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Beauraing (Municipality, Province of Namur, Belgium)

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

Municipal flag of Beauraing - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 20 May 2005

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Presentation of Beauraing and its villages

The municipality of Beauraing (8,449 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 17,455 ha) is located in the east of the Province of Namur, 20 km south of Dinant and 10 km east of Givet (France). The municipality of Beauraing is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Baronville, Beauraing, Dion, Felenne, Feschaux, Focant, Froidfontaine, Honnay, Javingue, Martouzin-Neuville, Pondrôme, Vônèche, Wancennes, Wiesmes and Winenne.

Beauraing is located on the foothills of the massif of Ardenne. In the XIXth century, the town was the center of an industrial region, with glassworks, quarries, tanneries and lime kilns; today, only wood industry is still active. There are no less than eight other places called Beaurain in the neighborhood (seven in France and one in Belgium); this homonymy is a main source of historical inaccuracy.
The castle of Beauraing, whose only remains are towers, walls and outbuildings, was in the Middle Ages a big fortress built on limestone promontory. It watches a market hall already known in the XIIIth century and the place of a free market since 1567.
Beauraing was originally part of the Duchy of Luxembourg. In 1436, the castle was burnt during a conflict between the lord of Beauraing and the Bishop of Liège. The castle was rebuilt and later owned by Duke of Beaufort-Spontin, who built the gate in Louis XIV style still visible today, which opens onto the main courtyard. The wing of the castle struck by lightning was rebuilt by the Duke and decorated with good taste. In 1793, the Mayor of Givet Delecolle and a troop of Sans-Culottes destroyed the castle.
In 1855, Duke d'Osuna bought the ruins and commissioned the French architect Mestral to completely revamp the castle. It costed the Duke 300 millions francs. The Duke's wife was fond of horses and Mestral built for her beautiful stables decorated with horse heads and flanked with two pointed towers. Every day, the Duchess took her small cabriolet drawn by two poneys and visited the poor of the village. In the greenhouses were grown orange and citrus trees as well as palm trees and cactus, and two monkeys lived there. There were big parties in the castle and the Prince of Wales was among the guests in 1880. The Duke died in 1882 without direct descendants and was buried in the parish church of Beauraing; his widow was his heiress. However, the Duke was nearly ruined; on 27 September, the Duchess d'Osuna married Duke de Croÿ in the medieval St. Peter's chapel. The Duchess had to borrow 2,220,000 francs from the insurance company Concordia in Cologne. After her death, the castle was to be sold for 805,000 francs. The furniture had to be shipped to Cologne; the packers came at night with petrol lamps on 3 December 1889. A blaze broke out and there was nothing left from the castle the next morning.
The former outhouses and the remaining towers of the castle were restored by Mr. Lenelle in 1930.

In the same period, weird events took place in a school ruled by nuns of the Christian Doctrine in Beauraing. On Tuesday 29 november 1932 in the evening, Fernande Voisin and her brother Albert went to the school to pick up their sister Gilberte; Andrée and Fernande Degeimbre came with them. In the dark, Albert saw a white light moving over a grotto dedicated to Notre-Dame of Lourdes; his friends saw a human form, and Gilberte saw a kind of statue. The children, aged 9 to 15, were scared and ran away home. The next day and on 1 December, the same thing happened. The children warned the Degeimbre parents, who went with them on the site of the visions. They could not see anything but the children fell on their knees, chanted the Ave Maria and said: "Here is a beautiful lady, dazzlingly white, moving here and there under the hawthorn". On 2 December, the lady told Albert Voisin to behave himself in all circumstances. On 4, 5, 6 and 8 December, the children asked the lady if she was the Immaculated Virgin, and she answered with a positive sign.
Once the apparitions were known, thousands of people rushed to Beauraing. The children were questioned by the Mayor, the Police and doctors, but no inconsistency was found in their statements. The church was a bit reluctant to recognize the apparitions as genuine. On 17 December, the Virgin asked the building of a chapel to the children; on 23, she required a pilgrimage to be set up at Beauraing. On 2 January, 25,000 people expecting miracles went to Beauraing, a hundred of doctors and the Crown Prosecutor of Dinant questioned again the children. The apparition told the children "I am God's mother, the Queen of Heaven; pray always, goodbye". Albert Voisin, Gilberte Degeimbre and Fernande Voisin were told something else they would never reveal.
Theologians and doctors concluded that the children had seen 33 apparitions. His Grace Heylen, Bishop of Namur, officially recognized the miracle. In 1943, the Holy See allowed His Grace Charue to celebrate the cult of Notre-Dame de Beauraing, and a first pontifical mass was said on 16 May. Since then, Beauraing is a popular place of international pilgrimage, especially on 22 August, Notre-Dame de Beauraing's Day. Pope John-Paul II visited Notre-Dame de Beauraing on 18 May 1985, and met Gilberte and Andrée Voisin and Gilberte Degeimbre.

