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Asse (Municipality, Province of Flemish Brabant, Belgium)

Last modified: 2007-11-03 by ivan sache
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Municipal flag of Asse - Image by Filip van Laenen, 24 October 2001

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Presentation of Asse

The municipality of Asse (29,180 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 4,964 ha) borders Brussels in the north-west. The municipality of Asse is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Asse, Bekkerzeel, Kobbegem, Mollem, Rellegem and Zellik.

Asse was mentioned for the first time as villa Asca nomine, sita in pago Bracbatenis in 1015, when Count of Leuven Lambrecht I swapped with his brother Renier, Count of Hainaut, the village of Buvrinnes for Asse. However, archeological findings show that Asse was settled much earlier.
A few flint artifacts from the middle Age of Stone (3500-2300 BC) have been found on the territory of Asse. The Celtic toponyms (Asse, meaning "a settlement near a source", and Yzenbeek, from *isana, "a murmuring brook") are the other remains of those early ages. Due to its strategic location in central Brabant, Asse might have been chosen by the Romans as the seat of the northernmost pagus of the civitas Nerviorum (named after the Nervians). A Roman treasure has been found in Kalkhoven, probably on the site of a vicus, made of 150 coins portraying emperors from the period 97-192 AD. Twenty terracota figurines representing horses, also found in Kalkhoven, are related to the cult of the goddess Epona. Asse was linked to Bavay (Bagacum), the capital of the civitas Nerviorum, by a main way, and to other places (Neer-Zellik, Rumst, Utrecht and Dendermonde) by secondary ways (diverticula). Several estates were set up near Asse, which are the origin of some modern toponyms (Casa petrea, "the stone house", gave Kespier, whereas Setiliacum gave Zellik via Sethleca and Selleca. The Frankish settlement started in the Vth-VIIth century; the estates (haim) were often built near a brook and are recalled by several toponyms; Krokegem, Huinegem, Walfergem and Bettegem (Zellik), Ichelgem and Vrijlegem (Mollem), Kobbegem and Rellegem (Radelengem, Radelingahaim, that is Radilo / Radolf / Radbold's estate. Bekkerzeel is of later, Merovingian (VII-VIIIth century) origin, like toponyms ending with -sale, -sal and -zel. The bishops of Cambrai Gorik, Amebert, Amand and Ursmaar evangelized west Brabant in the VIth-VIIIth century and founded parishes, some of them being later granted to abbeys (Bollebeek to the St. Gertrude abbey in Nivelles, Zellik to the St. Peter abbey in Ghent).

In the Middle Ages, Asse and Mollem belonged to the lords of Asse, who were hereditary standard bearers of the Duke of Brabant. The other villages were divided into smaller domains. In 1662, Willem de Cottereau was made Marquis of Asse and hereditary owner of Mollem, Kobbegem and Relegem, as well as lord of Bekkerseel and Zellik, so that the six components of the current municipality of Asse were united. In the XIIth century, the parish churches were allocated to the newly formed abbeys; Asse and Mollem to Affligem, Relegem to Grimbergen, Zellik and Kobbelgem to St. Bavo in Ghent, Bekkerzeel to Groot-Bijgaarden and Bollebeek to Vorst. Until the XVIIIth century, the abbey of Affligem, that owned the bigger domains, extracted sandstone from more than 50 places in Asse, Mollem, Kobbegem and Zellik.
Due to their strategic locations, Asse and its villages were sacked and burned several times, for instance by the Flemings revolted against Emperor Maximilian in 1485, the Gueuze from Brussels in 1575 and the French in 1684 and 1691. The XVIIIth century was a period of peace during which agriculture and a few industries contributed to the wealth of Asse; in 1796, Asse had 5,677 inhabitants, 60% of them being farmers. From 1796 to 1800, Asse, Zellik, Bekkerzeel and other villages formed a municipality, whereas Kobbegem and Mollem were incorporated to Merchtem and Relegem to Grimbergen. The population grew steadily during the XIXth century, up to 11,127 inhabitants in 1900. The industrialization of Asse started only after the Second World War.

Source: Municipal website, including a detailed history of Asse by Jaak Ockeley

Ivan Sache, 19 May 2007

Municipal flag of Asse

The municipal flag of Asse is black with a plain white lion.
According to Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel, the flag of Asse was adopted by the Municipal Council on 19 September 1984, confirmed by the Executive of Flanders on 5 March 1985 and published in the Belgian official gazette on 8 July 1986.
The flag is a banner of the old arms of Asse.

The lion shown on the above image follows the official model for the Flemish lion. However, the image of the flag shown on the municipal website shows a less stylized lion, The situation might be similar to what happens in Edegem, where the flag in use shows a "non-official" lion.

According to Servais, the old arms of Asse, Van sabel met een zilveren leeuw (Sable a lion argent), were granted by Royal Decree on 31 December 1912. The seals of Asse known since 1335 all show a lion, whose origin and meaning are unknown. The Municipal Council applied for these arms based on a proclamation by Duke of Burgundy Philip the Good (XVth century), in which the arms of Asse are described as a silver lion on a black field.
The current arms of Asse, as shown and described on the municipal website, were adopted by the Municipal Council on 23 April 1980 and confirmed by the Executive of Flanders on 19 September 1984 as In sabel een toren van zilver (Sable a tower argent). The tower is depicted on a municipal seal of Asse dated 1248 whereas the colours were taken from the old arms of Asse. The tower was the symbol of the municipal liberties.

Until the 1970s, Asse was the main area of hop growing in Belgium, together with Poperinge in West Flanders. This is recalled every two years by the Hopduvelfeesten, the Hop's Devil Festival. The hop growers called Hop's Duvel the thunderstorms that could destroy the crop in late August (hop is traditionally grown on big racks and is therefore prone to lodging). The festival has a vertical, forked banner, which can be seen on a photography available on the festival website.

Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 19 May 2007