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Izegem (Municipality, Province of West Flanders, Belgium)

Last modified: 2007-12-02 by ivan sache
Keywords: izegem | cross (black) | ducks: 12 (black) | merlettes: 12 (black) | martlet |
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[Flag of Izegem]

Municipal flag of Izegem - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 19 July 2005

See also:

Presentation of Ichtegem

The municipality and town (Stad) of Izegem (26,486 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 25.48 sq. km.) is located 10 km north of Kortrijk and 10 km south-west of Roeselare, some 15 km of the border with France. Izegem is located on the river Mandel, transformed into the canal of Roeselare to the Leie in 1867-1870, with European gauge of 1,350 tons. The municipality of Izegem is made since 1976 of former municipalities of Izegem (including Kachtem since 1964) and Emelgem.

Izegem was, in the Frankish period, the estate (heim) of the Isinga family. The oldest mention of Izegem dates back to 1066, when Count of Flanders Baudouin V transferred six farms in "Isinchehem" to the St. Peter's chapter in Lille. However, the valley of the Mandel was already settled in the Prehistoric times. Prehistoric, Roman and Frankish remains have been found mostly in the village of Emelgem. Izegem was evangelized by the Saxon monk St. Tillo around 650 and depended on the Bishopric of Tournai until 1794; it was then transferred to the Bishopric of Ghent until 1834, when it was eventually transferred to the Bishopric of Bruges.
The domain of Izegem was made a County in 1582 by King Philip II. King Louis XIV made of Izegem a Principality in 1678 after its incorporation to France in 1668. The last Prince of Izegem, Vilain XIV of Ghent, was guillotined in Paris in 1792. Before the Vilain, Izegem was successively ruled by the lords of Izegem (1066-1257), Maldegem (1257-1297), Heule (1297-1414) and Stavele (1414-1555), who bore the title of lords of Izegem. After the Vilain, the, then virtual, title of Prince of Izegem, was transfered to the Brancas (1794-1812) and the Arenberg (1812-1828). The most important document of the feudal period kept in Izegem is the census made in 1502; at that time, the lord of Izegem, vassal of the Count of Flanders, had 61 vassals, 15 of them living in Izegem, and ruled 13 parishes.

In the XVIth century, Izegem was the most important linen production center in the valley of Mandel. The blue linen known as Yseghemsche blaeukens or bocraen was the speciality of Izegem. A new market hall was built in 1577, the year the market of Izegem overgrew the market of Kortrijk.
The Protestant Iconoclasts (Beeldenstormers) plundered the St. Tillo's church of Izegem on 22-23 August 1566, and later the churches of Emelgem, Kachtem and Ingelmunster. Between 1578 and 1509, the economy declined since Izegem was a fortified town, often damaged during the Eighty Years' War. The Twelve Years' Truth (1609-1621) did not improve the situation of Izegem, which carried on declining all along the XVIIth century, due to poor harvests, starvation, war and epidemics. In 1710, there were only 219 inhabitants and ten houses in the town. Flax cultivation and linen production resumed in 1715.
In 1798, Izegem was one of the centers of the Farmers' War (Boerenkrijg), a short-lived revolt against conscription imposed by the French occupants on 4 September 1798. The conscripts were called Brigands. On 25 October 1798, some 700-800 brigands came from the neighbouring village of Rumbeke and besieged Izegem. They cut down the tree of freedom on the market square and burned the public and conscription registry they had found in the town hall. They left Izegem the same day but unrest lasted a few more days. On Sunday 28 October 1978, known as Brigands' Sunday (Brigandszondag), the brigands met in the bordering city of Ingelmunster a company of French infantry on their way from Bruges to Kortrijk. Dozens of brigands were killed; 27 of them were buried in Izegem, six in Kachtem and four in Emelgem. The stele commemorating them can be seen in the gate of the St. Tillo's church in Izegem.

Izegem warmly supported the Belgian independence in 1830. When the Dutch garrison was expelled from Brussels in the night of 26-27 September, an inhabitant of Izegem hoisted the Belgian tricolor flag on the turret of the town hall. On the market square, the lion (symbolizing the Netherlands) was removed from the top of the gable of the house of the judge, who was an Orangist. Lions were removed from a few other places. Dutch cheese balls were taken from the cheese shop and threwn into the streets.
Linen industry declined in 1840, and was replaced in Izegem by shoe and brush production, still the two main industries in the town. In the XXth century, Izegem grew to be the principal production centre of shoemaking in Belgium. Till the 1950s Izegem firms turned out over 50% of the total Belgian production. From then onwards there was a decline which continues till today. Izegem houses the National Footwear Museum, founded in 1966, and the National Brushmaking Museum.