Baronville (lit., the Baron's or Free man's estate) belonged to the provostship of Revogne and therefore of the Principality of Liège. Johannes de Baronville is mentioned in a document dated 1070. The Barons de Wal were lords of Baronville in the XVIIth-XVIIIth centuries; during the Revolution (1789-1790), the Baron de Wal supported the reforms and contributed to the redaction of a reform agenda for the rural classes. Red and grey marble was exploited in Baronville in the St. Magdalena quarry.

Dion might have been named after the Celtic word devonos, "divine", "holy". in Latin, the toponyms Devona and Divona refer to holy rivers, and Dion might have been named after a holy fountain or source. Dion, made of the two villages of Dion-le-Mont and Dion-le-Val, is located on a large limestone stripe stretching from Givet to Beauraing; limestone is there rich in iron lodes, which have been exploited since the Roman times.

Felenne does not seem to have been settled before the XIth century, when it was named Felinias (later Felenia and Felines), maybe meaning "potter's earth". Woods cover c. 80% of the area of the village. The two watermills powered by river Houille are still visible.

Feschaux is the ancien Frankish Villa Fiscalium (later Fescals, Fessaux, Faisseaux, Feissar and Feissaulx). Villa Fiscalium seems to have been the place were income tax was perceived by IRS (fisc), whereas the salt tax (gabelle) was perceived in the neighbouring Gabelium, today the French town of Givet. A Frankish cemetary with 140 tombs and the remains of a small chapel dedicated to St. John were found in the hamlet called Les Icoux. Not far from there, the Devil's Fountain probably recalls an ancient pagan cult.

Focant (Fourcamps, Fourkan, Foulcant in 1342, and Foucant) belonged to the domain of Silvestrecourt, which included Esclaye and Martouzin-Neuville and was listed in 867 as a possession of the abbey of Stavelot. Silvestrecourt was progressively dismantled and its name, changed to Fescourt, is today bore by a farm located in Focant.

Froidfontaine (lit., "cold fountain") was named after the fountain located in the center of the village. It was part of the domain of Tanton; in the XVIIth century, Froidfontaine was bigger than Tanton and the name of the domain was changed. Several factories were powered by watermills built on brook Wimbe and peat was extracted until the end of the XIXth century.

Honnay (Hunivol in 1050-1070, then Honnay, Honey in the XVth century and eventually Honnay in 1338) shared its history with its hamlet Revogne.
Nemery claims that the Revogne (Ruvonia in 816, Revia in the XIIth century, Rovonia in 1139-1163-1173, Revonia in 1154, Rivonia from 1245 to 1329, Revoigne in 1211-1290, Revoingne from 1262 to 1311, Revogne in 1320, Revongne in the XVth century, Rivonge in 1196, Rivoigne in 1241-1324, Rivongne in 1258-1314-1322 and Ruvogne in the XVth century) was a Merovingian domain named after the German lord Rubo. The suffix -onia is common in the region of Beauraing. The castle of Revogne, mentioned in the Xth century, was the center of a provostship made of some 20 villages; a small town developed, which was surrounded by city walls built in 1241 and protected by three gates. Revogne was disputed between the Bishop of Liège and the Duke of Burgundy; the Burgundians seized the fortress in 1466 and suppressed it. The inhabitants left and the provostship declined in a rural estate managed by local nobles. After the French Revolution, Revogne had no municipal status and depended on Honnay.

