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Dendermonde (Municipality, Province of East Flanders, Belgium)


Last modified: 2008-04-05 by ivan sache
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[Flag of Dendermonde]

Municipal flag of Dendermonde - Image by Filip van Laenen , 14 October 2001

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Presentation of Dendermonde

The municipality of Dendermonde (in French, Termonde; 43,521 inhabitants on 1 July 2007; 5,567 ha) is located in the middle of the triangle Ghent-Brussels-Antwerp, on the confluency (monde) of the Dender and the Scheldt. The municipality of Dendermonde is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Dendermonde (including Appels and Sint-Gillis-bij-Dendermonde since 1971), Baasrode, Grembergen, Mespelare, Oudegem and Schoonaarde.

The area near the confluency of the Dender and the Scheldt was already inhabited in the Neolithic: artifacts have been found during dredging operations in the rivers (a primitive animal statue, iron pliers) and excavation works in the polders of Appels and Dendermonde. Two Gallo-Roman tombs were found in Boonwijk, dated 125-150 AD. A tumulus marks the site of a Merovingian village built on the bank of the Dender in the V-VIIth century.

Dendermonde was incorporated in the German Empire in 880 as a part of the Rijksvlaanderen (Imperial Flanders). After the withdrawal of the Northmen in 883, Count Boudewijn II of Flanders incorporated most of Imperial Flanders to his county. In the middle of the Xth century, there was a stone castle on the site of the current justice court, surrounded by the Dender and the Fish Canal. Merchants and travelers looking for a safe place built a town, whose wealth originated from the famous Dendermonde cloth. In the XIth century, the Count of Flanders transferred his rights on Dendermonde to the St. Bavo abbey in Ghent, that appointed the first lords of Dendermonde. The town defenses were increased with earth walls and canals. The Romanesque church was built to house the relics of the patron saints of the town, Sts. Hliduardus and Christiana. The town increased in the XII-XIIIth centuries and was surrounded with a town wall and gates. A Cistercian nun's abbey was founded near the Brussels gate in 1223; this was the first of a long series of monasteries, asylums, chapels, hospitals and leper-houses built in the town.
In 1233, Robrecht van Béthune granted a chart to the town, which wa then protected by four gates, a wooden "water fence" and iron chains on the Dender. The administrative and economic center of the town developed on the left bank of the Dender, with the building of wealthy houses by the merchants' guilds; a belfry, symbol of the municipal liberties, was built in 1337-1350. In 1347, the last lord of Dencermonde sold the town to the King of France, who transferred it the next year to the Count of Flanders Lodewijk van Male. In 1380, the militia from Ghent seized and plundered Dendermonde for the second time; the ruined town was incorporated in 1384 to the Duchy of Burgundy. Duke Philip the Handsome allowed a yearly market in 1397 and the town hall was rebuilt near the belfry.

The blossoming cloth industry vanished in the XVIth century. Dendermonde was not hit by the first Iconoclast fury in 1566 but was sacked by the Spaniards in 1572. After the seizure of the town by Alexander Farnese in 1584, Dendermonde developed again with the building of several monasteries and of the triangular citadel known as the Spanish Castle, built in 1584-1593 between the Dender and the Scheldt. The town resisted the troops of Louis XIV in 1667 but was sacked once again by the Anglo-Dutch army in 1706. Following the Treaty of the Barriers (1715-1716), the United Provinces were allowed to set up a garrison in seven towns of the Austrian Netherlands. Among them, Dendermonde was the only one to have a municipal garrison. The town was further protected from France by Dutch and Austrian garrisons.
Dendermonde was seized for the last time by King of France Louis XV in 1745; then its strategic importance declined and the fortifications were suppressed. During the Austrian rule, the population and the activity of the town increased, thanks to the building of paved roads and canals. A paper mill inaugurated the industrial revolution in 1773, followed by a cotton printing workshop open in 1787. The cotton industry flourished in Dendermonde until the first half of the XXth century, employing hundreds of workers.

The Royal Academy of Fine Arts of Dendermonde was inaugurated in 1800 and became the cradle of the painters' movement known as the Dendermonde School. After the fall of Napoléon, new fortifications were built in Dendermonde; new town walls and gates were added in 1822-1824, whereas the arsenal and barracks were built in 1825-1830. During the second half of the XIXth century, the railway, the Scheldt canal, the lock on the mouth of the Dender and the revamped port contributed to the economic redevelopment of the town. In 1906, Dendermonde had more than 10,000 inhabitants and its fortifications were eventually decommissioned, allowing a better urban planning of the town. In September 1914, the Germans destroyed some 2,000 houses and public buildings and burned the municipal archives. The rebuilding of the town ended in the 1930s.

