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Bierbeek (Municipality, Province of Flemish Brabant, Belgium)

Last modified: 2007-10-20 by ivan sache
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[Flag of Bierbeek]

Municipal flag of Bierbeek - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 29 October 2006

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Presentation of Bierbeek and its villages

The municipality of Bierbeek (9,233 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 3,973 ha) is located in the south-west of Leuven. The municipality of Bierbeek is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Bierbeek (2,275 ha), Korbeek-Lo (374 ha) and Lovenjoel (666 ha), as well as of the village of Opvelp (658 ha).

Bierbeek is named after the Molendaalbeek brook (in Dutch, beek), which has its source in the eponymic hamlet. In Germanic, bir, birre or borre means "a source" (in Dutch, bron).
In the Prehistoric times, the site of Bierbeek was densely settled, as proved by several archeological findings. Several Roman sites have been also localized, such as a rural estate (villa rustica). In 450, the Bishop of Poitiers sent to Bierbeek a relic from saint Hilarius, which proves that the area was evangelized quite early. Along with the neighbouring villages, Bierbeek was part of the County of Brunerode in 879, and was eventually incorporated to the County of Leuven in 1105. The Barony of Bierbeek was then one of the most powerful baronies in Brabant. The most famous member of the Bierbeek lineage is Blessed Walter of Bierbeek, a knight who took part to the Crusades and took the cloth in 1183 in the Cistercian abbey of Hemmerod; he was beatified in 1937. The Saint Hilarius church, one of the best preserved Romanesque churches of Flanders, belonged to the chapter of Bierbeek, which was transferred to the Saint Nicaise abbey in Reims by the lords of Bierbeek. Very few remains of the Benedictine priory have been kept until now.
In 1248, the Barony of Bierbeek lost its independence and was incorporated into the Duchy of Aarschot. Bierbeek was eventually transferred to the Arenberg family in 1620.
The hamlets of Blanden and Haasrode seceded from Bierbeek to form municipalities in 1842 and 1928, respectively. They are today part of the municipality of Oud-Heverlee.
The most famous building in Bierbeek is the water tower built in 1969 by the Ateliers de Construction de Jambes. The water reservoir is a sphere of 500 cubic meters in volume and 29 meter in diameter, placed at a height of 103.6 m, which makes of it the highest point of the municipality. In 1993, the water tower was restored and the sphere was painted as the earth.

Korbeek-Lo is named after a murmuring brook (korbeek) or a short (korte) brook and a wood (lo). The oldest written mention of the village dates back to the XIth century. The administrative reform split the village into two parts: the hamlets of De Mol and Ziekelingen were incorporated into the municipality of Leuven, whereas the remaining parts of the village were incorporated into the municipality of Bierbeek.

Lovenjoel means "the Little Leuven" (Lovaniolu). The village was located on the Roman way Cologne-Boulogne. A Roman cemetary was excavated near the hamlet of Biest, on the foot of the Pellenberg slope. The patron saint of Lovenjoel is saint Ermelindis (c. 550-600); a legend says that her parents lived on the edge of the Bruulbos wood in the hamlet of Ter Donk. Then the saint moved to Beauvechain, where she made a miracle, and eventually to Meldert, where her relics are kept in the parish church in a shrine opened every 50 years. There is still there a pilgrimage chapel and a fountain. The saint is invoked against fevers, eye diseases and paralysis. In the Lovenjoel families, the girls were often named Ermelindis.
The family of Spoelbergh owned the village since 1649. Their domains were transferred in the early XXth century to the Catholic University of Leuven, which opened there in 1927 the neuropsychiatric clinic Salve Mater.

Opvelp got its current name in 1559. Opvelp and the neighbouring hamlet of Neervelp alrady existed in the VIIIth century. The names of the villages are related to the river Velpe, which has its source in Opvelp (Upper Velp) and waters Neervelp (Lower Velp) before flowing into the Demer.
In the Middle Ages, Opvelp, along with Meldert and Hoegaarden, was an enclave of the Principality of Liège within the Duchy of Brabant. This explains several French family and place names. Opvelp and Neervelp were until 1976 part of the the municipality of Honsem. Neervelp was then incorporated into Boutersem whereas Opvelp was incorporated into Bierbeek.
Opvelp is the birth place of the athlet Gaston Roelants (b. 1937), Olympic champion in 3,000 m steeple-chase in 1964 (8'30"8). During his long carreer, Roelants won several national titles and hold several records; in his late years, he specialized in marathon and cross-country races, winning the São Paulo Corrida and finishing second in the first Sierre-Zinal race in 1974.

Source: Municipal website

Ivan Sache, 29 October 2006

Municipal flag of Bierbeek

The municipal flag of Bierbeek is horizontally divided white-red-white with three black escutcheons with a yellow lion with red tongue and claws placed 2 and 1 in the upper and lower stripe, respectively.
According to Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel, the flag and arms were adopted by the Municipal Council on 2 June 1987, confirmed by the Executive of Flanders on 13 October 1987 and published in the Belgian official gazette on 16 September 1988. The flag is a banner of the former arms of Bierbeek with three escutcheons of Brabant. The three stripes as well as the three escutcheons recall the three former municipalities merged into Bierbeek.

The municipal website gives the official description of the symbols of Bierbeek:
Flag: Drie even hoge banen van wit, van rood en van wit, met drie zwarte schildjes beladen met een gele, rood geklauwde en getongde leeuw, twee boven en een onder.
Arms: Gedeeld 1: in sabel een leeuw van goud, geklauwd en getongd van keel; 2: in zilver een dwarsbalk van keel (Per pale sable a lion or armed and lampassed gules silver a fess gules).
The arms are based on the seal used by the magistrates of Bierbeek in the XIV-XVIIIth centuries.

Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 29 October 2006