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Aarschot (Municipality, Province of Flemish Brabant, Belgium)

Last modified: 2007-10-20 by ivan sache
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[Flag of Aarschot]

Municipal flag of Aarschot - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 30 August 2005

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Presentation of Aarschot and its villages

The municipality and town (Stad) of Aarschot (28,021 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 6,251 ha) is located on the river Demer, 15 km north-east of Leuven, in the middle of a hilly region known as Hageland. The municipality of Aarschot is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Aarschot, Gelrode, Langdorp and Rillaar.

The name of Aarschot has a legendary Roman origin. Julius Caesar's army once stationaed on the hills of Hageland over the Demer river. Caesar leant on the shoulder of his nephew Aurelianus. He noticed an eagle (in Dutch, arend) looking for a prey. Caesar took his bow, aimed and shot (in Dutch, schoot). There was a big scream and the eagle fell down. Aurelianus hurried up downhill, swam across the river and picked up the dead bird. The bird has been hit (afgeschoten) in the beak (bek) and Aurelianus named the place Bekaf. He brought back the bird to Caesar and congratulated him for his shoot. Pleased by his nephew's good words, Caesar allowed him to build a fort called Aurelianustoren (Aurelianus' Tower) and later Orleanstoren (Orleans' Tower, still visible in the city). The place was named Arendschot, later Aarschot.

Aarschot developed in the XIII-XIVth century around the monumental Our Lady church (Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk), built in Demer Gothic style from 1337 to 1450. There was a Beguine convent near the church, active from 1302 to 1856. The Market Square (Grote Markt) is still surrounded by traditional houses with the famous Flemish step gable (trapgevel).
The inhabitants of Aarschot are nicknamed kasseistampers, that is street (lit., cobblestone) stompers. The nickname is related to the municipal watchmen who walked nightly all over the streets in order to protect the town from thieves and rascals. On cold nights, the watchmen prefered to sit in the pubs and drink beer. Their wives and the burghers of Aarschot were not happy and asked the watchmen to stomp in the streets with their clogs and halberds, so that everybody could state they actually did their job. To recall them, the Gilde van de Kasseistampers was founded in 1965 and is today one of the most famous carnival associations of Belgium.

Dorenberg was long time ago bugged by the nasty heibussen. They were vivid little men with short legs, curly hair and deep black eyes. They lived in ever deeper holes made in the ferruginous sandstone hills of Hageland. The heibussen had a lazy life: they did not work and lived by theft and plunder. They scoured the neighborhood and picked up what they needed. They really enjoyed setting fire to stables, hay and harvests. Those who were too old to join the incursions were buried alive. The villagers once decided to get rid of them, filled the entrance of their holes with straw and set up the fire. When the heibussen escaped, the angry villagers ran after them with clubs, flails, scythes and pitchforks. The heibussen managed to swim across the Demer and moved to Rillaar, where they hid in the moor. What happened next to them is not known.
Langdorp also had its nasty little men, the laplanders, who always wanted to borrow kitchen ustensils from the farmers. When the farmer refused, he had a bloody day. When the laplanders were given what they had required, work was made easy. It is said that the laplanders settled in Langdorp during the German wars and were expelled by the French.

Wolfsdonk had a famous inhabitant, Louis Verheyden (1891-1975), immortalized by the writer Ernest Claes (1885-1968) as "Witte van Zichem". After the death of his parents, young Louis was housed by his aunt Melanie and her husband, the village smith. They also owned a pub, where Louis drank more beer than milk. Louis moved to Liège, where he worked in the coal mines, and came back home in the beginning of the First World War. Lacking money, he smuggled butter with her beloved Suska. He made a lot of money until the Germans arrested him and jailed him for ten days. He married Suska in 1919 and they moved to Brussels where they worked as gardener and cook, respectively. Suska did not enjoy the urban life and they came back to Wolfsdonk. They were hired by the railway company and worked for twelve years in a switch factory. Louis worked for the last ten years of his active life in a bulding site in Leuven. Verheyden was not happy with Claes: he believed that the writer should have bought him much more beers than he did with the money he had made with his book.

Source: Municipal website

Ivan Sache, 30 August 2005

Municipal flag of Aarschot

The municipal flag of Aarschot is white with a blue fleur-de-lis.
According to Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel, the flag was adopted by the Municipal Council on 23 November 1981, confirmed by the Executive of Flanders on 5 Marsh 1985 and published in the Belgian official gazette on 8 July 1986.
The flag is a banner of the municipal arms.

According to Servais, the municipal arms of Aarschot were granted by (Dutch) Royal Decree on 15 September 1819 and confirmed by (Belgian) Royal Decree on 30 July 1841. The new municipality of Aarschot reused the arms of the former municipality after the fusion in 1976.
In the XIIth century, the Counts of Aarschot bore "Argent three fleurs-de-lis ...". The town later kept on its arms only one fleur-de-lis. The municipal arms are supported by an eagle, which is not Imperial but related to the legendary origin of the city reported above.
The Gelre Armorial shows "Argent three fleurs de lis couped sable" for Rasse of Rivière (Aerschot), Lord of Linter (De H. van Lynteren, #837, folio 73v), and "Gules three fleurs de lis couped or" for Jean of Aerschot, Lord of Schoonhoven (Jan van Scoonhoven, #873, folio 74v).
The Lalaing Armorial shows "Argent three fleurs de lis couped sable" for Rivière (House of Aerschot) (Rivier, #42, folio 73v) and "Gules three fleurs de lis couped or" for Schoonhoven (Aerschot) (Scoonhoven, #123, folio 78r).

Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 17 May 2007