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Hamont-Achel (Municipality, Province of Limburg, Belgium)

Last modified: 2007-12-22 by ivan sache
Keywords: hamont-achel | grevenbroek | arkel |
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[Flag of Hamont-Achel]

Municipal flag of Hamont-Achel - Image by Ivan Sache, 14 July 2007

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Presentation of Hamont-Achel

The municipality of Hamont-Achel (in Limburgian, Haêmet-Achel; 13,863 inhabitants on 1 Januaryy 2007; 4,366 ha), located on the border with the Netherlands, is the northernmost municipality in the Province of Limburg. The municipality of Hamont-Achel is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Hamont and Achel.

Hamont was already known under this name in 1257, from haag mont, "a hillside surrounded with woods", or hameide, "an enclosed place". Hamont was already a town of economical significance in the early XIVth century, since several Lombard bankers were registered there in 1309. In 1360, the domain of Hamont (including Achel and Lille) was purchased by Jan of Hamal and renamed Grevenbroek in 1364. Robert of Arckel bought the domain in 1380 and changed his name for Robert of Grevenbroek; the name was transferred to his descenders. Following a border conflict between Achel and Neerpelt, the castle of Hamont was destroyed in 1401 by the Prince-Bishop of Liège. Grevenbroek was involved in the revolt of Liège against Duke of Burgundy Charles the Bold; the inhabitants claimed they had nothing to do with Liège but had been belonging to Brabant for centuries. The town was severely damaged by blazes in 1493 and 1557; in 1586, Hamont and Achel had 800 and 450 inhabitants, respectively. In 1595, the witch Griet was burned at the stake together with her daughter on the market place of Hamont. The castle of Grevenbroek was totally destroyed by the Anglo-Dutch troops in 1702.
Hamont-Achel was granted the honorific title of town (stad) by Royal Decree on 19 July 1985, restoring the status of town previously granted to Hamont and suppressed under the French rule.

Achel was known as Achile in 1139, listed in a bull by Pope Innocent II as belonging to the St. Servaas chapter in Maastricht. Aghel and Aeghelen are more recent written forms. The name of the place is made on a, "water", and lo, "a marshy wood", therefore meaning "a marshy wood located on a river", here the Warmbeek. Achel was the residence of the lords of Grevenbroek whereas Hamont was the economic and administrative center of the domain.

Hamont and Achel were once famous for the pedlars known in Kempen as teuten, lit., "dawdlers". The oldest written mention of the teuten in Hamont-Achel is a contract approved on 21 February 1685 by the municipal magistrates, but they probably existed long before. A letter from the Mayor of Hamont to the Governor of Limburg, dated 9 September 1827, lists 50 teuten in Hamont; their number dropped to 40 in 1850. Following the definitive settlement of several teuten in the Netherlands from 1875 onwards, the dawdlers progressively disappeared in the beginning of the XXth century, especially after the closure of the border in August 1916 and the modernization of transportation. The last teute from Hamont was Alfons Ballings (1860-1949, from a dynasty already involved in dawdling in the XVIIIth century), who stopped his travels in 1929. The teuten had an important social role in Hamont-Achel and their return was celebrated by a festival; they significantly contributed to the development of the town, for instance by funding the building of the Napoléon windmill, of the Ursulines convent and of the St. Lawrence church.

Whereas Hamont is known for its candle factory, the Trappist abbey of Achel brews one of the famous genuine Trappist beers. The Benedictine Achelse Kluis (lit., "hermitage of Achel") was founded in 1656 by Petrus van Eynatten, from Eindhoven, near a small chapel built on the bank of the Tongelreep brook for the Catholics from the neighbouring, Protestant United Provinces. The French Revolution expelled the monks, but the abbey was refounded in 1846 by Trappist monks from the abbey of Westmalle. The monks set up a model farm and significantly contributed to the development of agriculture and husbandry in Kempen. They were also pioneers in printing, iron and copper working etc. An attempt of industrial transformation failed in the 1980s so that most of the domain was sold to the National Forest Administration (for the Dutch part) and to Flanders (for the Belgian part) to set up a nature reserve. The abbey then founded a brewery. The first Achel beers were produced in 1998, being the youngest of the six Belgian genuine Trappist beers (Chimay, Orval, Rochefort, Westmalle, Westvleteren and Achel); a genuine Trappist beer should be brewed in the monastery under the guidance of a monk, the production should be managed by the monks and the profits should be used for the monastery and social works.

