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Harelbeke (Municipality, Province of West Flanders, Belgium)

Last modified: 2007-12-02 by ivan sache
Keywords: harelbeke | cross (yellow) | discs: 20 (yellow) | constantinople |
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[Flag of Harelbeke]         [Square flag]

Municipal flag of Harelbeke - Images by Ivan Sache, 5 October 2002
Left, official flag
Right, unofficial, square variant of the flag

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Presentation of Harelbeke and its villages

The municipality of Harelbeke (26,294 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 2,914 ha) is located 5 km of Kortrijk, 40 km of Ghent, 20 km of Roeselare, 30 km of Lille (France) and 60 km of the North Sea. The municipality of Harelbeke is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Harelbeke, Bavikhove and Hulst.

The name of Harelbeke comes from the Germanic word haru, diminutive harula, which means "a sandy hill ridge". The small river Arendsbeek has its bed in the sand and flows into the Leie under the Market Place of Harelbeke.
Harelbeke became an important town around 1040, when Count Boudewijn V of Flanders established a chapter in the St. Saviour Church (Sint Salvatorskerk). After an administrative reorganization of the County of Flanders, Harelbeke was the capital city of a canton (roede) in 1071.

Due to its geographical location, Harelbeke has always been an important trade and industry center. Its municipal market was founded in 1264. Harelbke is located on the river Leie and very close to the Scheldt-Leie and Roeselare-Leie canals. The town is crossed by the ancient Ghent-Kortrijk road, built in XVIIIth century, and is close to the E17 highway, inaugurated in 1971. The railway station was built at the end of the XIXth century. At that time, several "pendular" workers took the train to go to the north of France.

Harelbeke is the birth town of the musician Peter Benoit (1834-1901), violonist, composer and conducer, who directed the Royal Flemish Academy of Music in Antwerp; of the biker Dirk Demol (1959), who won the cyclist race Paris-Roubaix in 1988; of the cartoonist O-Sekoer (1955), a.k.a. Luc Descheemaeker, whose pseudonym is the Flemish transliteration of Au secours, in French "help"; of the tennisman Xavier Malisse (1980); and of the walker Willye Delrue (1940), who has been walking at least 20 km per day since more than 20 years and has reached a total of 100,000 km in 1997.

Bavikhove is also a Germanic toponym. In 1120, a parchment roll called Rotulus Harlebecensis mentioned Villa Bavinghova, "the estate of Bavo's people".

Hulst dates back to Charlemagne, who gave around 800 to Liederik II of Harelbeke an abbey located near a holly (hulst) wood.

Source: Municipal website

Ivan Sache, 5 October 2002

Municipal flag of Harelbeke

The municipal flag of Harelbeke is red with a yellow cross and five yellow discs placed per saltire in each quarter.
According to Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel, the flag was adopted by the Municipal Council on 14 July 1980, confirmed by Royal Decree on 2 February 1981 and published in the Belgian official gazette on 11 March 1981.
The TV magazine Télétourisme (RTBF - French-speaking Belgian TV) showed in an issue dedicated to West Flanders the Peter Benoit Museum in Harelbeke. In front of the Museum entrance, the municipal flag of Harelbeke was hoisted on a pole, in a square version.

According to the municipal website, this banner, originally the banner of arms of Constantinople, "Gules a cross or cantonned with five bezants or placed per saltire in each canton", was granted to the Lords of Harelbeke by Boudewijn of Flanders, Emperor of Constantinople.
The municipal seals of the town of Harelbeke had in 1542, 1547, 1676, 1789 a shield with a cross with 20 bezants; the bezants of the seal of 1436 and of 1789 were each charged with a small cross.

The bezant being originally a gold coin from Byzance, this coat of arms seems to be very appropriate for Constantinople. However, sources differ in their description of the coat of arms of Constantinople.
The Gelre Armorial shows for Constantinople:
- "Gules a cross or cantonned with four crosslets or surrounded by an annulet of the same" for the Latin Emperors of Constantinople (Die Keyser v. Constantinopel, #1484, folio 104v);
- "Ermine two fesses azure a canton Constantinople" for the Emperor of Trebizond (Die Keyser v. Troppezunt, #1486, folio 105r);
- "Quarterly, 1 and 4 azure, 2 and 3 Constantinople" for the Emperor of Bodum (Die Keyser van Boddiin, #1487, folio 105r);
- "Per pale Constantinople and azure" for the Emperor of Tricala (Die Keyser v. Vitric, #1488, folio 105r).
These arms have only four charges per canton, kinds of voided bezants with a cross superimposed.
The EarlyBlazon website shows the arms of the Latin Empire of Constantinople with in each canton five yellow crosslets surrounding another yellow crosslet surrounded by a yellow ring. These arms have therefore five charges with only the central one looking like a voided bezant.

Servais says that the oldest known municipal seal of Harelbeke, dated 1436, shows a cross with in each quarter four bezants each charged with a smaller cross. The 1789 seal is similar but other seals from the XV-XVIIth century show the bezants without the cross. The municipal website says that the seals of the town had in 1542, 1547, 1676, 1789 a shield with a cross with 20 bezants; the bezants of the seal of 1436 and of 1789 were each charged with a small cross.
Therefore, the voided bezant seems to be indeed a bezant charged with a cross - on a seal, there is no problem with the colour of the cross being the same as the colour of the bezant, whereas on a coat of arms, the bezant should be voided to make the cross visible! It seems also that at some time the seal was simplified by suppressing the cross from the voided bezant, which looks on the seal like a bezant.
Whatever the charges of the arms are, these arms seem to have been borrowed from the Paleologues after the seizure of Constantinople by the Crusaders, the firesteels being replaced by bezants.

Before the arms of Constantinople, the lords of Harelbeke used other arms, "Or a chevron gules a border engrailed argent" (Gelre Armorial, Arlebeke, #1000, folio 82v). The modern arms of Harelbeke are "Argent a chevron gules".

Pascal Vagnat, Jarig Bakker & Ivan Sache, 14 July 2007