Last modified: 2011-11-12 by ivan sache
Keywords: balen | cross: saltire (yellow) | roelants |
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Municipal flag of Balen - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 20 September 2006
The municipality of Balen (20,379 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 7,288 ha) is located in the south-easternmost corner of the Province of Antwerp, on the border with Limburg. The municipality of Balen is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Balen and Olmen.
Balen was part of the Tutorship of Mol, Balen and Dessel (Voogdij Moll, Baelen, Desschel), owned by the
abbey of Corbie, which appointed a tutor (voogd) to manage his possessions. As usual, there was a fierce competition for the power between the abbey and the tutors. Accordingly, the Count of Brabant took the Higher lordship, whereas the Lower lordship remained to the abbey until 1559, when it were purchased by Godfried van Bocholtz. The division of the power between the Count of Brabant and the Bocholtz family remained stable until the end of the Ancient Regime.
Balen is the residence of one of the today's most popular Belgians, the cyclist Tom Boonen (b. 1980 in Mol), nicknamed Torpedo Tom, Balen Express or De Bom van Balen (The Bomb of Balen). Boonen started his professional career in 2002, finishing 3rd in Paris-Roubaix. In 2004, he won Ghent-Wevelgem and two stages in the Tour de France, including the last one on the Champs-Elysées in Paris. Boonen won in 2005 Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders (this was the first double since 1973), two stages in the Tour de France and the world championship in Madrid. In 2006, he won the Tour des Flandres but finished "only" 2nd in Paris-Roubaix; he wore the yellow jersey in the Tour de France for three days but won no stage.
Although remains of the Gallo-Roman period have been found near the
woods of Stral, the eventual colonization of Olmen and the surrounding
hamlets by cattle breeders took place in the Frankish-Merovingian
period (5th-8th centuries). In 1096, Olmen was incorporated along with
the March of Antwerp into the Duchy of Brabant, and became an
autonomous domain located on the eastern border of the Duchy. In 1397,
Duchess Johanna of Brabant offerred the domain of Olmen to Aert of
Crayenhem, Lord of Grobbendonk and Bouwel. The lord usually did not
live in the vilage and appointed someone from a powerful local family
to run the domain. At the end of the 18th century, Petrus Joannes
Schooffs was the most important man of the village, being secretary,
notary, landlord and representative of the lord and of several other,
bigger landlords. The other burghers and the merchants of Olmen
challenged his power. Led by Francis Raeyen, they sued Schoofs and the
trial lasted more than ten years. Raeyen was eventually appointed Mayor
during the French occupation. In the 19th century, the landlords and
the big farmers of Olmen attempted to modernize the village and to
improve the roads, in order to facilitate trade, which was particularly
successful from 1863 to 1877. Later, the village was hit by the
economical crisis and several farmers had to work in the factories of
the regions of Liège and Antwerp.
In 1894, Pastor Caerts founded in Olmen a farmers' association (Boerenbond), which contributed to the modernization of agriculture. However, several inhabitants of Olmen had to work in the factories of Mol-Gompel and Balen-Wezel, as well as in the coal mines of Limburg.
The zoo of Olmen (10 ha) shows several exotic animals in their reconstituted natural environment, including rare and endangered species such as the white tiger and the snow lion.
The Hondapark of Olmen is the training place of the motocross champion Eric Geboers (b. 1962 in Neerpelt). Geboers was the first scrambler to win the world championship in the three categories (125 cc, 1982 and 1983; 250 cc, 1987; and 500 cc, 1988 and 1990), deserving the nickname of Mister 875 (125 + 250 + 500).
Source: Website of the history society Olmense vereniging voor Heemkunde en geschiedenis
Ivan Sache, 20 September 2006
The municipal flag of Balen is blue with a thick yellow saltire.
According to Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel [w2v02], the flag was adopted by the Municipal Council on 17 December 1987, confirmed by the Executive of Flanders on 1 March 1988 and published in the Belgian official gazette on 16 September 1988.
The flag is a banner of the municipal arms.
According to Van evers en heiligen. Wapens en vlaggen van de
gemeenten in de provincie Antwerpen
the coat of arms of the new municipality is similar to the one granted
to Balen by Royal Decree on 6 May 1839. The saltire comes from the arms
of the Roelants, lords of Mol, Balen and Dessel in the 17th century,
and probably also refers to the patron saint of Balen, St. Andrew, who
is holding the shield in the full coat of arms.
Olmen also had blue and yellow arms (the then Dutch colours), granted on 6 October 1619 by (Dutch) Royal Decree and confirmed by (Belgian) Royal Decreee on 23 March 1839, portraying the local patron saint St. Willibrord or on a field azure.
Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 20 September 2006