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Saint-Georges-sur-Meuse (Municipality, Province of Liège, Belgium)

Last modified: 2008-04-05 by ivan sache
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Presentation of Saint-Georges-sur-Meuse

The municipality of Saint-Georges-sur-Meuse (6,556 inhabitants on 1 January 2006; 2,090 ha) is located in the valley of the Meuse, between Huy and Liège. In 1976, the municipality of Saint-Georges was added the hamlet of La Mallieue, formerly part of Engis, located on the Meuse, and the municipality was renamed Saint-Georges-sur-Meuse.

Saint-Georges-sur-Meuse emerged in the Merovingian period in a region already settled in much older times. Remains from the Middle Paleolithic, the Mesolithic, the Neolithic (a village of the Omalian culture in Dommartin), the Ages of Bronze and Iron, the Gallo-Roman period (villae and tombs) have been found in or near Saint-Georges. The tradition says that, in the middle of the VIIth century, St. Ode built a Christian oratory dedicated to St. Georges, around which the village of the same name developed. St. Ode is also the mythical founder of the churches of Amay (where her sarcophagus was found recently), Huy and Les Waleffes.

The most important feudal domain in Saint-Geroges was the domain of Warfusée, whose lords played a significant part in the history of the Principality of Lièe in the XII-XIVth centuries. In the early XIIth century, Libert de Warfusée married the wealthy Agnès d'Awirs and increased his domain by purchasing Jeneffe, Limont, Lexhy and Loncin. Raes IV de Warfusée was deeply involved in the War of the Awans and the Waroux, which ruined the Principality of Liège in the XIVth century and ended in a bloody battle in Dommartin in 1325.
After the death of Thierry de Haneffe in 1382, the domain of Warfusée was transferred successively to the lords of Enghien, Seraing, la Marck, Corswarem, Hamal and Renesse. The domain was elevated to a County in 1609; on 16 April 1637, René de Renesse killed Laruelle, the Mayor of Liège, during a banquet. In 1675, Alexandre de Renesse sold Warfusée to his cousin Théodore de Bavière de Schagen; in 1707, the heiress of Warfusée married François Paul d'Oultremont, who was succeeded as the lord of Warfusée by his brother Jean François Georges, Count of Oultremont and Wégimont. Also Colonel of the Dragons and Head of the Noble State of Lièe, the Count of Oultremont rebuilt the castle of Warfusée like we still know it today. Charles Nicolas Alexandre d'Oultremont (1716-1771), lord of Warfusée, was Prince-Bishop of Lièe from 1763 to 1771. Count Charles d'Oultremont took part to the war of indepence of Belgium in 1830.

Coal mining started in Saint-Georges in the XVIIth century. Concessions were granted by the Count ofWarfusée to associations of comparchonniers who paid a rent made of coal "baskets" (paniers). A document kept in the Municipal Archives of Liège, dated 28 December 1678, states that Marie de Tiennes, Dowager of Warfusée, and her son, Florent-Charles de Bavière de Schagen granted the right of coal extraction in the place called "Le Parc" to six people, including the Provost of Condé, the Captain of Warfusée and the Bailiff of Warfusée. Those were allowed to dig holes wherever they needed, to use engines powered by men or horses, to dig long galleries to drain the mines, and to exploit all the extracted material, including the low-quality téroûle, a dirty mixture of earth and friable coal, which was often kept by the owner of the land for his personal use. The concessionaries had to repair all damages caused by caving, not only in the domain of Warfusée but also in private properties, "according to the rules and uses of coal mining". The owner could denounce the concession if mining was stopped for more than six months, except if the abandon was caused "by warlords or any impossibility cause". Coal extraction increased in the XVIIIth century when the d'Oultremont were lords of Warfusée, even if not very profitable: coal was used for heating the houses of Saint-Georges and in the more profitable alum mines. There were still three active collieries during the French rule. The last shafts were closed in the 1920s. During the Second World War, a limited activity of coal extraction resumed in the woods of Warfusée.

Alum (aluminium potassium sulfate) was produced by calcination of alumiferous schist, aka ampelite (from Greek, ampelos, "grapevine"), and used locally to fertilize the vineyard of the valley of the Meuse. Alum was also used to fix pigments in fabrics and carpets (especially in Asia, where it was exported from Saint-Georges), to harden plaster and to paste paper.
Under the Ancient Regime, there were up to 13 alum mines in the valley of the Meuse; in Saint-Georges, alum extraction was the most important industrial activity. In 1634, the Count of Warfusée granted to Jean Nihoulle a concession for alum extraction; in the middle of the XVIIth century, another mine was jointly operated by the Count of Warfusée, who paid 12,000 guilders for the digging of the mine, and an association of burghers from Liège. In the beginning of the XVIIIth century, the d'Oultremont family increased alum industry. Under the French rule, alum was exported to France, Germany and the Netherlands. In 1840, only one alum mine still existed in Saint-Georges, which had ceased to exist six years later.

Catherine Seret (Catherine Langlois, 1828-1915) lived in the small hamlet of Sur les Bois. Aged 18, she was transmitted by her grand-father the "secret" he had inherited from an English military doctor during the Napoleonic wars. After the early death of her husband, Catherine remained alone with her three daughters and decided to use the "secret" to heal the poors, who had at the time little, if any, access, to medicine. The eaux et pommades made by Catherine became famous, so that rich people also consulted her, through a third party. Catherine refused any money and was paid with hens, eggs, chickens or candles. Her fame caused jalousy, and she was accused to be a quack, but won the case. Until her death at the age of 87 years, she received patients from all over Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands in the small café of Sur les Bois.

Source: Municipal website

Ivan Sache, 2 November 2007

Municipal flag of Saint-Georges-sur-Meuse

According to Armoiries communales en Belgique. Communes wallonnes, bruxelloises et germanophones, the Heraldry and Vexillology Commission of the French Community proposed a municipal flag of Saint-Georges, "which would use the colours of the proposed coat of arms and a fleur-de-lis, and would include a wavy division recalling the Meuse". There is, unfortunately, no drawing attached to the description.
The proposed municipal arms are based on a municipal seal from the XIVth century showing the arms of Warfusée, "which include fleurs-de-lis". There is some limited evidence that the arms of Warfusée were "Gules a semy of fleurs-de-lis argent".

Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 2 November 2007