human being with time was extremely nefarious. The finding of the Spy Man, undoubtly dated, definitively validated Fühlrott's theory and the archaic species Homo neanderthalensis was eventually accepted.

Ivan Sache, 3 May 2005

Flag of Jemeppe-sur-Sambre

The flag of Jemeppe-sur-Sambre is divided white-red by a wavy diagonal with the municipal coat of arms in canton.
According to Armoiries communales en Belgique. Communes wallonnes, bruxelloises et germanophones [w2v03], the flag, adopted on 26 October 1995 by the Municipal Council, is prescribed by a Decree adopted on 29 May 1996 by the Executive of the French Community.
The odd division of the flag recalls the curve of the Sambre and a letter "S", for Solvay.

The coat of arms of Jemeppe-sur-Sambre is "Gules a chevron argent three roses of the same placed two and one".
Servais [svm55] shows the coat of arms of Jemeppe, before the administrative reform, as "Gules billetty argent a lion or". These arms, granted by Royal Decree on 4 February 1930, belonged to Knight Antoine Mallet, who built the castle of Jemeppe in the 13th century.

Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 3 May 2005