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Harelbeke (Municipality, Province of West Flanders, Belgium)

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[Flag of Harelbeke]by Ivan Sache

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Presentation of the city

Harelbeke (26,000 inhabitants) is located in the arrondissement of Kortrijk, in the south-west of the Province of West Flanders, 5 km of Kortrijk, 40 km of Ghent, 20 km of Roeselare, 30 km of Lille (France) and 60 km of the North Sea.

The current municipality of Harelbeke (2,912 ha) was formed in 1977 by the merging of the former municipalities of Harelbeke, Bavikhove and Hulst. Stasegem is also part of the municipality of Harelbeke but was never an independent municipality.
The name of Harelbeke comes from the Germanic word haru, diminutive harula, which means 'sandy hill ridge'. The small river known as Arendsbeek has its bed in the sand and flows into the Leie under the Market Place of Harelbeke.

Harelbeke became an important city around 1040, when Count Boudewijn V of Flanders established a chapter in the St. Saviour Church (Sint Salvatorskerk).After an administrative reorganization of the County of Flanders, Harelbeke was the capital city of a canton (roede) in 1071.
Bavikhove is also a Germanic toponym. In 1120, a parchment roll called Rotulus Harlebecensis mentioned Villa Bavinghova, the farm of Bavo people.
Hulst dates back to Charlemagne, who gave around 800 to Liederik II of Harelbeke an abbey located near a holly (hulst) wood.

Due to its geographical location, Harelbeke has always been an important trade and industry center. Its municipal market was founded in 1264. Harelbke is located on the river Leie and very close to the Scheldt-Leie and Roeselare-Leie canals. The city is crossed by the ancient Ghent-Kortrijk road, built in XVIIIth century, and is close to the E17 highway, inaugurated in 1971. The railway station was built at the end of the XIXth century. At that time, several 'pendular' workers took the train to go to the north of France.

Harelbeke is the birth city of the musician Peter Benoit (1834-1901), violonist, composer and conducer, who directed the Royal Flemish Academy of Music in Antwerp; the biker Dirk Demol (1959), who won the cyclist race Paris-Roubaix in 1988; the cartoonist O-Sekoer (1955), a.k.a. Luc Descheemaeker, whose pseudonym is the Flemish transliteration of Au secours, in French 'help'; the tennisman Xavier Malisse (1980); and the walker Willye Delrue (1940), who has been walking at least 20 km per day since more than 20 years and reached a total of 100,000 km in 1997.

Source: Municipal website

Ivan Sache, 5 October 2002

Description of the municipal flag

The flag is: Gules, cross Or. In each canton, five pennies Or in the form of a saltire. Proportions are 2:3.
According to the municipal website, this banner was granted to the Lords of Harelbeke by Boudewijn of Flanders, Emperor of Constantinople. It was the banner of arms of Constantinople:

"The Harelbeke coat of arms is: Argent a chevron Gules. The shield sommé with a municipal crown with five turrets Or.
The flag refers to the coat of arms of Constantinople: red with a yellow cross, in every corner with five pennies, placed in saltire.

During the 14th century Harelbeke had a coat of arms of gold with a red chevron and a scalloped border of silver. Gailliard says that the city had a coat of arms of silver with a red chevron, but that Boudewijn of Flanders, Emperor of Constantinople (1204-1205), permitted the city to use the arms of Constantinople. He adds that the Margrave of Arlebeke had a chevroned shield of gold and azure from eight pieces with a shield over all - that is the original Counts of Flanders, who, according to a legend, descended from the first Harelbeke Lords - and that his battle cry was Haerlebecque.
Jan van Harlebeke, Lord of Lembeke, Wakken and Deerlijk, used in 1365 and 1377 arms with a chevron with teethed border. The Burgrave (burggraaf or kastelein van Harelbeke) was always considered as one of the foremost barons of Flanders. These Burgraves had a banner chevroned of gold and azure with sixteen pieces, with a small gules shield over all.
The special seals of the city of Harelbeke had in 1542, 1547, 1676, 1789 a shield with a cross with 20 bezants; the bezants of the seal of 1436 and of 1789 were each charged with a small cross."

The flag was adopted on 2 February 1981.

Jarig Bakker, 5 November 2001

Square municipal flag

[Square flag]by Ivan Sache

The TV magazine Télétourisme (RTBF - French-speaking Belgian TV) showed in an issue dedicated to West Flanders the Peter Benoit Museum in Harelbeke. In front of the Museum entrance, the municipal flag of Harelbeke was hoisted on a pole. It had the same design as reported above, but was square.

Ivan Sache, 5 October 2002

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