Last modified: 2008-06-21 by ivan sache
Keywords: braine-le-comte | s-gravenbrakel | tower (black) |
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Municipal flag of Braine-le-Comte - Images by Arnaud Leroy, 10 June 2007
Left, flag in use
Right, flag proposal, not in use
The municipality of Braine-le-Comte (in Dutch, s'-Gravenbrakel; 20,543 inhabitants on 1 July 2007; 8,468 ha) is located between Mons and Brussels, on the border of Hainaut with Walloon Brabant. The municipality of Braine-le-Comte is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Braine-le-Comte, Hennuyères, Henripont, Petit-Rœulx-lez-Braine, Ronquières and Steenkerque (in Dutch, Steenkerke).
The territory of Braine-le-Comte spreads over the three valleys of the
Brainette (a tributary of the Senne, which gave its name to the town),
the Sennette and the Senne (partially, in Steenkerque), the lower
plateau of Hainaut-Brabant and the sandy ridge of the Houssière wood.
These sites were alreadey settled in the Paleolithic (Houssière) and
Neolithic (Steenkerque, Houssière, Scaubecq). A few Roman villae have
been detected but none of them has been excavated yet.
After the great invasions, the region was resettled in the VIIth century by religious communities; the abbey of Nivelles owned land in Petit-Rœulx-lez-Braine, already mentioned in the IXth century, and Hennuyères, whereas the abbey of Mons owned Braine-la-Wilote. Ronquières was successively owned by the abbeys of Saint-Ghislain and Cambron, whereas Steenkerque was shared among the St. Vincent chapter in Soignies and the abbeys of Ghislenghien and Le Rœulx. The abbey rules prevented the developemnt of feudal domains and there were indeed relatively few fortified farms.
However, Count of Hainaut Baudouin IV, protector of the abbey of Mons, built in 1150 in Braine-la-Wilote a big donjon, a fortified yard including a church, a water mill and a fishpond. Braine-le-Comte became a bridgehead of Hainaut in Brabant and was used to secure the further territorial conquests of Hainaut. The city wall was probably achieved before 1300; In spite of being a small town, Braine was very active, with a weekly market, a hall, a Beguine convent, breweries, public baths, an hospital and schools. The town was besieged and seized in 1425 and 1583. On 3 August 1692, Marshal of Luxembourg, commanding Louis XIV's troops, was about to be captured by King of England William III on the heights of Steenkerque.
In the XVIIIth century, the Brussels-Mons road, already planned in 1704, crossed Braine and contributed to its development. In the 1760s, the town was rebuilt with stone and bricks. In the XIXth century, industrialization started with cotton mills, the Zech printing house, the Catala paper mill and the Deflandre brewery. In 1841, the railway station of Braine was inaugurated on the Brussels-Paris line; it is still there and can be considered as one of the oldest stations in the world. New industries were set up near the station (ironworks, glassworks, locomotive repairing workshops, glassworks) and new boroughs were built. The industrial tilery of Henunyères, founded in 1879, has remained famous.
Braine-le-Comte is the birth place of the theologian Franciscus Sylvius (a latinization of his name, François Dubois; 1581-1648), Professor and Vice Chancellor at the University of Douai. His masterwork is Commentarium in Summam Theologicam S. Thomae, four volumes released in 1620-1635, which yielded him the title of Magni Nominis Theologus, granted by Pope Benedict XIV.
Source: Municipal website, including texts by Gérard Bavay
The hamlet of Fauquez has remained famous for its glassworks. In 1899,
Émile Michotte, a glazier from Manage, purchased the paper mill of
Fauquez, founded in 1836, and transformed it into a tumbler factory,
increased and renamed in 1901 S.A. des Verreries de Fauquez. In 1904,
Arthur Brancart (1870-1934) was appointed technical manager of the
factory. The 1920s were the golden age of Fauquez, with the invention
of the marbrite, an opaque mural glass. The glassworks declined after
Brancart's death; it was sold to Bouteilleries Belges Réunies in 1972
and the last oven was switched off in 1974. The Veriplack-Momiplast group
produced plastic containers on the site until 1981.
In 1929, Brancart built the St. Lutgarde chapel, aka the Glass Chapel, as an example of the use of a modern product (the marbrite) to build a traditional building. The chapel was closed in 1977 and purchased in 1990 by Michaël Bonnet, who saved it from destruction and started its restoration, nearly completed today.
Source: Chapelle de Verre asbl website
The Brussels-Charleroi canal was inaugurated in 1832. In Ronquières,
the engineers had to cope with a 68-m fall; they designed the world
famous and unique inclined plane (plan incliné) of Ronquières, a
solution chosen to spare water and replacing 14 locks. It took six
years and millions tons of earth and backfill to achieve the 1432-m
long structure, dominated by a 125-m high tower. The inclined plane was
inaugurated in 1968.
The structure is made of two huge mobile tanks in which the ships are placed to cross the fill. Each tank is towed up on the 5% slope by cables powered by a complex set of winches and pulleys. The two tanks have each 236 small wheels (rollers of 70 cm in diameter) and can be operated independently of each other. They can each handle a 1350-ton barge. The structure can be visited from April to October.
The village of Ronquières is also famous for its turkey cocks, traditionally bred by Mr. Foubert.
Ivan Sache, 28 May 2007
The flag of Braine-le-Comte, as communicated by the municipal administration, is vertically divided black-white-blue with the black tower from the coat of arms (with the tower plain black) in the middle of the white stripe.
According to Armoiries communales en Belgique. Communes wallonnes, bruxelloises et germanophones, the Heraldry and Vexillology Council of the French Community proposed a horizontally divided blue-white-black flag, which is not in use.
The colours of the flag(s) come from the municipal arms, D'argent à une tour de sable, crénelée de deux pièces et de deux demies, ajourée d'azur (Argent a tower sable crenelled two pieces and two halves opened azure).
According to Servais, the arms were granted in 1822 (after unsuccessful applications in 1816 and 1820) and confirmed by Royal Decree on 21 July 1838. A big castle was already shown on the oldest known municipal seal (XVth century); on later seals, the castle was progressively reduced to a single tower.
The Armorial of Hainaut, available on the Heraldus website, gives 21 July 1938 for the grant and a slightly different blazon:
D'argent à une tour de sable, crénelée de deux pièces et de deux demies.
This blazon skips ajouré d'azur (open azure), as does the rendition of the coat of arms on the flag.
Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 10 June 2007