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Pittem (Municipality, Province of West Flanders, Belgium)

Last modified: 2015-07-28 by ivan sache
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[Flag of Pittem]

Municipal flag of Pittem - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 23 November 2005

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Presentation of Pittem

The municipality of Pittem (6,609 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 3,442 ha) is located 15 km north-west of Roeselare. The municipality of Pittem is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Pittem and Egem.

Since 1984, Pittem and the city of Shawnee, Kansas, USA are sister cities. During the 1800s and early 1900s many residents left Flanders from sheer economic necessity and emigrated to other area, particularly France and America. In the period of one generation (1880-1914) about 450 citizens of Egem emigrated to America. Constant, Henri and Karel Soetaert emigrated to America in 1892. Former Mayor of Shawnee Thomas Soetaert (1977-1989) is a descendent of Karel Soetaert.

Pittem is mostly known for the Sint-Jozef psychiatric hospital and as the birth town of the Jesuit father Ferdinand Verbiest (1623-1688).
Excerpts from the Catholic Encyclopaedia (1912):

Verbiest entered the Society of Jesus in 1641, and studied theology at Seville (Spain), where he defended public theses in 1655. In 1658 with thirty-five new missionaries he accompanied Father Martin Martini on his return to China. He reached Macao in 1659, and was exercising his ministry in Shen-si when in 1660 he was called to Peking to assist, and eventually to replace, Father Adam Schall in his astronomical labours. He was among those imprisoned during the persecution of 1664. Father Schall, the chief of those accused, being unable to make himself understood by his judges, Father Verbiest, himself loaded with nine chains, defended him with courage and eloquence. In fact the Church in China owed to Father Verbiest the recovery of peace and greater security than it had before the outbreak. In 1668 the young emperor commanded a public test, which allowed the priest to prove beyond dispute the merits of European astronomy compared with the ancient astronomy of China. Father Verbiest and the mandarin who had instigated the persecution and who had taken Father Schall's place as president of the bureau of mathematics, were each commissioned to determine in advance the length of the shadow thrown by a gnomon of a given height at noon of a certain day; then the absolute and relative positions of the sun and the planets on a given date; and finally the moment of a lunar eclipse. The results of the test, which the emperor, ministers, and nobles established in person, were a triumph for the astronomy for the missionaries. Father Verbiest was immediately placed at the head of the Bureau of Mathematics, and, out of consideration for him, his exiled brethren were authorized to return to their missions.

Thenceforth K'ang-hi's benevolence towards Father Verbiest and the Christian religion increased steadily. The emperor requested the priest to construct instruments like those of Europe, and in May, 1674, Verbiest was able to present him with six, made under his direction: a quadrant, six feet in radius; an azimuth compass, six feet in diameter; a sextant, eight feet in radius; a celestial globe, six feet in diameter; and two armillary spheres, zodiacal and equinoctial, each six feet in diameter. These large instruments, all of brass and with decorations which made them notable works of art, were, despite their weight, very easy to manipulate, and a credit to Verbiest's mechanical skill as well as to his knowledge of astronomy and mathematics.
K'ang-hi made use of the talents of the Belgian Jesuit in various other ways, e.g. the transportation of enormous blocks of stone, the construction of an aqueduct, and the casting of canons. Not only did Father Verbiest cast 132 cannons of far superior power than those possessed by the Chinese, but he invented a new gun-carriage.

At the same time the missionary had to write in Chinese a collection of works explaining the construction of the instruments, their object, and the manner of using them. The emperor also desired him to compile astronomical tables indicating the movements of the planets and the solar and lunar eclipses for 2000 years to come; moreover, he had him give on certain days a course in mathematics and astronomy, at which many of the great mandarins as well as the 160 students of the Bureau of Mathematics assisted. In his desire to acquire the European sciences, K'ang-hi himself became a pupil of the missionary. Through his influence with the emperor Father Verbiest did more for the spread of the Gospel than any of the missionaries who preached it in the provinces; nevertheless he found time for the direct exercise of the apostolate, especially in the composition of short works in Chinese on the principles of the Christian religion. K'ang-hi recognized the services of the missionary by conferring on him successively the highest degrees of the mandarinate. The liberty to preach, the only reward Father Verbiest looked for, was almost the sole benefit he derived from his dignities.

Ivan Sache, 23 November 2005

Municipal flag of Pittem

The municipal flag of Pittem is vertically divided red-white with two heraldic roses placed along the ascending diagonal in the white field.
According to Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel, the flag was adopted by the Municipal Council on 29 October 1984, confirmed by the Executive of Flanders on 1 April 1985 and published in the Belgian official gazette on 8 July 1986.

The colours of the flag and the roses are taken from the municipal coat of arms, which can be seen on the municipal website, "Argent a canton gules two roses of the same per bend sinister".

Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 23 November 2005