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Olen (Municipality, Province of Antwerp, Belgium)

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

Municipal flag of Olen - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 18 July 2005

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Presentation of Olen

The municipality of Olen (11,467 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 2,317 ha) is located 30 km south-east of Antwerp, in the region of Kempen.

Kempen was already inhabited in the Roman and Frankish times, as shown by artifacts found in several municipalities. In Olen, funeral urns from the late German - early Saxon period were found. Olen was mentioned for the first time in 994 as Odlo ("an abandoned forest"), when Count Ansfried, Bishop of Utrecht, offered a part of his domains, including Olen and Westerlo, to the church. In 1210, Olen and other neighbouring domains were ceded to the lords of Wezemael, which transferred them in 1429 to the family Merode of Westerlo. Olen depended for the religious matters of the monastery of Tongerlo.
Hendrik van Merode was made in 1550 Count of Olen by the Council of Brabant, so that Olen became a County. The St. Anthony's Guild (Sint-Antoniusgilde) was founded in 1627 and was more and more favoured by the Merode family. It is the oldest association of Olen still in activity. At the end of the 17th century, Olen was hit by plague, war and starvation.
In 1744, Olen was granted a Municipal Council (schepenbank) and a town hall was built. In 1798, Olen took part to the Peasants' War and sent 44 who faught the French.

In 1801, Olen was granted a market, placed under the patronage of St. Martin. Sixty young lindens were planted of the "square" of Olen. The Herentals-Bocholt canal was inaugurated in 1865 and ships could reach Olen. The railway station was opened in 1879, on the Antwerp-Mönchengladbach line, known as the Rhine of Iron (de IJzere Rijn). In 1907, Olen was linked to Herentals and Westerlo by an electric tramway.
The factory of Compagnie Industrielle Union, the forerunner of the world famous Union Minière, was built in Olen in 1912. After the First World War, the factory increased: after radium, it produced cobalt (1925) and was transformed into a copper refinery in 1928. In 1936, Canal Albert, whose building had been ordered by Napoléon I in the beginning of the 19th century and was completed in 1939, reached Olen.

A famous story in Olen is related to the three-handle tankard of Emperor Charles. There seems to be also some historical background to the three-handle tankards. I seem to understand that the use of three-handle tankards was prescribed by law in the 17th century, which was the source of a popular story located in Olen.

Source: Municipal website

Ivan Sache, 18 July 2005

Municipal flag of Olen

The municipal flag of Olen is quartered, first and fourth blue with a yellow star faceted in blue, second and third diagonally divided in four blue and three white stripes.
According to Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel [w2v02a], the flag was adopted by the Municipal Council on 18 June 1980, confirmed by Royal Decree on 1 October 1980 and published in the Belgian official gazette on 12 December 1980.
The flag is a banner of the municipal arms.

The book on the flag and arms in the province of Antwerp [pbd98] says that the arms of Olen were granted on 25 May 1838, whereas the municipal website says 1816.

Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 18 July 2005