Last modified: 2007-10-20 by ivan sache
Keywords: beernem | bears: 3 (yellow) |
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Municipal flag of Beernem - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 1 January 2007
The municipality of Beernem (14,691 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 7,167 ha) is located between Ghent and Bruges. The municipality of Beernem is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Beernem (7,051 inh.; 2,791 ha), Oedelem (5,798 inh.; 3,731 ha) and Sint-Joris (1,794 inh.; 645 ha).
Beernem was mentioned for the first time in 847 as Bernehem, a word
made after the Germanic words birnu and hamma, meaning most
probably "an enclosed marshy area". In the Middle Ages, Beernem was
hardly inhabited, with a few manors, and depended on Bruges. By the end
of the XVIIIth century, rich nobles built castles in the then green
desert area called Bulskampveld. The name of Bulskampveld is derived
from the Germanic words bulsnas kampa, "the bulls' field". It was once
the largest heath land in Flanders and is today the largest united
forestland in West-Flanders. In the Middle Ages, beer was brewn with an
herbal mixture called gruut, including the sweet gale (Myrica gale),
aka bog myrtle. The lords of Gruuthuse owed their wealth to the right
of plucking gale in the acidic peat bogs of Bulskampveld.
This place was the site of the infamous "Murders of Beernem", recalled by the sepulchral monument of Knight de Vrière, Mayor of Bernem. De Vrière had a love affair with the wife of Baron d'Udekem d'Acoz, whose dead body was found in 1915 in Bulskampvled. In the following years, more murders occurred but nobody dared accuse de Vrière until a reporter from Maldegem aired the story all over Belgium. Two staff members of the Mayor were sentenced but the murders stopped only when the municipal secretary was killed, after the Mayor's death.
Oedelem was mentioned for the first time in 906 as Udelhelm, a word
made after the Germanic words odila and haima, meaning "the domain's
residence". A manor was indeed founded in Oedelem in the Xth century by
the lords of Praet. However, the region of Oedelem was settled much
earlier, as proved by Prehistoric and Roman remains. In the past,
Oedelem's Mountain (23 m a.s.l.), indeed a cuesta, was a main source
of clay, from which the famous bricks of Oedelem were made; in the
XIVth century, the bricks and roof tiles of the belfry of Bruges were
made using those bricks. There are still some twenty clay pits in the
village but no more active brickyard, not even the once famous
Briquetteries and Tuileries d'Oedelem.
Oedelem is the home of the famous landscape designer and gardener Chris Ghyselen.
Sint-Joris was mentioned for the first time in 1240. Until then, it was
a desert land part of the Bulskampveld. The legend says that a noble
attacked during a hunting party and miraculously rescued built a chapel
dedicated to St. Georges.
In the XIXth century, Sint-Joris was known as the lath cleavers' village. When the wood company Lemahieu set up in Sint-Joris, most of the villagers were employed as lath cleavers. Laths, used for plastering and stucco, were even exported abroad. This industry disappeared after the First World War.
Sint-Joris is watered by the Ghent-Bruges canal, one of the oldest in Belgium. The building of the canal was started by the burghers from Bruges because of the silting of the Zwin river. They attempted to connect the canal with river Leie in Deinze, but the burghers of Ghent did not agree, claiming that the Leie would become unnavigable due to the sinking of the watermark. In 1379, a militia from Ghent killed several workers near Sint-Joris and the building of the canal was stopped. Bruges then lost the battle of Beverhoutsveld and the works stopped for the next two centuries. In 1604, the Dutch blocked the shipping route of Western Scheldt and the two towns eventually agreed to resume the building of the canal. After 21 years of work, a 42-km long canal connected Ghent, Bruges and Ostend to each other and to the sea. Since then, the canal has been constantly enlarged and revamped.
Source: Municipal website
Ivan Sache, 1 January 2007
The municipal flag of Beernem is blue with three yellow bears placed 2
According to Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel, the flag was adopted by the Municipal Council on 7 July 1986, confirmed by the Executive of Flanders on 7 October 1986 and published in the Belgian official gazette on 3 December 1987. The flag is derived from the municipal arms, the chief being omitted.
The bears on the arms and flag of Beernem recall the popular (but wrong) etymology of the name of the town, a bear being in Dutch a beer. Several local products, listed on the municipal website, are bear-related or labelled with the three bears, for instance the Beernems stoofpotje (turkey stew in pink sauce), the Beernems berenbier (Beernem's bearbeer), the Berekroket (Bear's croquette, made with shrimps), the Beernems Fluutje (Beernem's whistle, a pork sausage), the Beernemse Beer (Beernem's bear, a bear-shaped chocolate figure), etc.
Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 1 January 2007