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Overijse (Municipality, Province of Flemish Brabant, Belgium)

Last modified: 2004-12-22 by
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[Overijse]by Andy Weir

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Presentation of Overijse

Overijse (24,000 inhabitants) is located in the Flemish Brabant, between Brussels and Wavre. The city got its name from the river which waters the municipality, the IJse. The oldest known form of the name is Isca, mentioned in a chart dated 832. Isca is the Latinized form of a Celtic root which means water.

Overijse had an uneven history, with periods of rise and fall. Between 1001 and 1005, Overijse received its first chart from Duke Otto of Lorraine. Thanks to this chart, the merchants of Overijse did not pay the tax on the grain market of Brussels.
In 1234, Duke Henri granted the citizens of Overijse a freedom chart. The citizens of Overijse had therefore the same status as the inhabitants of Brussels, Leuven and Wavre, which were then the three richest cities in Brabant.

The rule of the sleazy Lords of Witthem, which started in 1345, was a period of decline for Overijse. In 1488, the village was burned down by the troops of Maximilian of Austria. Between 300 and 400 inhabitants were killed in the church. The decline of the vineyards started around 1500.

After the destruction, the XVIth century was a period of rebirth. A colossal building site allowed the reconstruction of the center of the village. The St. Hubert's hospital was built and the famous architects Keldermans father and son drafted the plans of the market. Overijse was also part of the golden age of humanism, thanks to its most famous citizen, the humanist Justius Lipsius (1547-1606).

Lipsius (Joost Lips) was borne in Overijse on 18 October 1547. He lived during the so-called "golden century", which was, however, also the era of the Inquisition and the stakes. Lipsius was a contemporary of Kings Charles V and Philip II, the Duke of Alva, Don Juan of Austria etc.. He lived in a dramatically changing world, which was affected by the Reformation, the council of Trento and the Counter-Reformation. Lipsius' career can be divided into three periods.
During his Brabantian period, Lipsius studied in Brussels, Ath, Cologne and Leuven, did a study trip in Roma and taught for a short time in the Protestant University of Iena. In Rome, Lipsiius was the secretary of Cardinal de Granvelle (1517-1586, Vice-Roy of Naples, 1571-1575 and Archbishop of Besançon, 1584), and met the French humanist Marc-Antoine Muret (1526-1585, mostly known for his Latin poems). Muret deeply influenced Lipsius but the two humanists fell out because of Lipsius' edition of Tacitus' Annals in 1574.
In 1578, Lipsius left Leuven because of the repression exerted by the Spaniards, abjured Catholicism and moved to the Calvinist university of Leiden. The exile to Leiden was the second period of Lipisius' career, during which he developed his own philosophy, often labelled as Christian neo-Stoicism [De Constantia, 1583). He was appointed several times Rector of the university.
In 1591, Lipsius came back to his homeland and Catholicism and supported the Counter-Reformation. Lipsius' decision caused a huge international sensation. During that third period of his career, Lipsius worked on Seneca's stoicism. He reached the top of his career in Leuven, where he was the eminence grise of Albert and Isabel's rule until his death in 1606. In his last writings, Lipsius associated erudition and eloquence and developed the so-called terse style and the theory of imitatio adulta. This theory was coined by J.B. Giraldi in 1543 but Lipsius systematized it in his Epistolica Institutio (1591). The imitatio adulta corresponds to the model that an experienced humanist must find in Seneca or Tacitus instead of reproducing Cicero's school exercises. It requires variety and density, and was the basis of the European mannerism (illustrated for instance by Tintoreto, Arcimboldo, El Greco, Jan Metsys etc.) and a very important means of propagating the Counter-Reformation. The imitatio adulta also includes a notion of "progress in literature", as applied by the French Jesuit predicators, who fed the antique models with contemporary poets such as Ronsard.
Lipsius was nicknamed Lumen seculi sui (His century's light) and was called by the French humanist Montaigne le plus scavant homme qui nous reste (Today's most learned man).

On 10 October 1677, Overijse became the seat of a principality granted to Eugene-Maximilian of Horne and would have to face another difficult period. Under the French rule and until the Dutch rule, the heirs of the Horne family (Salma) lost the principality. After having retrieved their domain, they were forced to sell it in 1817. In 1832, Overijse was awarded a Honour flag, the horizontally divided Belgian flag granted to the municipalities who had sent vlounteers for the independence war in 1830. The municipality was allowed to bear a coat of arms by King Leopold I in 1840.


Ivan Sache, 30 March 2004

Municipal flag of Overijse

Overijse adopted a new flag on 5 December 1984, described as:

Geel met blauwe ongebladerte tros van zes druiven 3-2-1 geplaatst, lambdavormig gesteeld en getakt

Yellow with a bunch of six blue grapes, without leaves, placed 3-2-1, arranged in a lambda pattern, with stem and axis.

The six grapes stand for the six parts of the municipality, the center and five hamlets. The stem and axis recall the facade and the rooftop of a hothouse.

Eating grape growing has always been a major activity in Overijse. In 1903, a report by the municipal council stated that most of the production (from hothouses) was shipped to Brussels and also to other big cities. A few big grape growers shipped their production to England, Germany, and even Russia and America. In the 1920s, grape growing made of Overijse, along with Hoeilaart, the richest municipality in Belgium.

In Belgium today, three cultivars of white grapes are grown (Baidor, Canon Hall and Muscat of Alexandria) as well as four cultivars of black (called "blue" in Dutch) grapes (Leopold III, considered as the best eating grapes in the world, Colman, Ribier and Royal).

The Grapes' Festival (Druivenfeesten) takes place every year in Overijse at the end of August, the period of harvest. The main event of the festival is the election of the Queen of Grapes (Druivenkoningin).


Ivan Sache, 30 March 2004

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