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Arlon (Municipality, Province of Luxembourg, Belgium)


Last modified: 2004-06-19 by
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[Flag of Arlon]by Ivan Sache

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Presentation of Arlon

The municipality of Arlon (24,418 inhabitants; 12,029 hectares) is the capital city of the province of Luxembourg. The municipality is made of the city of Arlon sensu stricto and the former municipalities of Autelbas, Bonnert, Guirsch, Heinsch, Toernich, incorporated in 1976. Arlon is located in the region called Belgian Lorraine (Lorraine belge), historically linked to Lower-Lorraine (Basse Lorraine), a.k.a. Lothier.

The Celtic place called Are Launos was renamed by the Roman colons Orolaunum. The city developed under emperor Claudius (41-54), and was located near the crossroad between the Reims-Trier and Metz-Tongeren ways. Initially a vicus (open city), Orolaunum was later an oppidum(fortified city). The sources of the river Semois were a shrine dedicated to Apollo and there were thermae in the city.

Under the Merovingians, the St. Martin's church was built in the IVth century, being one of the earliest Christian churches in Belgium. Between the Vth and the VIIth centuries, the church had the rank of basilica. The church was destroyed in 1550 but its cemetary was used until 1830.

In the Xth century, the village of Autelbas developed a specific pottery style. This expensive earthenware was sold locally but also exported. There is today an archeological museum in Autelbas.

In the Middle Ages, the counts of Arlon were allied to the counts of Limburg. In 1214, however, count Waleran of Arlon married countess Ermesinde of Luxembourg. Arlon remained associated with Luxembourg until 1839. Ermesinde founded in 1250 the convent of Clairefontaines, which was ruled by Bernardine nuns. The convent was destroyed in 1794.

The castle of Barnick is a rare example of fortress built in a plain. It was probably built on the remains of a Carolingian villa. The castle belonged to the family of Autel from 1371 to the XVIth century. It was partially burned in 1983.

The city of Arlon was burned in 1424, 1563, 1569, 1660. It was trashed by the troops of the duke of Orléans (1542) and of the duke de Guise (1558, the counts' castle being destroyed), the Dutch (1604), the Croats (1636), and again the French (1681).The French left Arlon in 1697 and the city was rebuilt. The St. Donat's church is known for its frescos probably painted by Johan Georg Weiser around 1740. The church keeps a fragment of the saint's hip as a venerated relic. Donat was a Roman soldier who preserved emperor Marcus Aurelius (161-180) from lightning. He is invoked to protect persons and goods against thunderstorms and lightning.

After the Belgian independence (1830), the definitive borders of the new kingdom were fixed only in 1839. Arlon became the capital city of the Belgian province of Luxembourg. In 1830, Arlon was a small city with less than 4,000 inhabitants. It rapidly developed out of the remains of the ancient city walls.

The gastronomic speciality of Arlon and its region is a beverage called Maitrank (lit, May beverage). The Maitrank is prepared by macerating a plant called aspérule odorante (Asperula odorata L., family Rubiaceae) with oranges into Mosel wine. The Maitrank festival is celebrated in Arlon every last week-end of May.
In 1998, the Belgian Army (Force Terrestre) opened a training center to urban fighting, in which they reconstituted a small city, which was called Aspérulange (-ange is a common suffix in local toponyms also found in French Lorraine).

The forest of Udange, located near Arlon, is the only primary (i.e., not planted by man) forest in Belgium.


 Ivan Sache, 24 December 2003

Description of the flag of Arlon

The flag of Arlon is horizontally divided white-blue. It is a simplification of the municipal coat of arms.

Ivan Sache, 24 December 2003

Coat of arms of Arlon

The coat of arms of Arlon is:

Barry of ten pieces silver and azure a lion gules

It was granted by royal decree on 24 November 1841. The oldest known seal of Arlon (1311) shows a lion. Later seals used the arms of Luxembourg. In 1841, the colour of the nails of the lion were changed from or to gules to distinguish the arms of Arlon from the arms of Luxembourg. The lion is therefore plain red.

Source: M. Servais. 1955. Armorial des provinces et des communes de Belgique.

Ivan Sache, 24 December 2003