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Hoeilaart (Municipality, Province of Flemish Brabant, Belgium)

Last modified: 2007-12-02 by ivan sache
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[Flag of Hoeilaart]

Municipal flag of Hoeilaart - Image by Filip van Laenen, 28 October 2001

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Presentation of Hoeilaart

The municipality of Hoeilaart (10,040 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 2,043 ha, including 1,183 ha from the Sonian forest) is located on the south-eastern border of the Region of Brussels-Capital, on the linguistic border between Dutch and French and on the administrative border between Flemish Brabant and Walloon Brabant.

Hoeilaart has a Celtic origin, "ho-lar" meaning "a wood clearing located on a height". The village was indeed built on the part of the Brabantian plateau isolated by the rivers Zenne and Dijle. Located in the small valley of the IJse, rich in sources, Hoeilaart is a very old clearing in the Sonian forest, as proved by the prehistoric artefacts (scrapers, arrowheads and flint tools) found on the Dumberg. In 1871, a Roman votive altar was found during the rebuilding of the church; built by Caius Appianus Paternus, probably a former German soldier of the Roman army who had settled in the region, the altar is kept at the Royal Arts and History Museums in Brussels, while a replica made in 2003 by Luc Cauwenberghs can be seen in the Jan van Ruusbroec park. Fossile iron slags show that the iron-bearing sand banks of the Sonian forests were already exploited at that time.

Thanks to its location on the edge of the forest, the village of Hoeilaart was wealthy. Its lord, the Duke of Brabant, built there a church and a castle; the lord of Terheide lived in his castle on the other side of the Ijse. In 1343, the famous Christian mystic Jan van Ruusbroec (1293-1381) left the crowdy town of Brussels with two fellows and founded in the middle of the woods a monastery that became in 1350 the Augustinian priory of Groenendaal. Nothing but the foundations of the monastery church has remained after the French Revolution.
Ruusbroec's ideas on the aspiration of men to the union with God strongly influenced the Christian thinkers, for instance Geert Groote, the founder of the Modern Devotion, who himself influenced the great humanist Erasmus. According to Ruusbroec, the union with God can be achieved only in communion with all men (al het uwe is het mijne, all yours is mine), which was a strong critic of the individualistic misbehaviour of the church and society of the time (and can be equally aplied to our society). Ruusbroec wrote in the popular Dutch language known as Brabantsche Dietsche; considered now as the most beautiful and oldest of the Dutch literature, his works were translated in Dutch and Latin in his lifetime.

The XIXth century was the golden age of Hoeilaart. At the end of the XVIIIth century and beginning of the XIXth century, the market price of meat was incredibly high in Brussels, while 80% of this market was controlled by traders from Hoeilaart, whose municipal council included only butchers. Some of them opened restaurants, which are the origin of the gastronomic fame of the town. In 1865, Felix Sohie (1841-1929), a former gardener of Baron of Peuthy in Huldenberg, built the first grape glasshouse in Hoeilaart. Following his tracks, several villagers started to build glasshouses from 1880 onwards, so that there were 5,176 such glasshouses in the village in 1910, a number that climbed to more than 13,000 in the late 1950s, yielding to Hoeilaart the nickname of glazen dorp (The glass village). The Brabantian "grape district" (druivenstreek), including Hoeilaart, Overijse (with grapes on the municipal flag), Huldenberg, Duisburg and La Hulpe, has today some 33,000 glasshouses, inspite of economical difficulties.

The most famous inhabitant of Hoeilaart is the strip character Nero (Néron in the French translations), created by the local cartoonist Marc Sleen (Marcel Neels, b. 1922), whose statue (Nero's) proudly stands in front of the old tramway station (used from 1894 to 1958 on the Brussels-Namur line). Nero entered in 1990 the tramway station in the De verschrikkelijke tweeling album and has been living in Hoeilaart since then.
In October 1947, Sleen started a series entitled Detectief Van Zwalm, in which Van Zwalm met in a mental home a man dressed like Emperor Nero and wearing a laurel leaf behind each ear. Nero became progressively the main hero of the series and one of the most famous characters of the Flemish strips. Nero's adventures were originally published in newspapers and later grouped into albums. Sleen stopped his career and Nero's adventures in 1990 and was dubbed Knight by King Albert II in 1999.

Source: Municipal website

Ivan Sache, 21 July 2007

Municipal flag of Hoeilaart

The municipal flag of Hoeilaart is vertically divided yellow-green.
According to Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel, the flag was adopted by the Municipal Council on 2 July 1987, confirmed by the Executive of Flanders on 17 November 1987 and published in the Belgian official gazette on 16 September 1988.
Yellow symbolizes the sandy soil of Terheide while green symbolizes the Sonian forest and fallow land.

Pascal Vagnat, 21 July 2007