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Chiny (Municipality, Province of Luxembourg, Belgium)

Last modified: 2007-11-24 by ivan sache
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Presentation of Chiny

The municipality of Chiny (5,021 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 11,369 sq. km) is located 25 km southwest of Neufchâteau, close to the border with France. The municipality of Chiny is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Chiny, Izel, Jamoigne (seat of the municipal administration), Les Bulles, Suxy and Termes.
Chiny is the home of the Intercultural Tale's Festival (Festival Intercultural du Conte), organized in July 2007 for the 18th time.

Chiny was the seat a powerful county from 980 to 1364. The oldest known Count of Chiny is Arnoul de Bourgogne-Granson, a descendant of Charlemagne. He married Mathilde, the daughter of Ricuin, Duke of Mosellane and Count of Ardenne, whose dowry was a big land covered with forests and watered by the Semois. It is believed that Arnoul was allowed to make of his land a County by the Archbishop of Cologne. It is said that his son Othon de Warcq built in the XIth century the fortress of Chiny on a rocky spur dominating the Semois. The County of Chiny was very big, encompassing 246 county towns, 57 castles and 1,412 villages. In 1023, Louis I, third Count of Chiny, freshly appointed mediator between the King of France and the German Emperor, was killed by Gazelon d'Ardenne on the Mount Saint-Vanne. His son Louis II was fond of hunting and offerred famous parties.
Arnoul II, the fifth Count of Chiny, like several feudal lords of the time, was in turn extremely violent and crual and extremely pious. He founded the abbey of Orval but jailed the Bishop of Liège and sacked the town of Stenay; in 1097, he expiated all his crimes by founding the St. Walburg priory in Chiny and taking the coat in the St. Hubert abbey. In 1070, Arnoul II, then very pious, allowed a few Calabrese monks to set up a priory in the middle of the forest. His aunt Mathilde had just had her husband Godefroid murdered and a child drown in the Semois. When staying in Chiny, she was brought by Arnoul to the new priory; resting near a source, Mathilde lost her marriage ring, which was not found until the evening, when she asked the help of the Blessed Virgin. A trout emerged out of the water holding the ring in its mouth. The Countess said "This is really a Golden Valley" (in French, Val d'Or). She funded the revamping of the priory that became the famous abbey of Orval.
Arnoul fought for a while against Mathilde's nephew, Godefroid de Bouillon, but they eventually became close friends. When Arnoul left for the first Crusade in 1096, he left his sons Othon and Louis to Godefroid's care. Once Count of Chiny, Othon had to take care of the abbey of Orval, nearly ruined since the return of the Calabrese monks to Italy in 1108; the Archbishop of Trier sent canons to revamp the abbey, but they were not sucessful because of the harsh weather and the poor soil. When Albert succeeded Othon as the Count of Chiny, he asked his uncle, who was a bishop, to convince Bernard of Clairvaux to help him to save the abbey. Bernard sent Dom Constantin and seven monks from the abbey of Troisfontaines (Champagne) to Orval; the monks were officially welcomed in Chiny on 9 May 1131 and the abbey was resurrected. Albert went on the Third Crusade with Count of Flanders Thierry d'Alsace, during which they took Cesarea in 1157. In 1187, Louis III, eight Count of Chiny, welcomed in Virton Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa, on his way to Ivoix (Carignan), where he would met the King of France Philippe-Auguste. He left for the Crusade two years later but died in Belgrade. Louis IV, the last Count of the first dynasty, granted a chart to the town of Avioth (today in France).
As usual, the Count's succession was difficult. Arnoul de Looz married the Count's daughter, Jeanne, and became the first Count of the second dynasty; he built the fortress of Montmédy (today in France), where he stayed most the time. His son and successor Louis V organized in 1285 in Chauvency the tunrnament known as the most famous ever organized in Europe. Louis V minted coins bearing his effigy.
After Louis V's death in 1299, the Counts of Chiny were challenged by their powerful neighbours. Both the Counts of Bar and the Dukes of Luxembourg claimed to be their suzereigns. During a short period, there was a succession of seven counts, which ended on 13 June 1364 when the County was sold to Duke Wenceslas de Luxembourg. The legend says that the heir of the last Count, Arnould de Rumigny, was placed under the tutorship of his uncle after the death of his father and his mother in childbirth; in order to transfer the County to his own lineage, the uncle asked the surgeon to castrate the newborn. The midwife told the story to Arnould when he was a teenager; the surgeon was hung and the Count sold the County to prevent its transfer to the Count's lineage.