Dendermonde is the birth town of the politician Guy Verhofstadt (b. 1953), from the VLD (Flemish Liberals and Democrats). Verhofstadt was Minister of the Budget and Scientific Research from 1985 to 1987 in the sixth Martens government; his youth and his neo-liberal agenda yielded him the nickname of "Baby Thatcher". In 1991, he joined the opposition and transformed the PPV (Flemish Liberal Party) into the VLD, resigned after a failure in the election and came back in 1997, with a smoother agenda. From July 1999 to June 2003, he led the first Verhofstadt government, aka the "rainbow government", a coalition of Flemish and Walloon Liberals, Socialists and Ecologists. In July 2003, the second Verhofstadt government, aka "violet government", was a coalition of the Flemish and Walloon Liberals and Socialists together with the small Flemish nationalist party Spirit. Verhofstadt lost the 2007 elections and resigned on 11 June 2007.
However, the most famous child of Dendermonde is the singer Vanessa Chinitor (b. 1976), who finished 12th at the Eurovision song contest in 1999 with the so famous Like the wind. Her real name is Vanessa de Beul (if I understand correctly, this means "The Executioner" in Dutch, and she translated it into Romanian).
More palatable is the famous Dendermondse Witten, the Dendermonde rabbit bred, which smells particularly good when cooked with raisins and Kwak beer. The Association of the Dendermonde White Rabbits' Breeders is located in Seneffe.

Appels (368 ha) might have been named after an Apls brook and took its current name in the middle of the XIIIth century. It is still a rural village.

Baasrode includes the artists' hamlet of Vlassenbroek, located near the polder of the same name, covering 287 ha, that is one third of the territory of Vlassenbroek.

Grembergen, known in 1019 as Grenberga, is named after the silicious gravels (in Dutch, grind) that forms most of the soil of the village.

Mespelare is a small rural village (180 ha) located on the Dender. Its St. Aldegonde church, with Romanesque towers, is considered as one of the architecturally purest in Flanders. The Spanish Major was built by Jan Goubau, Magistrate in Antwerp and lord of Mespelare and Gizjegem.

Oudegem (also written in the past Odengem and Oudenghem) was mentioned for the first time in 1019, as a possession of the lord of Dendermonde. It is still a rural village. Oudegem is the birth village of the writers Justus de Harduwijn, the Prince of the Dutch literature; the popular writer Mrs. Courtmans-Berchmans; the educationalist Frans De Hovre, and the novelist Jef Scheirs, who depicted Oudegem in his book De Filosoof van Haaghem.

Schoonarde (563 ha) is located 7.5 km west of the center of Dendermonde, on the right bank of the Scheldt. The village is split into two parts by the Ghent-Dendermonde motorway and railway.

Sint-Gillis (1,062 ha) was originally known as Sueviacum, later Zwijvke. St. Giles became the patron saint of the parish in 1228 and the village was officially renamed after him some time between 1513 and 1583. Sint-Gillis is the birth place of the poet Emmanuel Hiel.

Source: Municipal website

Ivan Sache, 13 June 2007

Municipal flag of Dendermonde

The flag of Dendermonde is horizontally divided white-red-white (2:1:2).
According to Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel, the flag was adopted by the Municipal Council on 13 April 1989, confirmed by the Executive of Flanders on 13 June 1989 and published in the Belgian official gazette on 8 November 1989.
The flag is a banner of the municipal arms (without either the supporters or the crown).

The municipal website adds that the height of the red stripe is 1/4th of the flag height. The municipal arms are described as:
In het zilver een dwarsbalk van keel. Het schild getopt met een stedekroon met drie torens en gehouden door twee leeuwen van hetzelfde (Argent a fess gules. The shield surmonted with a municipal crown or with three towers and supported by two lions of the same).
On the official design of the coat of arms, the shield is in proportion 8:7 and the fess height is 2/7th the shield height, the fess being centered (the point of the shield is omitted in the calculations).

According to Servais, the arms of Dendermonde were granted on 7 October 1818 by (Dutch) Royal Decree and confirmed by (Belgian) Royal Decree on 31 July 1838 and, again, on 31 July 1974. These arms were already used in 1229 and appear on the lesser municipal seals in the XIIIth century and on the greater seals since 1412. They are derived from the arms of the lords of Béthune, lords of Dendermonde in 1227. Since the lords of Béthune originally used different arms, it is believed they took the arms of the town, but there is no historical evidence allowing to solve this circular reasoning!
The Gelre Armorial shows "Quarterly, I and IV argent a fess gules (Béthune), II and III fessy vair and gules (Coucy)" for Robert de Béthune, Viscount of Meaux (Viconte de Meeus, #452, folio 50v).

Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 13 June 2007