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Knokke-Heist (Municipality, Province of West Flanders, Belgium)

Last modified: 2011-12-03 by ivan sache
Keywords: knokke-heist | scallops: 3 (white) | knokke | heist-an-zee |
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[Flag of Knokke-Heist]

Municipal flag of Knokke-Heist - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 21 July 2005

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Presentation of Knokke-Heist

The municipality of Knokke-Heist (34,132 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 5,644 ha) is located on the North Sea, close to the border with the Netherlands. The municipality of Knokke-Helst was formed in 1970 by the merger of the former municipalities of Knokke, Heist (often called Heist-an-Zee for differentiation from Heist-op-den-Berg), Ramskapelle and Westkapelle.

Knokke is the north-easternmost sea-side resort of the Belgian coast. Separated from the Dutch territory by the natural reserve of Zwin, Knokke is considered to be the most exclusive beach town in Belgium, primarily because of Knokke-Het Zoute (in French, Knokke-le-Zoute), an area of splendid villas where the Belgian jet-set feels at home.
The legend says that a group of Irish pilgrims, monks and villains settled in the area between the 6th and the 9th century. One of them, the monk Guthago, lived a pious life and died in the village mentioned as Cnoc.

Knokke indeed came into existence because of the construction of dikes that were meant to protect the area around the Zwin sea-arm. In 1640 the settlement had a population of about 200. At the independence of Belgium in 1830, Knokke was still predominantly a rural area consisting of a few hamlets. Already then, the place started to attract artists, a lot of them painters (such as James Ensor, Alfred Verwee and others). The artists rented a small miller's cottage and founded there the Cercle des Artistes in 1880. In the beginning of the 20th century, Knokke rapidly morphed into an rather select sea-side resort when the first hotels were built.
The Knokke Casino, built in 1929-1930 and thoroughly renovated after the Second World War, is worthwhile for its splendid interior decoration. Next to the impressive chandelier, the biggest in Europe (diameter: 8.5 m; height: 6,5m; weight: 7,000 kg; 22,000 pieces of glass and 2,700 lamps), there are wall-paintings from Paul Delvaux (1983), Keith Haring and René Magritte (1953) as well as multicolored sculptures by Niki de Saint Phalle. Inside the gambling room are wall tapestries made by Jean Lurçat. A real gastronomic institution in Knokke is the waffle-house "Mother Siska". Siska made her delicious waffles for the visitors of Knokke in 1892 already. Her twelve children continued the tradition, the speciality of the house being the five-heart-shaped waffles.

In 1977, Jacques Brel recorded the song Knokke-le-Zoute Tango. It tells the story of a guy dreaming of being Argentinian or Spanish and having all kinds of women, but in fact coming home alone under the rain:

Non ce soir
Il pleut sur Knokke-le-Zoute
Ce soir comme tous les soirs
Je me rentre chez moi
Le coeur en déroute
Et la bitte sous l'bras.


No, this evening
It rains over Knokke-le-Zoute
This evening like every evening
I come back home
With routed heart
And the dick under the arm.

In 1953, Jacques Brel, then an unsuccessful singer, took part to a song contest in Knokke-Het-Zouten and was ranked 27th out of 28 competitors. The same year, he was hired in Paris by Jacques Canetti (the brother of the Nobel Prize of litterature Elias Canetti), owner of the cabaret Les Trois Baudets (The Three Donkeys). Canetti produced Brel's first record in 1954 but success started really only in 1959 after a concert on 5 November in the Bobino music-hall. Brel left the scene in 1967, without any warning, after a memorable concert in Olympia, played in a few movies and emigrated to the Marquesas Islands, in French Polynesia. He came back to Paris in 1977, where he registered his last record, simply called Brel, including Jaurès, La Ville s'endormait, Vieillir, Le Bon Dieu, Les F.. , Orly, Les Remparts de Varsovie, Voir un Ami Pleurer, Knokke-Le-Zoute Tango, Jojo, Le Lion and Les Marquises. Brel died a few weeks after the release of the record.

The Zwin is a silted up sea-arm which linked in the Middle-Ages the wealthy town of Bruges to the North Sea.The progressive silting up of the Zwin caused the economical decline of Bruges. The nature reserve of Zwin is situated on the coast (2.3 km) between Knokke and the Dutch border (125 ha in Belgium and 33 ha in the Netherlands). It is protected by a row of dunes. Near the border between the two countries, a 250-m wide breach in the dunes is followed by a channel called slufter. The channel branches into smaller creeks filled with sea water and refreshed with silt at high tide. There are also salt marshes flooded only during spring tide.
During the set up of the Delta Plan following the big flood of the 1st February 1953, the dike protecting the Zwin was heightened. Count Leon Lippens, owner of the real estate Het Zoute company and builder of the Knokke sea resort, dug big ponds in the marshes, called the Western Lakes, with artificial islands for bird nesting. Gates allow to keep always water in the lakes, even during dry periods.
The emblematic component of the Zwin ecosystem is the endangered sea lavender (Limonium vulgare, aka Statice limonium), which blooms in carpets in summmer.


Ivan Sache, 21 July 2005

Municipal flag of Knokke-Heist

The municipal flag of Knokke-Heist is horizontally divided yellow-red-yellow with three white scallops placed horizontally in the red stripe.
According to Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel [w2v02], the flag was adopted by the Municipal Council on 23 March 1981, confirmed by Royal Decree on 2 February 1982 and published in the Belgian municipal gazette on 21 April 1982 and, again, on 4 January 1995.

The flag is designed after the municipal arms, "Or a chevron gules three scallops argent a thistle in base". On the flag, the thistle is omitted and the chevron is replaced by a fess.

Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 21 July 2005

Promotion flag of Knokke-Heist

The flag promoting Knokke-Heist (photo) is white with a logo evoking sea, beach, and sun.
The logo, taking up the flag's central, horizontal 3/5 is a blue rectangle through which run three white wavy lines from left to right, ending up two and at left enclosing a narrow yellow patch; above and slightly indenting the rectangle, but fimbriated, a yellow sun; finally, blue place name "KNOKKE-HEIST" wavy above, the right part of this landscape and extending further towards the right.

Jan Mertens, 22 January 2010

Former municipality of Knokke

[Flag of Knokke]

Flag of Knokke - Image by Ivan Sache, 30 December 2009

The flag of Knokke is vertically divided red-yellow. The photo of a real flag, measuring 100 cm x 140 cm, is shown on the Sincfala local museum website.
The colours surely refer to the former municipal arms which have been retained, now representing Knokke-Heist.

Jan Mertens, 28 December 2009

Former municipality of Heist

The Sincfala Museum website shows a Heist-aan-Zee municipal banner (photo), as forked, vertical, white, with the arms in the centre. The banner or oriflamme is suspended from a rope attached to a stick at the top; the flag itself is woven, measuring 69 cm x 133 cm; and the corners contain little pieces of lead.
The arms are checkered of green and yellow (3 x 3, counting only the complete squares and with a yellow square in the upper left), two red fouled anchors (green rope) crossed behind the shield and a five-pointed yellow star above it. Proposed on 14 August 1895 by Municipal Decree, but, apparently, never officially adopted, they were used in the 16th century by the Lords of Koudekerke (Walcheren, Netherlands), "Checkered of twelve pieces or and vert".

Jan Mertens, 15 March 2010