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Theux (Municipality, Province of Liège, Belgium)

Last modified: 2008-04-26 by ivan sache
Keywords: theux | franchimont | lions: 3 (green) | perron (yellow) |
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[Flag of Theux]         [Proposal of flag of Theux]

Municipal flag of Theux - Images by Arnaud Leroy, 8 May 2005
Left, flag in use
Right, flag proposal, not in use

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Presentation of Theux and its villages

The municipality of Theux (11,672 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 8,336 hectares) is located south-east of Liège. The municipality of Theux is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Theux, La Reid and Polleur and Theux.

Theux is located in the valley of Hoîgne, close to the Ardenne massif. The place has been settled since the Mesolithic times. In the Ist century AD, the Romans settled a place named Tectis ("a place with roofs"). Excavations started in the XIXth century have yielded three cemetaries with more than 200 tombs, a fanum (temple) and private thermae. The Gallo-Roman village of Tectis was plundered in the IIIrd century, rebuilt in the second half of the IVth century, and plundered again by the Germans in the beginning of the Vth century. The Germans might have built there a pagan shrine before the VI-VIIth century; subsequently transformed into a Christian chapel by a Merovingian prince, the shrine was eventually replaced by the parish church of Theux. The Carolingian church was built in the second half of the IXth century. A Roman hall-church (with the three naves of the same height) was built around 1019; it is today the only church of that kind between the rivers Loire and Rhine. A fortified tower was added to the church in the XIIIth century, and the Gothic choir was built in the XVIth century.
Theux is listed on a chart granted to the abbey of Stavelot-Malmedy by King Louis le Débonnaire in 814. A Merovingian palatium (manor) existed there. On 8 October 898, King Zwentibold ceded the domain of Theux to Francon, Bishop of Liège, but kept for hismelf the rights on the forest, which were ceded to the Bishop by Charles le Simple in 915.

The ancient territory of Theux was made of the bans of Theux, Sart, Jalhay and Spa, to which was subsequently added Verviers. In 1155, the five bans formed the domain of Franchimont, known in the XVIth century as the Marquisate of Franchimont. The domain was ruled by a lord appointed by the Prince-Bishop of Liège or the Chapter of the Cathedral; in 1550, the lord was confered the title of Governor.
The castle of Franchimont was built in the XIth century, as the administrative, military and judiciary center of the domain. The fortress protected Liège against its eastern neighbours, the Prince-Abbot of Stavelot, the Duke of Luxembourg and the Duke of Limburg.
At the end of the XIIth century, Albert de Cuyck and Simon of Limburg competed for the Bishopric of Liège; the Duke of Brabant, supporting Limburg, occupied the castle of Franchimont until the Bishopric was allocated to Cuyck. In 1236, Waleran of Limburg revolted against his former suzereign, Prince-Bishop Jean d'Eppes; he invaded Franchimont, burnt down Theux and looted the castle. Troops from Lorraine besieged the castle in 1263, to no avail. In 1285, Henry of Gelre, a deposed Prince-Bishop of Liège retrained into a looter, besieged the castle with his gang and was killed during the siege. A fortuitous blaze destroyed the castle in 1387 and Prince-Bishop Arnould d'Hornes rebuilt it from scratch. A perron was erected in Theux in 1457 as the symbol of the rights and privileges granted by the Prince-Bishop to Franchimont.
In 1468, Liège revolted against Prince-Bishop Louis de Bourbon, who was supported by Duke of Burgundy Charles the Bold and King of France Louis XI (then still friends). In his chronicles, Philippe de Commynes relates the failed attempt by the Six-Cent Franchimontois (600 men from the Marquisate of Franchimont) to kill the duke and the king in the night of 29 to 30 October. The Burgundian army plundered Franchimont: all the iron-producing mills and the perron (later rebuilt two times) were destroyed, but the castle, whose garrison had supported the Prince-Bishop, was not damaged.
In August 1914, King Albert I exhorted his troops as follows: vous, Wallons, rappelez-vous les six cents Franchimontois (You, Walloons, remember the 600 men from Franchimont).
Franchimont was put it pawn for 4,000 guilders to Guillaume de la Marck, aka the Ardenne Wildboar, by Louis de Bourbon. The expected alliance went wrong: Guillaume fortified the castle and killed Louis in 1482. Guillaume was murdered in 1485 and succeeded by Jean I de la Marck, who carried on the fight against the new Prince-Bishop, Jean d'Hornes. In 1487, la Marck besieged Liège and Hornes counter-attacked and besieged Franchimont. He had to lift the siege when troops commanded by Jean d'Albret were sent by the King of France to help la Marck. After negociations started in 1504, Liège repurchased the castle of Franchimont in 1505.
The same year, Erart de la Marck, one of the better Princes Liège ever had, was elected Prince-Bishop. He maintained, increased and revamped the fortresses protecting his state, including Liège, Huy, Bouillon, Couvin and Franchimont. A big pentagonal wall with four blockhouses and a tower for artillery was added to the castle, which was transformed into a pleasant Renaissance palace (with a chapel, a kitchen, a gallery...) The intra muros area of the castle increased sixfold. In spite of later damages, the basic structure of the castle was not modified; it is one of the rare examples of a genuine fortress from the XVIth century open to visit.
During the Religious Wars that spread over the region at the end of the XVIth century, Franchimont was a haven of peace for people heading to Spa for taking the waters. Alexandre Farnese was welcomed in Franchimont by Prince-Bishop Ernst of Bavaria in 1589. The castle was also used as the prison for the five bans of the Marquisate. In the XVIIth century, the progress of artillery decreased the strategical importance of Franchimont. King Louis XIV ordered its demolition in 1676, but only the artillery tower was partially suppressed. The castle was visited in 1717 by Tsar Peter the Great and in 1780 by King Gustav III of Sweden, on their way to Spa.

