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Geel (Municipality, Province of Antwerp, Belgium)

Last modified: 2007-12-22 by ivan sache
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[Flag of Geel]

Municipal flag of Geel - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 14 September 2006

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Presentation of Geel

The municipality of Geel (35,502 inhabitants on 1 January 2006; 10,985 inhabitants) is located in the region of Kempen, 30 km east of Antwerp.

Geel is world-famous for the compassionate way the inhabitants of the town have been hosting mentally ill people for centuries, yielding to Geel the well-deserved nickname of Bamhartige Stede, the Merciful Town. This tradition is related to the local martyre, St. Dymphna (aka Dymfna, Dimfna, Dympna, Dimpna...), celebrated on 15 May. St. Dymphna is the patron saint of the mentally ill people and of those who take care of them.
According to the tradition, Dymphna lived in the VIIth century. She was the daughter of the pagan Irish king Damon and of a beautiful Christian mother. The little girl was secretely christened by Father Gerebernus. The mother died and the father became mad, wishing to marry her own daughter who recalled him so much her late wife. Dymphna left with Gerebernus and settled in a small chapel in the woods of Kempen. They took care of the poor and the needy and became so famous that the mad king found them and attempted once again to marry her. When she rejected him, he beheaded her and ordered his soldiers to behead Gerebernus. The legend has several variants in other European countries and was popularized in the XIIIth century by Canon Pierre of St. Aubert church in Cambrai, who wrote Dymphna's vita (biography) "after the oral tradition", upon request of Bishop Gui I. The saint's relics were transferred to Geel, whereas Gerebernus' relics were transferred to Sonsbeck, near Xanten, Germany.
Dymphna's miraculous tombs attracted pilgrims to Geel, mostly mentally ill people. Several miraculous cures were reported by the Bollandists for the 1604-1668 period. Devotion to the saint is the origin of the so original way mentally ill people are treated in Geel, where an infirmary was built in the XIIIth century. The system was incorporated by the Belgian state and increased in the XXth century. In 1970, there were some 1,700 patients in Geel, 1,350 of them living in host families, living and working with the local residents (a system call "open door" by therapists). They are watched without being conscious of it and the treatment proves to be successful.

Source: Catholic Encyclopaedia

Ivan Sache, 14 September 2006

Municipal flag of Geel

The municipal flag of Geel is vertically divided in seven vertical stripes in turn yellow and red, with a white canton charged with three rows of three black ermine spots each.
According to Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel, the flag was adopted by the Municipal Council on 26 June 1985, confirmed by the Executive of Flanders on 21 November 1989 and published in the Belgian official gazette on 8 October 1990.
The flag is a banner of the municipal arms, showing the pales of the powerful Berthout family.

Servais explains the mythical origin of the arms of Berthout as follows:
In the XIIth century, the Lord of Berthout helped the King of Aragon in his struggle against the Moors. He fought there three times; the first time, he was rewarded with an estate and the title of provincial governor, the second time he was rewarded with the King's daughter, but refused both and went back to Flanders. The third time, the King asked Berthout waht he would like as a reward. Berthout asked for the right to bear the arms of Aragon and was granted them with three pales instead of four, celebrating his three victories over the Moors.

The Gelre Armorial shows several Berthout coat of arms:
- Berthout, "Die He. (the Lord) van Mechelen", 809, folio 72v.: Or three pales gules
- Henri VII Berthout, "Die He. van Duffel", 833, folio 73v: Or three pales gules (Berthout) a franc canton ermine
- Jean de Berlaer (Berthout), "Die He. van Helmunt" (Helmont), 838, folio 73v: Argent three pales gules (Berlaer)
- Guillaume Berthout de Duffel, "H. Willem v. Duffel", 893, folio 75v; Or three pales gules a franc canton ermine a crescent sable.

Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat, Jan Mertens & Ivan Sache, 16 September 2006

Yachting Club Geel

Yachting Club Geel is established on the canal linking Herentals to Bocholt.
According to a drawing, the burgee of YCG is horizontally divided yellow-red-yellow with a black anchor placed near the hoist. The real burgee has the black letters "YCG" added in the red stripe.

Source: YCG website

Jan Mertens, 17 June 2007