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Tervuren (Municipality, Province of Flemish Brabant, Belgium)


Last modified: 2011-05-14 by ivan sache
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[Flag of Tervuren]

Municipal flag of Tervuren - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 8 January 2008

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Presentation of Tervuren

The municipality of Tervuren (in French, Tervueren; 20,816 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 3,292 ha) is located east of Brussels. The municipality of Tervuren is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Tervuren, Duisburg and Vossem.

Tervuren was named after the river Voer, a tributary of the Dijle, "Ter Vure" meaning "on the Voer". Archeological findings have proved that Prehistoric men settled on heights and near the confluency of the Voet and the brook Maalbeek. Much later, the place was the center of a domain owned by St. Hubert, who is said by a popular legend to have died in Tervuren in 727.
At the end of the 12th century, Duke of Brabant Henri I built a fort on the stripe of land formed at the confluency of the Voer and the Maalbeek. At the end of the 16th century, Archdukes Albert and Isabel often rested in the revamped castle, which was then reachable from Brussels in half a day. From 1744 to 1780, Charles of Lorraine, Governor of the Low Countries, often stayed in the, again revamped, castle of Tervuren; he built a smaller castle on the heights of Hoogvorst, where he died in 1780. The two castles were suppressed by his nephew Joseph II in 1782.
After the battle of Waterloo (1815), the domain of Tervuren was granted to the son of the King of the Netherlands, Prince Willem-Frederik. On the site of the current Colonial Palace, he built a vacation residence for his family. Following the independence of Belgium, the pavilion and the surrounding domain became property of the King of the Belgians. King Leopold II offerred the pavilion to his sister Charlotte, after her marriage in Mexico; after the destruction of the pavilion in a blaze in 1879, Charlotte moved to Meise.

For the World Exhibition organized in Brussels in 1897, Leopold II decided to present his State of Congo in Tervuren. The Colonies' Palace, hosting the Congo Museum, was built on the ruins of the burned pavilion. The Palace deemed too small, the "Little Versailles of Tervuren" was inaugurated in 1910 to house the Belgian Congo Museum, renamed Royal Museum of Belgian Congo (1952), and known since 1960 as the Royal Museum for Central Africa. The Museum houses very important collections of insects (6 million samples), birds (including the famous Congo peacock - Afropavo congensis - found alive only in 1937 by James P. Chapin), fishes (including a coelacanth caught in the Comoros in 1981) tropical wood (56,000 samples - the biggest collection in Europe), and ethnographic items - masks, statues, drums ... (the biggest collection in the world from Central Africa). The museum also keeps the complete archives of the explorator Stanley. As usual with colonial museums, there is some controversy on the way the items are presented in the museum, especially since most of them were "gathered" during Leopold's personal rule of Congo.

The TV movie Boma-Tervuren, le voyage, made by Francis Dujardin in 1999, recalls the "human zoo" set up in Tervuren for the 1897 International Exhibition. At that time, this was a "common" practice - "human zoos" were also very popular in France, Germany and elsewhere -, but the tragic outcome of the Tervuren affair increases the questionability of that practice. Quoting the presentation of the film from the Africiné website:

The extraordinary and tragic saga of 267 Congolese, brought to Brussels for the 1897 World's Fair.
After some four months of travel towards Belgium, they are exhibited before a million visitors. Subjected to the crushing gaze of the "Whites" and the cold climate, many fell prey to disease and even some lost their lives. The dead were hastily dispatched in a common grave, sparking a fierce debate in Belgian society. The project was overblown, but necessary in the eyes of the first colonizers, who presumed to have tamed the far-flung savages. One hundred years later, Congolese compatriots return to the scene of these events and question the "Whites" of today on the incredible story of that "human zoo". They carry out the ritual of "a return to the earth" by way of reparation for too great a hurt. One hundred years later, Congolese scholars and compatriots revisit the scene of the events. The documentary focuses on interviews with current Congolese scholars visiting the exhibit site to explore the and discuss the experience. The documentary also follows a group of people conducting a ritual ceremony of reburial for those who died there.
A film that revisits a century of stereotyped conceptions about the Africans. And running through it, the almost aching question: "How is today different?

In 1902, the King founded the Geographic Arboretum in the neighbouring Forest of Soignes. The early set up of the arboretum was made by Charles Bommer, Curator of the National Botanical Gardens of Meise and Professor at the Free University of Brussels. It stretches today over 100 ha and shows 460 different tree species.


Ivan Sache, 29 November 2007

Municipal flag of Tervuren

The municipal flag of Tervuren is white with a blue lion.
According to the Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel [w2v02a], the flag was adopted by the Municipal Council on 27 February 1986, confirmed by the Executive of Flanders on 26 May 1987 and published in the Belgian official gazette on 3 December 1987.
The flag is a banner of the municipal arms. The pupil of the lion's eye should be black.

According to Servais [svm55a], the arms of Tervuren, granted by Royal Decree on 29 May 1838, are "Argent a lion crowned azure". The oldest known appearance of the crowned lion is on a municipal seal dated 1312, most probably referring to the lion of Brabant, which is, however, not shown with a crown. Tervuren was transferred in 1435 to Jan Hinckaert, illegitimate child of the Duke of Brabant, whose arms, as shown on a painting dated 1480, are "Quarterly, 1. and 4. Sable billety or a lion crowned argent, 2. and 3. Argent a lion crowned blue", "Argent a lion crowned blue" being Hinckaert's arms. The Gelre Armorial shows "Sable billety argent a lion of the same armed langued and crowned or overall an escutcheon sable a lion or (Brabant)" for Hinckaert (#1662, folio 111v). The Lalaing Armorial shows the same blazon ("Hinckart", #34, folio 73r).

Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 29 November 2007