Javingue was written Gavengche, then Javengle, Javaingle in 1297 and Gavinque, at least until 1794. After the French Revolution, Javingue incorporated the neighbouring village of Sevry (written Superiacum, Seviriacum, Suvriacum, Suveriaco in Famenna, Suverei in the XIIth century, Suveri, Suverich in the XIVth century, Severy in the XVIth century, then Suvery, Sivri, Severy-la-Franche). The toponym Sevry or Sivry is common in France and Belgium, and might recall the estate owned by lord Superus or Severus.

Martouzin is the ancient Martis villa (then Martinisius in 1264, Martivoisin, Martoisin, Marteusin and Marthoville in 1571) and would be older than its hamlet Neuville (Nova villa). Martouzin was incorporated with Focant into the domain of Silvestrecourt. Neuville was a separate domain depending on the provostship of Revogne from the XIth century onwards.

Pondrôme (written Pondresmo in 1055, Pondrosme in 1064, Poudron, and Pondremme in 1178) is a very old settlement. Significant remains from the Neolithic have been found. In the Roman times, Pondrôme was located close to the way Givet-Nassogne. A Gallo-Roman cemetary was excavated in Thanville, as well as a Merovingian necropolis in Tombois. Pondrôme initially belonged to the Duchy of Luxembourg and was incorporated into the County of Namur in the XIVth century. The hamlet of Mossiat has been tentatively identified as "Mosalis", listed in Carloman's chart dated 746.

Vônèche (written in the past Wonesse, Wonnesse and Vonesche) might have been named after the Germanic roots won, "house" and nes, "wet". The oldest part of the village was indeed built in a marshy place. Priest Jacquemin believed that Vônèche meant the muddy (wesch) valley (vaux). In 1632, all the inhabitants of the parish were killed by black plague and the village was burnt down; it was resettled only 25 years later. In the second half of the XVIIIth century, Vônèche was one of the main industrial centers in Europe; in 1802, the French manufacturer d'Artigues (1773-1848) bought a glassworks and invented there a crystal 50 times cheaper than the product of his competitors. In 1810, d'Artigues employed more than 650 workers. Raw material such as silica, potash and minium, were produced locally. The main crystal-hewing mill had 22 big lathes. Later, d'Artigues moved to Baccarat, in France, and Kemlin and Lelièvre, two former directors in Vônèche, founded the Val-Saint-Lambert crystallery in 1826. The crystallery ofVônèche was transformed into a distillery, which closed in 1844.

Wancennes (written Wansina in 1104, later Wandsina, Wandsine, Wansenne and Wancenne) was Wando's estate. From the XVIth century to the French Revolution, Wancennes belonged to the Barony of Beauraing.

Wiesme is listed on Waulsort's chart (1078) as Véma, and was later written Vesma in 1163, Vieme in the XVth century and later Viesme. The name of the village seems to have been formed on the Latin root vim or vem, from vimen, "wicker willow".

Winenne depended on the County of Agimont.


Ivan Sache, 20 May 2005

Municipal flag of Beauraing

The municipal flag of Beauraing is vertically divided into two fields; at hoist, a yellow field charged with a descending red diagonal with a yellow and red fimbriation; at fly, ten horizontal alternating yellow and red stripes.

According to Armoiries communales en Belgique. Communes wallonnes, bruxelloises et germanophones, the flag was adopted by the Municipal Council on 6 March 1999 and confirmed by the Executive of the French Community on 30 April 1999, with the following description:
Deux laizes transversales : celle à la hampe chargée d'une laize diagonale descendante rouge longée de part et d'autre d'une étroite laize également rouge; celle au large formée de dix laizes longitudinales alternativement jaunes et rouges.
The flag is a banner of the municipal arms.

Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 20 May 2005