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Waasmunster (Municipality, Province of East Flanders, Belgium)

Last modified: 2009-01-17 by ivan sache
Keywords: waasmunster | waasland | mermaid (yellow) | turnip (yellow) |
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[Flag of Waasmunster]

Municipal flag of Waasmunster - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 11 January 2008

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Presentation of Waasmunster

The municipality of Waasmunster (10,329 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 3,193 ha) is located between Ghent and Antwerp, in the region of Waasland.

Waasmunster emerged on the banks of the river Durme, on a place already settled 2000 BP, as a Gallo-Roman trade center called "vicus pontrave". There are very few remains of the Frankish and Merovingian periods but the early village of Waasmunster has a triangular structure, typical of Frankish settlements and shared with the neighbouring villages of Sombeke and Sint-Anna.

The region of Waasland was evangelized around 800 during the reign of Charlemagne. The name of Waasmunster ("Wasiae monasterium") recalls the foundation of a monastery in the village; together with Beveren, Rupelmonde and Temse, Waasmunster, nicknamed "the mother church of Waasland", was one of the four religious centers of Waasland. Upon request by Bishop of Tournai Walter de Marvis, nuns from the convent of Les Prez Prochins set up in 1237-1238 the abbey of Roosenberg ("Monte Rosarium") on a place called Hoogdonck and located near the Durme. The abbey was suppressed in a blaze in 1419, plundered by the Ghent militia in 1379 and 1459, and plundered again by the Calvinists in 1578, but rebuilt every time. After the French Revolution, the abbey was transformed into barracks. In 1831, lady Johanna van Doorselaer ten Reyen bought a few buildings in the town of Waasmunster and refounded the abbey, known as Roosenberg II. The abbey was transferred in 1975 to a new, calm site; Roosenberg III was designed by the Benedictine architect Hans van de Laan.
The village of Waasmunster was one of the 19 villages of Waasland that were granted municipal rights by the Counts of Flanders; it included some 20 domains, such as Pontrave, Ten Reyen, Van Roden and Sombeke.

Source: Toerisme Waasmunster website

Ivan Sache, 15 December 2007

Municipal flag of Waasmunster

The municipal flag of Waasmunster is vertically divided blue-yellow with a yellow mermaid holding a yellow turnip placed in the blue stripe.
According to Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel [w2v02a], the flag was adopted by the Municipal Council on 5 June 1987, confirmed by the Executive of Flanders on 1 March 1988 and published in the Belgian official gazette on 16 September 1988.

[Former flag of Waasmunster]

Former flag of Waasmunster - Image by Ivan Sache, 15 December 2007

Blue and yellow are the traditional colours of Waasland; a vertically divided blue-yellow flag has been used for decades, unofficially, in Waasmunster.

According to Servais [svm55a], the municipal arms of Waasmunster, granted by (Dutch) Royal Decree on 13 October 1818 and confirmed by (Belgian) Royal Decree on 9 July 1849, are "Or a mermaid proper holding a turnip proper". Shown on a municipal seal in the 18th century, the mermaid is of unknown origin and meaning.

The story of the Waasland turnip is told by Servais as follows (quoting the translation from the International Civic Heraldry website):

Emperor Charles V once visited the city of Sint Niklaas and obviously a crowd gathered to see the emperor. Among these was a small farmer holding a huge turnip, which he wanted to hand to the emperor. The guards, however, prevented the farmer to reach the emperor. The emperor, however, noticed that something was happening and asked the farmer what he had in his hands. The farmer answered that he had a giant fruit and that he wanted to give it to the emperor. The emperor was intrigued and let the farmer pass the guards. The emperor accepted the turnip and awarded the farmer with a large purse.
Seeing the reward for a simple turnip, a local horsebreeder imagined the award he would fetch if he gave the emperor a good horse. So he offered the emperor a beautiful horse. The emperor responded, saying that for a beautiful horse, he would donate one of his precious possessions, and handed the breeder the turnip. Embarrassed the breeder had to accept the turnip, which ever since has been the symbol of the Waasland and its fertile soil.

The famous turnip is portrayed on the municipal flags of Lokeren, Sint-Gillis-Waas, Sint-Niklaas and Waasmunster.

Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 15 December 2007