Source: Municipal website

Ivan Sache, 19 July 2005

Municipal flag of Izegem

The municipal flag of Izegem is white, quartered by a black cross with three black beakless and legless ducklings in each quarter.
According to Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel, the flag was adopted by the Municipal Council on 1 October 1979, confirmed by Royal Decree on 28 January 1980 and published in the Belgian official gazette on 23 April 1980. This is a banner of the municipal arms.

The municipal website gives more details on the municipal coat of arms.
King of the Netherlands William I granted the title of Town to Izegem in 1817. He granted municipal arms to the town on 20 October 1819, as:
Een schild van zilver, beladen met een kruis en gecantonneerd van drie jonge eendjes zonder bek en poten, alle in zwart - het schild gedekt met een gouden kroon. ("Argent, a cross sable; in each quarter three merlettes 2 and 1, also sable - the shield topped with a crown or").

These arms were confirmed by King of the Belgians Leopold I on 29 May 1838. The Royal Decree signed by King Baudouin I on 28 January 1980 corrected a mistake on the placement of the ducklings. Servais shows the old placement of the ducklings on the arms as 2 + 1, centered, whereas the municipal website shows the current placement of the ducklings, 2 + 1 justified on the border of the shield.
The municipality took the arms of the lords of Izegem (1066/1080-1257), reused by their followers, the lords of Maldegem (1257-1297). Recent research has shown that these arms are older than the marriage of Elisabeth of Izegem with Zeger of Maldegem. The later rulers of Izegem used different arms.

Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat, Mike Oettle & Ivan Sache, 10 April 2007

Merlettes and martlets

The appropriate word to use for the legless and beakless ducklings is merlette and not martlet. Heraldry acknowledges three types of legless, beakless bird, occurring in three distinct regions. The martlet occurs chiefly in British armory (England, Scotland, Ireland) and is a form of swallow or martin. The merlette is found in coats of arms from France and the Low Countries, and is a duck or duckling. In German heraldry one finds the gestämmelte Amsel, which is a kind of lark.

Mike Oettle, 10 April 2007

Neubecker [neu97a] claims that the martlet was designed from elements of larks, swallows and swifts. He says that martlets can be seen on seals from 1185 onwards, but were already described as the charges of the shield of Lancelot du Lac by Chrétien de Troyes in his tale of chivalry, written before 1172.

Brian Timms explains further in his French/English heraldic glossary:

merlette: martlet
Acc. to B, the merlette is a swallow, depicted without legs, and later us. without a beak: "The French martlet is not a swallow, but a duckling. According to Théodore Veyrin-Forrer, Précis d'héraldique, Paris, 1951, Arts Styles et Techniques, p. 114, la canette représente la cane ou le canard; si elle est dépourvue du bec et des pattes, elle devient une merlette.
The reasons for the lack of beak and legs are either through artistic error in showing small charges, or a confusion with coupé, which does not mean cut off, but tufted, that is with feathers. In any case, "(heraldry) standardised, if it did not invent this conventionalised bird" (C).
The connection with Fr. merle, blackbird, is not obvious, although it may have been intended to portray a little blackbird. The word merlette means literally a female blackbird, and in this sense it occurs several times in the civic heraldry of France.
OED gives the meaning of martlet as swift, Cypselus apus (from Gk. apous, without feet), which, because it was rarely seen on the ground, was thought to have no feet. The swift in turn was confused with the swallow [thus the martlets, hirondelles, in the arms of Arundel, West Sussex].
The canette (qv.) is sometimes represented by the duckling and sometimes by the merlette.

Ivan Sache, 10 April 2007

It may be even less simple than that: In Portuguese heraldry, heavily influenced by English heraldry, we name merletas (from French merlette according to the usual "portuguezation" of -ette-ending loanwords) what looks exactly like English martlets, not at all like duck(ling)s.

António Martins, 11 April 2007

Former flag of Izegem

[Former flag of Izegem]

Former municipal flag of Izegem - Image by Filip van Laenen, 6 November 2001

A former flag of Izegem, adopted on 3 July 1978, was similar to the current flag, but square.

Source: Flags of the Low Countries, by Filip Van Laenen

Jarig Bakker, 6 November 2001