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Berlaar (Municipality, Province of Antwerp, Belgium)

Last modified: 2011-11-12 by ivan sache
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[Flag of Berlaar]

Municipal flag of Berlaar - Image by Ivan Sache, 23 September 2001

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Presentation of Berlaar

The municipality of Berlaar (10,668 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 2,457 ha) is located in Kempen, 15 km north-east of Mechelen and 25 km south-east of Antwerp. The municipality of Berlaar is made since 1965 of the former municipalities of Berlaar and Gestel; the same year, small parts of the former municipality of Berlaar were allocated to the municipalities of Putte and Kessel (itself incorporated into Nijlen in 1976).

The oldest mention of Berlaar dates back to 1180 as Berlaer, later changed to Berlar, Ballaer, Ballaert, Balaer and eventually Berlaar. The populat etymology says that in the early Middle Ages, the inhabitants of Berlaer did not know where to build the church; they followed two fighting bears (in Dutch, "beer") and decided to build the church in the clearing (in Dutch, "laer") where one bear killed the other. This "explains" why the church was not built in the middle of the village square as usual.
Berlaar belonged to the Berthout, lords of Mechelen and Grimbergen, who owned several domain in Kempen. Egidius I Berthout transfered a part of Berlaar to the Roosendael monastery in Walem; this part was reincorporated to the Country of Mechelen after the death of Margaretha of York in 1503. By Letters Patented dated 25 May 1505, the King of Spain, as the Duke of Brabant, sold Berlaar to Thomas de Plaines and his wife Jeanne de Gros. Berlaar was later successively owned by several lords, the most famous of them being Pieter Van Dale (1560), the founder of the Van Dale College in Leuven, and Niklaas Rubens, Lord of Ramay (Rameyen, with a castle already mentioned in the 13th century) and son of the painter Pieter Pauwel Rubens. The last owner of Berlaar was Willem K.G. de Merode, in 1791.

The manor of Berlaar (Berlaarhof) was inhabited by Ernest Van Dyck (1866-1923), a famous tenor; from 1888 to 1895, Van Dyck was appointed "first tenor" in the Bayreuth Festival by Cosima Wagner, and has remained famous for his performance in Lohengrin and Parsifal. After the death of the Widow (whom he called "a Prussian NCO" after they broke out), Van Dyck was again invited to Bayreuth in 1911 and 1912 by Siegfried Wagner. Van Dycke was also the first interpreter of Jules Massenet's Werther.
In the past, Berlaar was the main center of diamond cutting in Kempen.

Source: Municipal website

Ivan Sache, 20 May 2007

Municipal flag of Berlaar

The municipal flag of Berlaar is vertically divided blue-white-blue-white-blue-white-blue.
According to the Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel [w2v02], the flag was adopted by the Municipal Council on 24 April 1989, confirmed by the Executive of Flanders on 13 June 1989 and published in the Belgian official gazette on 8 November 1989.
The flag is a banner of the municipal arms.

According to Van evers en heiligen. Wapens en vlaggen van de gemeenten in de provincie Antwerpen [pbd98], the arms of Berlaar were granted in 1819 by (Dutch) Royal Decree and confirmed by (Belgian) Royal Decree on 25 may 1838. The complete arms are supported by two bears. The arms ("Azure three pales argent") are supposed to be the arms of the Berthout-Berlaar family. A municipal seal from 1325 shows the arms of Berthout ("Or three pales gules"); on the 1455 seal, the shield is hold by a bear, whereas later seals from 1655 and 1659 do not show any supporter. The two canting bears support the seal from 1698, probably based on a lost seal from 1612. Anyway, the colours proposed by the Dutch Court of Arms in 1819 are wrong, since the arms of Berthout-Berlaar were "Argent three pales gules" (and were used by the former municipality of Berchem, today part of Antwerp). The Flemish Heraldic Council pointed out the error but the Municipal Council of Berlaar decided to keep the traditional colours granted in 1819.

Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 20 May 2007