The St. Peter church of Jamoigne was built in the XIth century by the abbey of Orval; it has Romanesque baptismal fonts and XVI-XVIIth century tombstone. The church is built uphill on the border of the parish and was completely isolated from the hamlets until the XVIIth century, which caused troubles to the villagers of both Jamoigne and the 11 eleven other villages of the parish. The odd location of the church is linked to the ancient history: the lord of Jamoigne had once his castle on the hill, with a chapel later transformed into the parish church. As usual for sanctuaries built on heights, the church was built on the remains of a Roman temple dedicated to Bacchus; a part of a column of the temple (IInd century), decorated with sculpted birds, vine leaves and grapes, was reused to erect the church tower.

The castle of Faing, rebuilt in the XIXth century and owned today by the Municipality of Chiny, recalls the powerful lords of Faing. The name of Faing is related to the miry soil where the castle was built (in French, fangeux means "miry"); the origin of the lineage is not known but they seem to have always been vassals of the Counts of Chiny. Hugues, lord of Faing and Breu, was appointed General of the Army by Duke of Burgundy Charles the Bold; he took part to the battle of Montbéliard in 1473 and served Archduke Maximilian of Austria after the death of Charles. In 1478, Hugues de Faing led the Imperial troops during the siege of Yvoix (Carignan) and fought against the warlord Guillaume de la Marck, aka the Ardennes' Boar. Hugues was appointed Governor of Luxembourg and died in 1480. He was succeeded by his elder son Henri de Faing, who invited in 1539 the famous Provencal occultist Nostradamus in his castle. After the death of his wife and two children, Nostradamus had left Provence and he stayed for a while in Orval, where he wrote some of his centuries. Henri de Faing was fond of horoscope and believed that Nostradamus was a crook, but he was quickly forced to admit he was wrong. When Henri de Faing died on 14 February 1544, his son Jean celebrated his 20th birthday; he was later appointed Captain and Provost of the County of Chiny. His son Gilles was the most famous of the lords of Faing; born around 1560, he served King Philip II and Archduke Albert as an ambassador and took part to Albert's funerals in 1623 among the greats of Europe. Jamoigne was made a Barony for Gilles de Faing, who died in 1633 in Ghent. The last lord of Faing, Alexandre Geroges, died in Ghent in 1709 without a male heir.

A legend says that, in 1040, Thibault, from the lineage of the powerful Counts of Champagne, left home to live in poverty; he stayed for a while in Pétange (today in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg) and moved in the forest near Chiny, where he helped the lumberjacks and the charcoal burners. He built his ermitage near an old oak, in which he found honey he sucked with pleasure. Accordingly, he named the place his mella sylvestra suxy, later Suxy. Once thursty, Thibault scraped the mossy soil with his staff, and a source gushed forth. Louis II built there a chapel, which became the place of a popular pilgrimage.

Source: Municipal website

Ivan Sache, 6 June 2007

Municipal flag of Chiny

According to Armoiries communales en Belgique. Communes wallonnes, bruxelloises et germanophones, the Heraldry and Vexillology Council of the French Community has proposed a municipal flag for Chiny, Bleu chargé de trois poissons blancs rangés l'un au-dessus de l'autre.
This is blue flag with three white fishes placed 1,1 and 1, and indeed the banner of the municipal arms.
In several other Walloon municipalities, the proposed flag has proved to be the flag in use, although often not officially adopted. However, until we have more consistent information, we shall consider the flag only as a proposal.

Servais shows the old arms of Chiny, granted by Royal Decree on 26 December 1838. Although there is no historical evidence of municipal seals of arms, the arms applied for were considered as usual for ages, probably derived from the arms of the Counts of Chiny, who bore the three trouts.
The current arms of Chiny, as shown on the municipal website, are identical to the old ones, with the shield surmonted by a second crown. Whether the first crown had been kept on the proposal, which would be logical but does not match the description in the above source, is not known.

Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 6 June 2007