Last modified: 2008-04-05 by ivan sache
Keywords: houthalen-helchteren | loon |
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Municipal flag of Houthalen-Helchteren - Image by Ivan Sache, 3 June 2003
The municipality of Houthalen-Helchteren (30,050 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 7,827 ha) is located in Middle Limburg. The municipality of Houthalen-Helchteren is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Houthalen (23,414 inh.) and Helchteren (6,628 inh.).
Houthalen, known in 1117 as Hallu and c. 1212 as Hallu, means "a
sinuous height (halen / hallu) in the woods" (hout). Under the
Ancient Regime, Houthalen became to the County of Loon and formed the
domain of Vogelzang, together with the neighbouring villages of
Zonhoven and Zolder and a part of Heusden. The Norbertine monks from
the abbey of Floreffe owned the village church and the domains of
Hengelhoef (1141) and Kelchterhoef (1228). The village developed into a
town with the opening of the coal mine of Houthalen (1938), attracting
several foreign workers. The boroughs of Meulenberg and Houthalen-Oost
(East) were completely rebuilt after the Second World War. The colliery
were closed in 1965, the land was levelled and a brand new industry
park was made.
Houthalen is the birth town of the physician and mathematician Ingrid Daubechies (b. 1954, an American citizen since 1996), Professor at Princeton University since 1993. She is famous for her works in time-frequency analysis, and especially in wavelets used in image compression, namely the orthogonal Daubechies wavelet and the biorthogonal CDF wavelet, used in the JPEG 2000 standard.
Helchteren, known in 1107 as Haletra, means "a place with junipers" (halahdrja / haledjra). Under the Ancient Regime, the domain of Helchteren belonged to the Sint-Truiden abbey, which built there the water castle Ter Dolen. Helchteren was progressively opened up by the building of the Liège-Den Bosch road (1768-1788), of the railway Hasselt-Eindhoven (1865) and of the Heusden-Bree road (1908-1910). The village became a small town in the 1930s after the opening of the coal mine of Helchteren-Zolder (1930) and of army barracks between the village center and the hamlet of Sonnis. This hamlet is the only one to have remained rural until now. In September 1944, there was a big battle in Helchteren between the British and German troops. After the war, new barracks and a shooting range for the Air Force were built, which once covered one third of the municipal territory.
Source: Municipal website
Ivan Sache, 28 July 2007
The flag of Houthalen-Helchteren is horizontally divided
According to Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel, the flag was adopted by the Municipal Council on 23 June 1992, confirmed by the Executive of Flanders on 6 October 1992 and published in the Belgian official gazette on 21 June 1994.
Red and yellow are the colours of the County of Loon, used on several municipal flags in Limburg, while green represent the leisure parks of Hengelhoef, Kelchterhoef and Molenheide.
The municipal website explicitely confirms that the similarity of the
municipal flag with the national flag of Bolivia, as well as the use
of the Pan-African colours, is a mere coincidence.
The colours of Loon are shown on the municipal arms, which are, as it can be expected, a mix of the former arms of Houthalen and Helchteren.
The arms of Houthalen-Helchteren are made of a yellow shield, charged with a black lion with a red tongue and claws and holding a red escutcheon quartered by a yellow cross and cantonned with five billets placed in saltire in each quarter. The shield is supported by St. Trudo (Truiden), nimbed and standing on a green terrace, holding a green palm in dexter and a yellow chapel in sinister.
The saint with the palm and the chapel comes from the arms of Helchteren, which were designed after the old municipal seals of the village. St. Truiden is the patron saint of the village, once owned by the abbey of Sint-Truiden.
The shield with the lion comes from the arms of Houthalen, which were designed after a municipal seal dated 1651. These arms most probably belonged to the van Elter / D'Autel family, lords of Vogelzang in the XV-XVIth centuries.
Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 28 July 2007