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Bièvre (Municipality, Province of Namur, Belgium)

Last modified: 2007-10-20 by ivan sache
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Municipal flag of Bièvre - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 22 May 2005

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Presentation of Bièvre and its villages

The municipality of Bièvre (3,164 inhabitants on 1 January 2007, 10,959 ha) in the extreme south-east of the Province of Namur, 20 km north of Bouillon. The municipality of Bièvre is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Bièvre, Graide, Monceau-en-Ardenne, Naomé and Oizy.
Bièvre is located in the massif of Ardennes; the road Dinant-Bouillon crosses the municipality and is the watershed between the valleys of Semois in the south and Lesse in the north.
Bièvre is twinned with 14 cities, one in each of the non-Belgian 14 countries of the pre-2004 European Union. It seems to be the single case in Europe of such a comprehensive twinning.

The oldest written form of Bièvre is Beveris (770), later Bièvère in 1243. The current name, written either Bièvre or Bièvres, was already used in 1139, 1245 and 1290. The probable etymology of the name of the village is the Celtic word bever, "a beaver". Grand Robert de la Langue Française has bièvre (from low Latin beber, from Celtic *bebros) as the ancient name of the beaver in ancient French, used for instance by the father of modern surgery Ambroise Paré (Animaux, 21); bièvre was replaced in the XVIIth century by castor (of Greek origin, kastôr). The word has survived in several toponyms and hydronyms.

There were in the past several mills set up on the several brooks that water Bièvre. They were used to produce flour and oil and to saw wood and stones. The mill of Matauge is said to have been built by the Duke of Bouillon for the inhabitants of Oisy, who could not use the mill of Ruaumoulin (lit., the brook with the mill) located in the Duchy of Luxembourg.
The chapel Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours in Oizy is more than 300 year old. It was built under the reign of Archiduke Albert and Archiduchess Isabel; the building site started in 1675 and ended only 13 years later because of the local lack of building materials. The chapel is boxed in between two big trees which are said to have been planted in 1640. in the past, the chapel was known as a "respite sanctuary", where the Blessed Virgin resurrected newborns died before having been christened. Such a miracle happened two centuries ago for three newborns.

Bellefontaine (lit. the beautiful fountain) is named after the fountain miraculously "switched on" by the Irish monk St. Fursy in the VIIth century. in the past, a pilgrimage to the miraculous fountain took place on the Sunday following the 17 September, the day of the saint's relics translation. The farmers on the region gathered to ask St. Fursy's protection for the cattle. Abbot Parieux, priest in Bellefontaine from 1918 to 1936, formalized the ceremony: the pilgrims were given a brass plaque, 11 x 16 cm, decorated with an image of St. Fursy's fountain. The plaque was blessed during the pilgrimage and nailed at the entrance of the stable, protecting cattle from all kinds of diseases. The pilgrimage has disappeared and is replaced today by a solemn mess on 16 January, St. Fursy's Day.

The church of Graide has a very old tower, used in the past as a donjon. It is believed that the tower was built in the VIIth century by "king" Pepin (indeed the Mayor of Palace Pepin of Landen or his son Pepin of Herstal) for his hunting parties in Paliseul and in the forests of Graide. The village of Graide probably developed around the tower, which was reused for the building of the church.
On 1 September 1944, a violent fight opposed the Nazis to the anti-German Resistance in the woods of Graide.

Source: Municipal website

Ivan Sache, 22 May 2005

Municipal flag of Bièvre

The municipal flag of Bièvre is horizontally divided yellow-blue (2:1) by a wavy line; the yellow field is charged with a beaver and the blue field is charged with two white wavy stripes.
According to Armoiries communales en Belgique. Communes wallonnes, bruxelloises et germanophones, the flag was adopted by the Municipal Council on 12 November 1998 and confirmed by the Executive of the French Community on 30 April 1999, with the following description:
Divisé longitudinalement par un trait ondé, les deux tiers supérieurs jaunes et chargés d'un castor de couleur naturelle, le tiers inférieur bleu chargé de deux laizes ondées blanches.
The flag is a banner of the municipal arms.

The arms are also shown on the municipal seal, surrounded by a ring with the writing COMMUNE DE BIEVRE - COMMUNAUTE FRANCAISE, and on the weather vane surmonting the town hall.

Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 22 May 2005