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Baarle-Hertog (Municipality, Province of Antwerp, Belgium)

Baerle-Duc

Last modified: 2007-11-03 by
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[Flag of Baarle-Hertog]

Municipal flag of Baarle-Hertog - Image by Mark Sensen, 27 July 1999


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Presentation of Baarle-Hertog

The municipality of Baarle-Hertog (in French, Baerle-Duc; 2,337 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 748 ha) is located in the heart of Kempen, north of Antwerp. Together with its Dutch counterpart Baarle-Nassau, it forms the village of Baarle, whose administrative structure, inherited from the feudal system, is unique in the world.

Quoting the Baarle official website (with either a Belgian or a Dutch address!):

It is unequivocally the most remarkable village in the world: 30 bits of Belgium and the Netherlands, interwoven with each other, together form this two country puzzle. Some kilometres north of the official state border between Belgium and the Netherlands, the Belgian municipality Baarle-Hertog nests itself as 22 loose puzzle pieces in the Dutch municipality Baarle-Nassau. The latter has on its turn 8 such puzzle pieces in Belgium, of which 7 in the Belgian puzzle pieces. All together, both Baarles are constituted of 30 enclaves: 22 Belgian enclaves, 1 Dutch enclave and 7 Dutch sub-enclaves.
Nowhere else in the world is known of a municipality so extremely interwoven with a municipality of the neighbouring country. This tangle is most visible in geographical respect. But in social, cultural, and economic terms, as well as in the public area, there is a great deal of interaction. Examples are - amongst many others - the mixed (Belgian-Dutch) organisations, the joint international library, the joint cultural centre, common public provisions such as drinking water, gas and sewerage, firms with both a Dutch and Belgian address, and so forth. Typical too is that one, so to speak, at a single glance can observe two towns hall, two fire services, two churches, two police services, and double provisions for electricity and telephony.

Such odd administrative puzzles were very common in the Middle Ages because of the complex feudal system based on exchange, granting and splitting of pieces of land. Baarle was mentioned for the first time in 992, when Countess Hilsondis transferred her goods in the country of Strijen, including Baarle, to the abbey of Thorn (today in Dutch Limburg). In 1190, Godefroy of Schote owned the lands located south of Breda, granted by the Duke of Brabant to his ancestors. Competing with the Count of Holland, the Duke of Brabant forced Godefrey to transfer him back the neighbouring lands in 1190. The Duke granted Godefrey much more land than he owned before, forming Baarle-Hertog. The remaining land remained to the lord of Breda, vassal of the Count of Nassau, forming Baarle-Nassau. The specificity of Baarle is that the complex feudal structure remained unchanged until now.
After the independence of Belgium, the commission set up by the Treaty of Maastricht (1843) to determine the borders between Belgium and the Netherlands could not solve the Baarle problem. A warrent indicating the nationality of each of the parcels of Baarle was included in the final treaty. Nothing happened until 1974, when a second commission fixes a 36-km continuous border between the villages of Poppel and Meerle, but the enclave were left untouched. A third commission took 15 years to propose in 1995 official state borders but many problems remain unresolved simply because nobody knew exactly the status of several pieces of Baarle. The situation is particularly complex in the centre of the village. Quoting again the Baarle website:

Due to the capricious course of the enclave borders in Baarle, many roads, large parts of the public area, houses and firms partly belong to the Belgian territory and partly to the Dutch. [...]
To deal with this matter, as regards the inhabitants we handle the so-called "front door rule": they must have themselves registered in the municipal population registers of the municipality where the front door of their house is situated. The place of the front door also determines which public utilities (such as electricity and telephony) one obtains.
For touristy objectives, the borders in the centre are made visible by marks in the streets and pedestrian areas. However, this is not sufficient so as to make sure on which territory the front door is implanted. Therefore (almost) on all houses this is indicated by means of a house number with the national three colour (flags). Houses with their front door in Belgium, carry a house number with the Belgian colours (black-yellow-red), those with their front door in the Netherlands have one with the Dutch colours (red-white-blue). In streets divided in Belgian and Dutch parts, there is no continuous numbering of houses. Subsequently, one address (street name and number) sometimes occurs twice: once in Baarle-Hertog and once in Baarle-Nassau. The result may be confusing to many. Moreover, one house has a front door where the border going through the middle of it, making the front door rule completely useless. This house, situated at Loveren, carries two house numbers, and as such has two addresses: Loveren 2 in Baarle-Hertog and Loveren 19 in Baarle-Nassau.

Ivan Sache, 20 May 2007


Municipal flag of Baarle-Hertog

The municipal flag of Baerle-Hertog is blue with a yellow St. Remigius in the middle.
According to Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel, the flag and arms of Baarle-Hertog were adopted by the Municipal Council on 7 December 1987, confirmed by the Executive of Flanders on 13 June 1989 and published in the Belgian official gazette on 8 November 1989. The description of the flag and arms was simplified and corrected - but the design was not modified - by the Municipal Council on 10 May 1992, confirmed by the Executive of Flanders on 6 June 1995 and published in the Belgian official gazette on 15 June 1995.

According to Servais, the first arms of Baarle-Hertog were granted by Royal Decree on 4 September 1910.
St. Remigius (c. 437-533) is better known in France as St. Remi / Remy, the Apostle of the Franks and the Christener of King Clovis. However, there are very little authentic details on the saint's life and most of his writings are just apocryphs if not gross forgeries.
St. Remi's hagiography was written by Hincmar, Archbishop of Reims (845-882), whose manuscript has been reused by later compilers, for instance St. Grégoire of Tours and Jacques de Voragine (The Golden Legend). It is beautifully depicted on the saints' portal of the cathedral of Reims. The birth of Remi was prophetized by the blind hermit Montan during the barbaric invasions; an angel appeared to him in a dream and told him that Ciline should give birth to a child able to get rid of the barbarians. Ciline could not believe it because she was quite old but the hermit prophetized that, as soon as the child is born, she will have to rub his eyes with her milk so that he recovers his vision. And this happened.
In 496, Clovis, King of the Salian Franks, from Tournai, invaded Gaul. When fighting the Alamans in Tolbiac, he promised to convert to the Christian religion, would he win. And this happened. More probably, Clovis was influenced by his wife Clotilde or Remi, Archbishop of Reims. Remi christened Clovis on Christmas Day 497 or 498. Holy oil was lacking and the miracle of the Holy Ampoule occurred: a dove came from the sky and brought the ampoule whose oil was used to anoint Clovis. St. Remi's hagiography has been clearly inspired by the lifes of Jesus and St. John the Baptist. As Remi's successor as the Archbishop of Reims, Hincmar claimed that the Archbishop of Reims should be the warden of the Holy Ampoule and that only him should be allowed to anoint the king of France. Indeed, starting with Henri I in 1027, all the kings of France but Louis VI and Henri IV were anointed in Reims.

Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 20 May 2007

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