Last modified: 2008-09-06 by ivan sache
Keywords: voeren | fourons | lions: 2 (red) | lions: 2 (yellow) | brabant | limburg | action fouronnaise | perron |
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Municipal flag of Voeren - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 6 May 2008
The municipality of Voeren (in French, Fourons; 4,261 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 5,063 ha) is located near the border with the Netherlands, in the valley of Voer. It forms an enclave of the Province of Limburg inside the Province of Liège, being the only municipality of Limburg located on the right bank of the Maas. The municipality of Voeren is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of 's-Gravenvoeren (Fouron-le-Comte), Moelingen (in French, Mouland), Remersdaal (Rémersdael), Sint-Martens-Voeren (Fouron-Saint- Martin), Sint-Pieters-Voeren (Fouron-Saint-Pierre) and Teuven.
The former muncipalities of Voeren were incorporated into the Province of Limburg (and therefore in Flanders) in 1963, when the linguistic border between French and Dutch was officially set up. Since then, the administrative situation of Voeren has been a constant source of dispute. Before 1963, the villages belonged to the Province of Liège and the administrative language was French; the usual language for most inhabitants was Plattdütsch, a local version of Limburgian, which was the reason for the incorporation of the villages to Flanders. The municipalities were most often ran by French-speakers, which caused trouble with the Dutch provincial administration. In 1987, José Happart (an historical leader of the Walloon Movement and today President of the Walloon Parliament) won the municipal elections but could legally not be elected Mayor since he did not speak a word of Dutch. This local problem became a national issue and caused the fall of the Mertens government. In 2000, the Dutch-speaking list (Voerbelangen) won the elections, supported by the Dutch inhabitants of the municipality. This was confirmed in the 2006 elections. The reincorporation to the Province of Liège is still claimed by the French-speaking political group Retour à Liège, recently renamed Retour @ Libertés.
's-Gravenvoeren (in French, Fouron-le-Comte), the biggest of the villages of Voeren, is watered by the Voer. The first Governor of the Province of Limburg, de Scheiervel, was born in s'-Gravenvoeren. In 1846, Mayor Delvaux found the remains of a Roman villa in the hamlet of Schophem and built with them the Steenbos chapel. A legend says that Charlemagne's mother stayed in Voeren short before (or during) the birth of her child. The Treaty of Voeren, signed in 878 between King of France Louis le Bègue and King of Germany Louis le Jeune, is a less-known sequel of the Treaty of Verdun that shared the Carolingian Empire.
Moelingen (in French, Mouland) developed around a watermill build on the river Berwijn (in French, Berwinne), which flows into the Maas (in French, Meuse) near the remains of a Spanish fortification from the XVIIth century and of an Austrian customs post from the XVIIIth century. A few boundary stones bearing the arms of Austria and of the Netherlands can still be seen there. The big Romanesque tower of the village church, from the XIIth century, was restored in 2005. Moelingen is the only village in Voeren with a business park.
Remersdaal (in French, Rémersdael) is the easternmost village of Voeren. It has a monument dedicated to those killed by the electric wires that marked the border with the Netherlands during the First World War.
Sint-Martens-Voeren (in French, Fouron-Saint-Martin) is dominated by the 23-m high viaduct of the railway line Tongeren-Aachen, built by Russian prisoners under German command during the First World War. The viaduct leads to the once longest railway tunnel in Belgium (2,070 m), between the hamlet of Veurs and Remersdaal. The village has several hamlets scattered over the hills, such as Ulvend, De Plank (Le Planck), Eiken, Berg and Veurs, whose houses are built in flint.
Sint-Pieters-Voeren (in French, Fouron-Saint-Pierre) is the smallest village of Voeren, located at the source of the Voer. The former Commandery of the German Knights is a XVIIth century castle built in the Mosan Renaissance style. Commander Willem Quaedt van Beeck rests in the parish church he had built in the second half of the XVIIth century.
Teuven is located in the eastern part of the municipality, separated from the Netherlands by the river Gulp. The abbey of Sinnich, founded in the XIIIth century, belonged to canonesses of the Order of St. Augustine.
Source: Municipal website
Ivan Sache, 6 May 2008
The municipal flag of Voeren is square, quartered, 1. and 4. white with a red lion with a yellow tongue, claws and crown and a forked tail, 2. and 3. black with a yellow lion with a red tongue and claws.
According to Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel the flag was imposed by Ministerial Decree on 9 December 1988, since at that time the flag of used by the Retour à Liège municipal majority was not accepted by the Flemish Heraldic Council, and published in the Belgian official gazette on 15 March 1989. The flag, challenged by the French-speaking municipal opposition, was subsequently confirmed by the State Council.
According to the municipal wesbite, the arms of Voeren, derived from
the arms of 's-Gravenvoeren, are officially described as:
Gevierendeeld, 1 en 4, in zilver, een dubbelstaartige leeuw van keel,
gekroond, geklauwd en getongd van goud, 2 en 3, in sabel, een leeuw
van goude, geklauwd en getongd van keel
("Quarterly, 1. and 4. Argent a lion gules with forked tail crowned
armed and langued or, 2. and 3. Sable a lion or armed and langues gules").
These arms, quartered Limburg and Brabant, recall that after the battle of Woeringen (1288), the Duchy of Limburg was incorporated into the Duchy of Brabant.
The municipality of Nijlen has mirrored arms (Quarterly Brabant and Limburg) and flag (but rectangular), recalling the involvement of the inhabitants of the town in the battle of Woeringen.
Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 6 May 2008
Flag of Action Fouronnaise - Image by Ivan Sache, 6 May 2008
The former Municipal Council of Fourons refused to use the quartered flag (and could have been fined for this) but used a banner of arms, which is also the flag of the local political party Action Fouronnaise.
The flag is vertically divided, left the perron of Liège in red on a yellow field, right, 11 stripes, alternating red and yellow. The perron of Liège is a straightforward symbol of the "Return to Liège" claim, while the horizontal stripes probably refer to the former arms of the County of Loon, used on the arms of several municipalities in the Province of Limburg (but with an additional red stripe on top, probably another symbol of Liège and Wallonia). As shown on images of a real flag (TV magazine Télétourisme), the perron is depicted in a quite schematic manner and without the lions featured on the arms of Liège.