Like other municipalities in Limburg, Hamont-Achel has adopted "its" animal, the grayling butterfly (in Dutch, heivlinder; in French, agreste; Latin binomial, Hipparchia semele). Placed on the Dutch Red List of endangered and fully protected species, the grayling is also vulnerable in Limburg. On next 11 August, the butterfly specialist Ghis Palmans will lead a field trip to help the inhabitants of Hamont-Achel to identify "their" animal.


Ivan Sache, 14 July 2007

Municipal flag of Hamont-Achel

Hamont-Achel is located in the arrondissement of Maaseik.

The flag of Hamont-Achel is vertically divided, left, ten horizontal stripes in turn yellow and red, right a white field with two horizontal red counterbretessed stripes.
According to Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel, the flag was adopted by the Municipal Council on 26 September 1985, confirmed by the Executive of Flanders on 2 December 1985 and published in the Belgian official gazette on 8 July 1986.
The flag is a banner of the municipal arms.

The municipal website of Hamont-Achel describes the flag and gives details on the coat of arms. The left part of the flag is the banner of the arms of the County of Loon, while the right part of the flag is the banner of the arms of the lords of Grevenbroek, originally the arms of the Arckel family. The seal of the lords of Grevenbroek shows St. Lawrence holding his gril in the right arms and the shield of Arckel / Grevenbroek in the left arms.
The municipality of Hamont-Achel has retained the arms of Hamont, which had been granted by Royal Decree on 22 March 1920.

The Gelre Armorial shows "Argent two fesses counterbretessed gules" for Othon d'Arkel (Die He. v. Arkel, #1017, folio 83r) and "Argent two fesses counterbretessed gules a label azure" for Otton d'Arkel, lord of Heukelom (Die He. v. Hueclem, #1081, folio 84v).
The Lalaing Armorial still shows "Argent two fesses counterbretessed gules" for Arkel (Arkele, #164, folio 80v).

Arkel is today a town in South-Holland, The Netherlands, using the coat of arms and the banner of arms of the lords of Arkel. The International Civic Heraldry website states that the municipal arms of Arkel were granted by Royal Decree on 24 December 1817 with the following description:
Van zilver beladen met 2 gebretesseerde en contragebretesseerde fasces van keel. Het schild van agteren gehouden door een zwaan in zijne natuurlijke verwe.
The shield is topped by a swan with spread wings. The counterbretessed fesses are supposed to recall the climbing ladders used during the (1219 or 1249) siege of Damietta (Egypt), to which a lord of Arkel took part.
The Arkel counterbretessed fesses are shown in several municipal arms of Dutch municipality formerly related to the lords of Arkel. The Arkel counterbretessed fesses can be found in the modern arms of the recently formed Dutch municipality of Giessenlanden, which includes now Arkel as well as all the villages further listed here (except Heukelum, located in Gelderland). They also appear on the arms of Hoornaar. In the arms of Noordeloos, the fesses are regular (no longer counterbretessed). Nieuwland uses, although unofficially, the arms of Arkel. The old lords of Heukelum used the Arkel arms, including the aforementioned Otto of Heukelum (1363-1408), but these arms have not been retained as the modern arms of Heukelum. The village of Spijk, part of Heukelum, has retained as its coat of arms "Sable two fesses counterbretessed argent", historically related to the Arkel arms. Nederslingeland uses the same arms. The black and white version also appears in the arms of Giessenburg (fourth quarter) and Peursum (dexter part). Hoogblokland bears "Argent two fesses counterbretessed sable", while Kedichem bears "Azure two fesses counterbretessed or".

Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 14 July 2007