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Meise (Municipality, Province of Flemish Brabant, Belgium)

Last modified: 2008-03-29 by ivan sache
Keywords: meise | wolvertem |
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Presentation of Meise

The municipality of Meise (18,545 inhabitants on 1 January 2007, including the cyclist Eddy Merckx; 3,482 ha) is located 10 km north of Brussels and 5 km west of Grimbergen. The municipality of Meise is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Meise and Wolvertem.

Meise has got its name from the Latin words mansio, "a settlement", or mansus, "a house". The Romans probably built a fort on the crossing of two ways, but the area had been inhabited much earlier, as proved by three Neolithic flints found in 1876 by Edward Hayes and shown today in the Museum for Art and History of Brussels. The village of Meise developed in the Frankish times; in 648, a small church dedicated to St. Martin was built there, replaced in the Xth century by a stone church, to which towers were added in the XIth century.
In the Middle Ages, Meise was incolved in the struggle between the lords of Grimbergen, from the Berthout family, and the Dukes of Brabant. Meise belonged to the Berthout but the castle of Bouchout was owned by the Duke of Brabant, who used it as a protection against the Berthout. Founded by the Berthout, the abbey of Grimbergen owned the rights on the church of Meise and therefore exerted a strong political power on the village. Too high, the power of the Berthout was dramatically limited by the Duke of Brabant at the end of the XIIth century.
The St. Martin church was destroyed by the Iconoclasts in 1567, while the French soldiers burned the village in 1664. Until the beginning of the XVIIIth century, the village was scoured by epidemics, hunger and foreign troops. It blossomed again during the Austrian rule, with a population of 600 in 1747. The village had 2,512 inhabitants in 1831, but Nieuwenrode (incorporated to Kapelle-op-den-Bos in 1976) was made an independent municipality in 1874, taking away a significant part of the territory of Meise.

The National Botanic Garden of Belgium has been set up in the 92-ha park of the castle of Bouchout, purchased from the Royal family, in 1939 to show the plants formerly grown in the Brussels Botanic Garden, located in the municipality of Saint-Josse-ten-Noode. It is one of the biggest botanic gardens in the world, with an herbarium (3,000,000 specimens, among which the Herbarium Martii collected by Carl Friedrich Philipp von Martius (1794-1868), mostly in Brazil, a library (60,000 books and documents, including Martius' archives) and living collections, some of them beign grown in glasshouses forming the Plants' Palace. The Balat glasshouse, designed in 1854 by the architect Alphonse Balat, was moved from the Leopold Park to the Brussels Botanic Garden and eventually to Meise.

Wolvertem was mentioned for the first time, as Vulvrethem, in 1095 in the founding chart of the abbey of Dieleghem. The name of the town is of Frankish origin, meaning "Wolfrath's estate". The town was therefore named after its founder and not, whatever the local legend says, after wolves supposed to have scoured the region. The oldest known lord of Wolvertem, Onulfus, was mentioned in 1095. Most of the land in the village was owned by the abbeys of Dieleghem, Grimbergen and Groot-Bijgaarden, that started to clear the woods in the XIIIth century to set up the three rural colonies of Wolvertem, Imde and Meuzegem.

Source: Municipal website

Ivan Sache, 1 September 2007

Municipal flag of Meise

The flag of Meise is horizontally divided red-yellow-blue with a black wolf holding a white lamb in its mouth on the yellow stripe, skewed to the hoist.
According to Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel, the flag was adopted by the Municipal Council on 10 December 1981, confirmed by the Executive of Flanders on 1 April 1985 and published in the Belgian official gazette on 8 July 1986.

The flag was clearly derived from the municipal arms, "Or a fess azure a saltire gules overall in chief a wolf sable holding a lamb argent in its mouth".
The former arms of Meise were granted by Royal Decree on 15 March 1966, after a local seal featuring the arms of the lords of Grimbergen ("Or a fess azure a saltire gules overall"). The shield is supported by St. Martin and the poor. Wolvertem had no arms but a seal showing the canting wolf, which was added to the chief of the new municipal arms of Meise.

Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 1 September 2007