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Durbuy (Municipality, Province of Luxembourg, Belgium)

Last modified: 2007-11-03 by ivan sache
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[Flag of Durbuy]

Municipal flag of Durbuy - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 30 January 2006

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Presentation of Durbuy

The municipality of Durbuy (10,633 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 15,700 ha) is located in the north of the Province of Luxembourg, on the borders of the regions of Condroz, Famenne and Ardenne. The municipality of Durbuy is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Durbuy, Barvaux, Bende, Bomal, Borlon, Grandhan, Heyd, Izier, Septon, Tohogne, Villers-Sainte-Gertrude and Wéris.

The town of Durbuy was built at the foot of a rocky spur dominating the river Ourthe. In the Middle Ages, the town had a very strategical position; until the XIVth century, it was protected by big walls, the loop of the Ourthe and a castle built on the spur in the XIth century. Documents from 1078 and 1183 list Dolbui castello and Castellum de Durbui, respectively. The town belonged successively to the Duchy of Lotharingia, the County of Namur and the County of Luxembourg. The capital of a domain called Terre de Durbuy, Durbuy was then part of a defense line protecting the County of Luxembourg.
In 1331 (or more probably between 1275 and 1314, according to the local historian Nicolas Contor), Durbuy was granted the status of town (ville) by Count of Luxembourg and King of Bohemia John the Blind (1296-1346, killed during the battle of Crécy). Durbuy was also a center of trade and justice. However, it remained very small, which explains its nickname of "smallest town in the world". The administrative seat of the town was the Grain Market, already mentioned in 1380, rebuilt in the XVIth century and modified in the XVIIIth century.
In the XVIIth century, the Counts of Ursel rebuilt a castle on the site of the former fortress. The gates and the city wall were suppressed at the same time.

The village of Wéris is one of the 22 members of the association of the nicest villages in Wallonia. Its main building is the St. Walburge church, built in Mosan style in the XI-XIIth century. The house adjacent to the church is supposed to have been a donjon part of the defense line of Durbuy. In 1684, the ironmaster Jean-Mathieu Marchant built in Wéris a fortified farm.
However, Wéris is mostly known for its megalithic field, the biggest in Belgium. It is made of a series of parallel alignments. Remains of bones found on the site allowed datation with C14: the megaliths were erected before 3000 and 2800 BP. They are made of pudding stone, a kind of natural concrete made of sandstone, quartzite and flint shingles embedded in a matric of hard sandstone. The Wéris alignments include 27 menhirs (standing stones, from Breton, men, stone, and hir, long) and two dolmens (from Breton, dol, table, and men, stone), which are more properly covered alleys, that is corridor-shaped funerary chambers.

The region of Durbuy in rich in natural stones with odd shapes, which have inspired legends. The Haina Stone is said to conceal a hole going down to the center of the earth; from time to time, the Devil lifts it up to do his evil business, and then rests on the stone called the Devil's Bed. Another tradition says that the Haina Stone is whitened every year on the autumn equinox, which purifies it and repels the Devil. The Haina Stone dominates the megalithic field and might indeed have been used by the Prehistoric men as a marker to design the field.
A miller once lacking water for his mill called the Devil for help; as often, the Devil promised to build a dyke within one night providing the miller would give him his soul. The miller said he would pay only in the morning after having assessed the work done during the night. At dawn, the Devil called the miller, who sent his dog to him. Very angry, the Devil destroyed the dyke and rested on the aformentioned Devil's Bed. Remains of the dyke can still be seen near the hamlet of Roche-à-Frêne.
In the hamlet of Pas-Bayard, the deep and wide groove visible on a stone is, of course, the hoofprint of horse Bayard carrying the Four Aymon Sons to Durbuy, located two leagues farther.


Ivan Sache, 30 January 2006

Municipal flag of Durbuy

The municipal flag of Durbuy is vertically divided blue-white with the municipal coat of arms in the middle.
According to Armoiries communales en Belgique. Communes wallonnes, bruxelloises et germanophones, this is the traditional flag of the town, described as follows:
Deux laizes transversales bleue et blanche avec au centre l'écu de la ville.

The coat of arms of Durbuy is very similar to the coat of arms of Luxembourg, but the lion is plain red and has no crown. The shield is crowned, however.

Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 30 January 2006