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Woluwe-Saint-Lambert / Sint-Lambrechts-Woluwe (Municipality, Region of Brussels-Capital, Belgium)

Last modified: 2011-11-11 by ivan sache
Keywords: woluwe-saint-lambert | sint-lambrechts-woluwe |
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[Flag of Woluwe-St.L.]

Municipal flag of Woluwe-Saint-Lambert / Sint-Lambrechts-Woluwe - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 22 November 2005

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Presentation of Woluwe-Saint-Lambert / Sint-Lambrechts-Woluwe

The municipality of Woluwe-Saint-Lambert (French) / Sint-Lambrechts-Woluwe (Dutch) (48,315 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 767 ha) is one of the 19 bilingual municipalities forming the region of Brussels-Capitale.

In the middle of the 11th century, significant clearings were made in the part of the forest of Soignes located on the middle course of river Woluwe. A rural estate was founded in one of these clearings around a church dedicated to St. Lambert, the famous bishop of Liège.

The main source on St. Lambert's life is a lectio entitled Vita Landiberti episcopi Traiectensis vetustissima. A lectio is not an historical biography but a liturgical text; St. Lambert's lectio was mot probably read in church on 17 September, the saint's day. The text was written between 742 and 743; therefore, the author could not have met Lambert personally but met some of his contemporaries. The author wrote in scripta latina rustica, which is the main step on the evolution from classical Latin to the Romance language; this language is called "rustic" because it was acessible to everybody during the religious ceremonies. St. Lambert's Vita is clearly modelled on an earlier similar text, Vita Sancti Eligii, St. Egidius' life; in the Merovingian times, plagiarism of popular sacred texts was the rule; the original material was supplemented with a few, often stereotypical details.
The introduction of St. Lambert's Vita says a lot about his background: "The glorious pontifex Lambert came from Maastricht. He was raised by rich land owners in an old Christian family including respected counts." Like Egidius, Arnoul of Metz and Didier of Cahors, Lambert fits the model of the "culture of the clerical aristocracy", which emerged in the Frankish kingdoms as a way for the aristocracy to reconquer the social and political position it had in the pagan times. Later in the text, Lambert is portrayed as "extremely beautiful, strong and vivacious, very agile and brave at war; with a dispassionate mind and an elegant stature; firm in charity, chastity and humility, he devoted himself to study." This combination of the attributes of saintliness and aristocracy is therefore very coherent.
The Merovingian society was very violent and the bishops, involved in the political fights, had a dangerous life. In 669-675, Bishop of Tongeren Théodard, one of Lambert's teachers, was murdered in still obscure circumstances. The councillors of King Childéric II (662-675) proposed to grant the bishopric to Lambert, who became a very influential man. The king was murdered in 675; the former Mayor of the Palace Ébroïn, who had had his hair cut and had been locked in a monastery on Childéric's order, escaped and took the power in Neustria and Burgundy with the support of the Austrasians. Ébroïn ruled Neustria and Burgundy "on behalf" of King Theudebert III, whereas Austrasia was ruled by Dagobert II (676-679), "supported" by Duke Wulfoald, a former influential man in the court of Childéric II. During this troubled period, Bishop Lambert was overthrown and replaced by Pharamond, who ruled the Bishopric of Tongeren-Maastricht for seven years. Most historians have supposed that Lambert, like Léger in Autun, was the victim of the repression exerted by Ébroïn; recent data seem to prove the opposite: accordingly, Lambert would have been sacked by Dagobert II and Wulfoald, who suspected him to be too close to Ébroïn. The Vita does not give details: Lambert was sacked because of "iniquitous and false informations" given against him. He retired in the abbey of Stavelot. Seven years later, Pharamond was overthrown and expelled from the "Province" of Maastricht, and the clergy and the people called back Lambert, appointed again bishop by Prince Pippin II. This must have happened between 675 and 682. The quarrel between Lambert and Pharamond was most probably the consequence of a quarrel between two powerful lineages.
After his return, Lambert evangelized the northern part of the Frankish kingdom, probably in association with the war set up by Pippin against the pagan Frisons. Lambert's methods were basic. The Vita says: "He destroyed there several temples and idols." Lambert's tragic end involves new characters, for instance the infamous brothers Gallus and Rivaldus. They attacked Lambert and his faithfuls, and were killed by Lambert's relatives. Dodo, a relative of Gallus and Rivaldus, was the domesticus of Pippin II, that is the head of a private militia. Dodo and his henchmen rushed to Liège; Lambert hold a sword to defend his life but renounced to kill and dropped his weapon. The foes entered the house and killed everybody there; one of them climbed on the roof, removed tiles, discovered the bishop praying in his room and killed him with his javeline. The murder was committed on 17 September; the year is unknown, it must not be later than 705.

As soon as the end of the 12th century, the canons of the Sts. Michael and Gudule collegiate church in Brussels obtained the ecclesiastic rights on the parish of Woluwe-Saint-Lambert. In the 13th century, charities (Saint-Jean and Ter Aken hospitals) and burghers of Brussels had properties in Woluwe. In the 16-18th centuries, manors and big farms were built in Woluwe, such as the Hof van Brussel, the Hof ten Berg (1750) and the Château Malou (1776), owned in 1829 by the Orangist minister Pierre-Louis Van Gobbelschroy and later (1853-1886) by the minister and banker Jules Malou (1810-1886).
The Dukes of Brabant owned the feudal rights on Woluwe but they shared the domain with other big landlords, such as the lords of Brussels, the feudal family of Woluwe and the powerful abbeys of Forest and Park-lez-Louvain. Therefore, Woluwe remained a rural area divided in big estates; industry was represented by two paper mills and breweries. The mill of Lindekemale, mentioned in 1119, is one of the oldest known mills in Brussels.

Urbanization started in Woluwe in the 1890-1900s. A posh borough in a grid pattern was set up after the building of boulevard Brand Whitlock (1901-1906). The new borough was built in Art Nouveau and later Modern Art architectural styles. The town hall, built in 1937-1939 on place du Tomberg, is emblematic of the fonctionalist Art Déco. It was designed by Joseph Diongre, who designed also the Radio Hall (Maison de la Radio) in Ixelles. Woluwe is a busy university center (10,000 students) since the Catholic University of Louvain set up there the Faculty of Medecine and the St. Luc University Clinics.


Ivan Sache, 22 November 2005

Municipal flag of Woluwe-Saint-Lambert / Sint-Lambrechts-Woluwe

The municipal flag of Woluwe-Saint-Lambert, as communicated by the municipal administration, is vertically divided black-white.
The colours of the flag are taken from the municipal coat of arms, adopted by the Municipal Council on 24 July 1934, confirmed by Royal Decree on 10 February 1936 and published in the Belgian official gazette on 20 March 1936 as De sable au chef d'argent chargé de trois oiseaux de sable becqués et membrés de gueules rangés, l'écu posé devant et vers la dextre d'un Saint-Lambert tenant de la dextre une crosse épiscopale tournée à senestre, de la senestre un livre ouvert et écrasant sous ses pieds un guerrier casqué tenant de la senestre une épée, le tout d'or ("Sable a chief argent three birds sable beaked and membered gules [...]").
The shield is supported by St. Lambert holding a bishop's crozier in his right hand and an open book in his left hand and trampling a warrior holding a sword in his left hand, all in gold.

On the municipal website, a picture of the town hall shows the municipal flag hoisted along with the flags of Belgium and European Union.

Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 22 November 2005