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Halle (Municipality, Province of Flemish Brabant, Belgium)


Last modified: 2015-07-28 by ivan sache
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[Flag of Halle]

Municipal flag of Halle - Image by Ivan Sache, 28 October 2001

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Presentation of Halle

The municipality of Halle (in French, Hal; 35,108 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 4,440 ha) is located in the region of Pajottenland, 15 km south-west of Brussels, close to the linguistic border between Dutch and French. The municipality of Halle is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Halle, Buizingen and Lembeek.

Halle was granted in 1225 municipal rights by Johanna of Constantinople, Countess of Flanders and Hainaut. The town became famous and wealthy after the donation of a miraculous statue of the Blessed Virgin in 1267; the donator was Aleid of Holland, the daughter of Floris IV and the wife of Count of Hainaut Jean d'Avesnes. In permanent struggle with the Duke of Brabant, the Count of Hainaut indeed needed to make of Halle a powerful border town. He funded the richly decorated Marian chapel in 1286; the pilgrims who visited the chapel were granted indulgences by the Pope and the Bishops. Halle was visited by William I of England and the German Emperor Louis of Bayern, the two sons-in-law of Count of Hainaut William II.
In the XIVth century, the old parish church and the Marian chapel were too small; started in 1341, the new St. Martin church was consecrated on 25 February 1410 by Bishop of Cambrai Pierre d'Ailly before the completion of the building site, that ended in 1470 only. The death of Duke of Burgundy Philip the Bold in Halle in 1404 even increased the popularity of the Marian pilgrimage. All the Dukes of Burgundy, their relatives, councillors and court paid a visit to the ducal tomb. King of France Louis XI let bury his son Joachim in the Marian chapel in 1460.

However, the strategic location of Halle on the borders of Hainaut, Brabant and Flanders caused a lot of trouble to the town. After the death of Mary of Burgundy in 1482, the Flemish and Brabantian towns revolted against her husband Maximilian of Hapsburg, who had attempted to limit their municipal rights. Having taken the party of Maximilian together with Hainaut, Halle was besieged twice in 1489 by the Brussels militia led by Philip of Kleven, but did not surrender. Relatively spared during the Religious Wars in the XVIth century, Halle was seized in 1580 from Brussels, and William the Silent appointed Olivier Van der Tympel military governor of the town, with the mission of expelling the Spaniards from Brabant. In 1579, by the Union of Atrecht, Hainaut joined the Catholic party whereas Brussels remained Calvinist; in 1580, Van der Tympel attempted to reconquer Halle, which was "miraculously" waved by the statue of the Blessed Virgin.
Before his marriage with Isabel, Archduke Albrecht of Austria went to Halle on 13 July 1598 and laid his Cardinal's red hat on the altar of the church. Albrecht and Isabel later often visited Halle. He invited the Jesuits to settle in the town in 1621, where they exerted a great influence. Lacking money, King of Spain Philip V transferred in 1648 Halle and the neighbouring wood (Hallerbos) to the Duke of Arenberg; in 1655, the Duke became lord of Halle and owner of 2/3rds of the wood, the remaining third belonging to the St. Waudru Chapter of Mons. In 1779, the owners of the wood delimited it with 24 pyramidal borderstones marked SW (van Sint Waltrudis) on one side and AR (voor Arenberg) on the other.
Louis XIV's wars ruined the town but the pilgrimage was reinstated in the XVIIIth century and became more popular than ever. The French Revolution was not welcomed in the very religious town of Halle; the miraculous statue and the church's treasures were preserved from confiscation by the town burghers. The pilgrimage was reestablished on 15 July 1801 by the Concordat; the Whit Procession of 1805 attracted some 150,000 pilgrims; it is today a biennial event. The Kings of the Belgians maintained the tradition of the royal visit to Halle. In 1946, Pope Pius XII erected the St. Martin church as the Our Lady basilica. The other main festival in Halle is the Carnival (Halfvasten), considered as the most important in Brabant.

Halle is the birth (and death) town of the cellist and composer Adrien-François Servais (1807-1866). After having studied music in Brussels, Servais made his first international appearance in Paris in 1833; he played later in most European countries, including Russia, where he married Sophie Feygin in 1842, and was appointed Professor at the Brussels Conservatory in 1848. Considered as one of the greatest cellists of his time and a main promoter of cello solo, Servais played a Stradivarius 1701, exhibited today in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington and considered as the best cello ever. Anner Bijlsma played it for a reference recording of Bach's Six suites for cello. Servais composed several works, including the once famous Souvenirs de Spa and Six Caprices, but has remained mostly known as "the Paganini of the cello", a title granted to him by the composers Hector Berlioz and Gioachinno Rossini. The former Jesuite college of Halle is today the Servais Academy of Music and a statute of the musician with his cello proudly watches the main square of the town.

Lembeek is the seat of the Boon brewery and of the second biggest gin distillery in Belgium, recalling that Halle (without any brewery left since the closure of Vanderlinden) and Lembeek were once famous for their beers and gin. Boon is brewing the traditional Lambiek, Geuze (considered as the best Geuze still available), Kriek, Frambozenbier (perfurmed with raspberries), Faro, Lembeek's and Duivelsbier (a lambiek sweetened with sugar candy, formerly brewed by Vanderlinden). Every Easter Monday, the relics of St. Veronica are carried in procession by riders wearing historical uniforms; this kind of procession is unique in Flanders.


Ivan Sache, 11 July 2007

Municipal flag of Halle

The municipal flag of Halle is quartered blue-white per saltire.
According to Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel, the flag was adopted by the Municipal Council on 25 April 1991, confirmed by the Executive of Flanders on 1 October 1991 and published in the Belgian official gazette on 4 January 1995.
The colours of the flag are taken from the first and fourth quarters of the arms.

The arms of Halle, as shown on the Servais Society website are:
"Quarterly, 1 azure a statue of the Blessed Virgin with Baby Jesus argent, 2 and 3 quartered, a) and d) or a lion sable, b) and c) or a lion gules, 4 lozengy argent and azure."
According to Servais, the arms were granted by (Dutch) Royal Decree in 1823 (after an unsuccessful application in 1814 and the grant by the Dutch authorities of a seal portraying St. Martin instead) and were confirmed by (Belgian) Royal Decree on 29 August 1842. They are indeed the old arms of the town, probably granted by William of Bayern, then Count of Hainaut, in 1357. The first quarter shows the miraculous statue of the Blessed Virgin, the second and the third quarters the arms of Hainaut and the fourth quarters the arms of Bavaria (Wittelsbach).
The flag of Halle itself recalls the Bavarian lozenges.

Pascal Vagnat, Jarig Bakker & Ivan Sache, 11 July 2007