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Geetbets (Municipality, Province of Flemish Brabant, Belgium)

Last modified: 2007-11-24 by ivan sache
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[Flag of Geetbets]

Municipal flag of Geetbets - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 12 September 2006

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Presentation of Geetbets and its villages

The municipality of Geetbets (5,786 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 3,516 ha) is the easternmost municipality in Flemish Brabant, located in the rural region of Hageland, on the border with Limburg. The municipality of Geetbets is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Geetbets, Grazen (incorporated to Rummen in 1971) and Rummen (in French, Rumigny or Rumiens, including Grazen since 1971).
Geetbets, located on the left bank of the river Gete, belonged to the Duchy of Brabant, whereas Rummen and Grazen, located on the right bank of the Gete, belonged to the County of Loon and therefore later to the Principality of Liège. The river formed an administrative border but also a cultural and linguistic (dialectal) border. The flat land located between the towns of Halen, Zoutleeuw and Tienen was a place of battles and has always been been scoured by troops; accordingly, the villages located there were poor and their inhabitants often starved.

Geetbets (1,593 ha) was settled in early ages. A 6250 year old stone tool was found there, whereas a Merovingian sword (c. 550-600) was excavated in 1879 during the building of the bridge over the river Graasbeek. The name of the village appeared for the first time in 1156 as Bece (meaning beek, "a brook"), when the Bishop of Liège confirmed the rights of the abbey of Vlierbeek on the village. The abbey built there a farm, mentioned in 1454, from which the only remains are the entrance gate (1741) and the outbuildings (1814). Geetbets was granted its own priest in 1236.
The village probably developed around a fortress watching the main road linking the Brabantian towns of Zoutleeuw and Halen. The fortress seems to have been suppressed in the late XVIth century and was never rebuilt. In the XVth century, Geetbets was involved in violent fightings between the troops of the Duke of Brabant and the militias from Li&egreve;ge. In 1694, William III of Orange, King of England, came to Geetbest in order to inspect the defense lines set up along the river Gete.
The most famous child of Geetbets is the cyclist Tony Gakens (b. 1947), who won the bronze medal in the amateurs world championships in Leicester (United Kingdom) in 1970. During his professional career (1970-1979), Gakens won 23 races in Belgium and in the Netherlands.
Near the church of Geetbets stands the thickest and one of the oldest Gingko biloba tree in Europe. This tree is probably not younger that the one kept in the Utrecht Botanical Garden but is has a bigger circumference.

Rummen (1,597 ha) is the oldest and biggest village of the municipality. The oldest remains found there date back to the late Neolithic. The name of Rummen appears in 1078 when Countess Ermengarde of Loon gave the region of Rummen to the St. Batholomeuw church in Liège. The name of the village means "a big (in Dutch ruim) piece of land". Rummen is often presented as related to Rome and the Romans, but there is no archeological evidence of such a link. In 1233, Count Arnold VII of Loon founded in Rummen the Oriënteklooster, a Cistercian nun's monastery. There were never more than 20 nuns there, but the monastery became very wealthy. The nuns owned big farms, such as Terlenen, which belonged to them from 1240 to the French Revolution and was later transformed into a brewery and a distillery. When the monastery was sacked by the Iconoclasts in the XVIth century, the nuns exiled to Sint-Truiden.
In 1336, Count Lodewijk IV of Loon died without a male heir and a 30-year succession war started. Arnold van Rummen was one of the pretenders to the throne; he hoped to be supported by the Duke of Brabant and the Count of Flanders against the Prince-Bishop of Liège. On 9 August 1365, the militias from Liège besieged Arnold's fortress in Rummen; nine weeks later, the fortress was seized, completely destroyed and would never be rebuilt. Arnold abandoned his claims on Loon to the Prince-Bishop of Liège. From 1350 to 1474, Rummen minted its own coins. The free market also dates back to the middle of the XIVth century.
The remains of the castle built in the XVIth century and once considered as one of the nicest in the Principality of Liège are still visible in Rummen. In the XVIIth century, Rummen was occupied by several foreign armies. In 1741, a blaze broke out in a brewery of the vllage and destroyed nine more houses. After the Second World War, Rummen was known as a "glass village" because of the many glasshouses where mushrooms were grown.

Grazen (326 ha) is the smallest village in the municipality. The village was mentioned for the first time as Graast in 1217 in a chart signed by Count Lodewikjk II of Loon in 1217. The name of the village means "grassland". Until the middle of the XIXth century, the triangular village square was arranged around a lake surrounded by a pasture, a design unique in the region. The territory of the village is completely bordered by brooks, the Grondbeek and the Melsterbeek forming the border with Rummen whereas the Graesbeek forms the border with Zoutleeuw and Budingen. Together with Rummen, Gazen belonged to the County of Loon.

Source: Municipal website - texts by Guy Leus and Louis Ruytinx, members of the Geschiedkundige Kring Limes Gatia

Ivan Sache, 12 September 2006

Municipal flag of Geetbets

The municipal flag of Geetbets is horizontally divided green-red by a wavy white stripe (2:1:2).
According to Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel, the flag and arms were adopted by the Municipal Council on 27 January 1987, confirmed by the Executive of Flanders on 26 May 1987 and published in the Belgian official gazette on 3 December 1987.
The colours are taken from the municipal arms whereas the wavy stripe represents river Gete (and is taken from the former arms of Geetbets, something not mentioned in the source).

The today's arms of Geetbets, as shown on the municipal website, are "Per pale vert a St. Paul argent gules a cross or".
The arms of Geetbets before the fusion, as shown by Servais, were "Vert a wavy fess argent two diamonds or a stirrup of the same". The shield is hold by a St. Paul or. Those arms, originally borne by the Rijckman, lords of Geetbets in the XVIIth century, were granted by Royal Decree on 16 December 1932.

Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 12 September 2006