In the beginning of the French Revolution, the castle of Franchimont was used as a meeting place for the Congress of Polleur (see below), and completely plundered. In 1800, it was considered as definitively ruined. The ruins of Franchimont attracted the Romantic writers, for instance the Scottish writer Walter Scott. The Belgian State purchased the castle in 1899 and commissionned the architect and archeologist Fernand Lohest to preserve the ruins. The Touring-Club of Belgium bought the castle in 1928 and sold it in 1959 to the municipality of Theux for a nominal sum.

Iron and black marble have been exploited in Theux since the Roman times. In spite of the Burgundian destructions, several coups d'eau (watermills) powering forges were set up in the XV-XVIth centuries. Iron industry declined at the end of the XVIIIth century, the main activities being then home wool spinning. Extraction of iron, lead and marble definitively ceased in the XIXth century and was replaced by modern textile industry and tanneries; several uncultivated lands, as well as most plots grown with low-yielding small grains, were transformed into grasslands. There are still 163 farms in Theux, some of them being very small. Textile industry disappeared after the Second World War and the last tanneries were closed in the 1930s. Iron industry is still active.

La Reid (written Ries in 1323, capelle Dellere in 1558) was part of the domain of Franchimont until the French Revolution. A large plot of moors and heatherland called "Porallée Miraculeuse Dieu et Saint-Pierre" (today a wood), hardly delimited, was a source of conflicts involving the Principality of Liège, the Duchy of Luxembourg and the Duchy of Limburg. The inhabitants of La Reid set up an alliance with the village of Becco against Remouchamps and the other users of the Porallée. Under the French rule, this land was mostly claimed by La Reid and Aywaille, and was shared between the two municipalities in 1830. There was a similar problem with the "commune Sainte-Remacle", owned by the Prince-Bishop of Liège but coveted and partially occupied by the Prince-Abbot of Stavelot; the land was shared in 1768. The municipality of La Reid seceded from Theux in 1795.
Like in Theux, several iron-producing mills were set up in La Reid in the beginning of the XVIth century; one of them was transformed into an edge-tool making in 1566. The evolution of industry and agriculture in La Reid was the same as in Theux. In 1953, the Provincial Institute of Agricultural, Forest and Paper-Making Teaching was opened in La Reid.

Polleur (written Poleda in 898) is watered by the river Hoîgne, formerly called Polleur. It was part of the domain of Franchimont until the French Revolution. During the French Revolution, delegates from the five bans of the Marquisate of Franchimont met from the 26 August 1789 to 23 January 1791 in Polleur, Theux and Spa. Their 25 meetings are known as the Congress of Polleur. On 16 September 1789, the Congress adopted a Declaration of Human and Citizen Rights, which was more radical than the French one. The Congressmen forced the inhabitants of Liège to admit representatives of the countryside in the third estate assemblies. The municipality of Polleur seceded from Theux in 1795.
The bridge of Polleur, rebuilt in 1767, is the seat of a folkloric court, which sentences the last newlywed of the year, called coucou (cuckoo), to be thrown into the river. The economical evolution of Polleur was the same as in Theux; there are today some 50 farms in the village.


Ivan Sache, 8 May 2005

Municipal flag of Theux

The municipal flag of Theux, as confirmed by the municipal administration, is vertically divided green-white, and therefore virtually identical to the flag of the adjacent municipality of Verviers.

According to Armoiries communales en Belgique. Communes wallonnes, bruxelloises et germanophones, the Heraldry and Vexillology Council of the French Community proposed a flag as Deux laizes longitudinales verte et blanche chargées au centre de l'écu de la commune (horizontally divided green-white with the municipal arms in the middle). The flag currently in use is most probably the flag used by Theux before the municipal reform. Green and white are the colours of Franchimont.

The municipal arms of Theux are:
Coupé au premier d'argent à trois lions de sinople, armés et lampassés de gueules, couronnés d'or (qui est du Marquisat de Franchimont), au deuxième de gueules au perron liégeois accosté des lettres capitales L et G le tout d'or (qui est de la Principauté de Liège).
("Per fess, firstly argent three lions vert armed and langued gules crowned or [Marquisate of Franchimont], secondly gules a perron of Liège flanked with the Capital letters "L" and "G" the whole or [Principality of Liège]); in short, "Per fess Franchimont and Liège".
These arms were granted to Theux by Royal Decree in 1937.

Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 9 December 2007