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Aartselaar (Municipality, Province of Antwerp, Belgium)

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[Flag of Aartselaar]by Ivan Sache

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Presentation of Aartselaar

The municipality of Aartselaar (14,438 inhabitants, 10.78 sq. km) is located in the southern outskirts of Antwerp. Aartselaar is known for its wind mill (Heimolen) built in 1801 and the cyclist race Grand Prix ofAartselaar - Memorial Rik van Steenbergen.

The Grand Prix of Aartselaar is a one-day race (200 km) run since 1991 in summertime and also known as Antwerp-Brussels-Antwerp. It seems to be a sprinter's paradise since the winners' list includes Jan Zvorada,Andrei Tchmil, Tom Steels, Djamolidin Abduzahaparov and Mario Cippolini. The last winner of the race was Nico Eeckhout, winner in 2001 and 2003.

The nickname of the race is a tribute to Rik van Steenbergen (Rik I), one of the best Belgian cyclists ever, surpassed only by Rik van Looy (Rik II) and Eddy Merckx. Rik I was three times champion of Belgium (1943, 1945 and 1954) and champion of the world (1949 - Copenhagen, 1956 - Waregem, 1957 - Ballerup). He won 322 races, including 270 during his long professional carreer, including Paris-Roubaix (1948 & 1952), the Ronde van Vlaanderen (1944 & 1946), Milan-San Remo (1954), the Flèche Wallonne (1949 & 1958), Paris-Brussels (1950), 15 stages in the Giro d'Italia (with a final second rank in 1951) and four stages in the Tour de France (with the maillot jaune for two days in 1952). Rik I won also 715 races on track, including more than 40 six-days competitions. Rik van Steenbergen was born in 1924 in Arendonk and passed away in Antwerp in 2003.

Ivan Sache, 13 April 2004

Description of the flag of Aartselaar

The municipal flag of Aarstselaar is yellow with three vertical stripes (source: Van evers en heiligen. Wapens en vlaggen van de gemeenten in de provincie Antwerpen [pbd98].

It seems to be derived from municipal arms, but the International Civic Heraldry website is slightly ambiguous on that matter. The website shows two municipal coat of arms, adopted on 29 March 1839 and 22 October 1992, respectively. Both versions show a saint holding shackles and two escutcheons. The old version has a blue field; the dexter escutcheon is yellow with a blue cross, the sinister escutcheon is yellow with three blue pales (and therefore the probable source of the municipal flag). The modern version has a white field; the dexter escutcheon is blue with a cross resarcelee; the sinister escutcheon is yellow with three red pales. The meaning of the escutcheons and why they were changed is not known to me.

Ivan Sache, 13 April 2004

The second version of the arms is surely a correction. Many Belgian municipal arms were granted during the Dutch period (1815-1830) and consequently follow the "rule": a gold charge on a field azure. The "rule" persisted after independence (people did not realize that these colours were to recall the Dutch & Nassau coat of arms). I bet the paly shield shown for Aartselaar is that of the Berthout family which owned so much land during the Middle Ages. As to the Saint, surely the VIth Century hermit St. Leonard is meant, patron saint of the main church at Aartselaar. He is invoked by prisoners which seems to explain the shackles he holds.

The flag seems to simply repeat the "main'"colours of the arms, especially those of the first version. The Berthout pales are present, but coloured differently.

Jan Mertens, 13 April 2004

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