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Roeselare (Municipality, Province of West Flanders, Belgium)


Last modified: 2015-07-28 by ivan sache
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[Flag of Roeselare]

Municipal flag of Roeselare - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 31 October 2007

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Presentation of Roeselare and its villages

The municipality of Roeselare (in French, Roulers; 56,274 inhabitaants on 1 January 2007; 5,979 ha) is located in the heart of West Flanders, on the river Mandel. The municipality of Roeselare is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Roeselare (including Beveren since 1964), Oekene and Rumbeke.

Roeselare (37,127 inh.; 2,394 ha) and the valley of the Mandel were settled very early; remains of Prehistoric settlements have been found recently in Roeselare, as well as remains of a Roman village near the today's river port. The name of Roeselare comes from the Gothic root raus, "a reed", and from the Germanic word hlaeris, "an open place in the woods", reflecting the original location of the primitive settlement.
The written history of Roeselare begins in a chart dated 29 June 821 or 25 June 822, prescribing the transfer of Roslar to the abbey of Elnon (today Saint-Amand-les-Eaux, Northern France). The estate (villa) of Rollare of Roslare is mentioned in charts from 847 and 899. Roslar was later transfererd to the Counts of Boulogne and eventually to the Counts of Flanders. In a chart dated 957, Count Boudewijn III the Young allowed the building of fortifications and a weekly market.
Around 1250, Countess Maragaretha of Constantinople granted Roeselare a chart, which prescribed the building of a hall with a belfry (built around 1260), but also of a seal and own administration for the town. Roeselare was plundered in 1488 and 1492 by Maximilian of Austria and rebuilt in 1500; on 4 July 1498, Duke of Burgundy Philip the Handsome granted a chart to the cloth merchants of Roeselare, who could not longer be held responsible for debts made on other markets. Cloth industry blossomed in the short peace periods and declined during the war episodes of the XVI-XVIIth centuries. From 1678 to 1713, Roeselare became a border town allocated to France, which did not help trade. After the reincorporation of the town to the Low Counties and the opening of the paved road Menen-Roeselare-Bruges (1751-1754), the cloth industry boosted again, especially when modern workshops were opened in the 1750s.
Mechanization and loss ot the Dutch trade after the independence of Belgium caused the ruin of the weavers from Roeselare. In 1846, one fourth of the population of the town was poor and most people had to work in northern France. The opening of the railway Bruges-Roeselare-Kortrijk in 1847 and the set up of mechanized weavers' workshops improved the economical situation.
During the first World War, after the stabilisation of the Yser front, Roeselare was the next town to the front; in 1918, 2/3 of the town were completely destroyed. On 18 June 1919, King Albert I and Queen Elizabeth met the American President Woodrow Wilson in Roeselare. In 1925, most of the town was rebuilt. At the end of the Second World War, Roeselare and Beveren were liberated on 7-8 September 1944 by the Polish First Armoured Division.

The Catholic secondary school of Roesleare was a main center of the struggle for the Dutch language and Flemish culture in the late XIXth century. Led by teachers like Hugo Verriest and Guido Gezelle, the Flemish students formed several cultural associations promoting the use of the Dutch language, then completely dominated by French. The printer Stock-Werbrouck published in Roeselare in 1858 the first poems by Gezelle. On 28 July 1875, the Groote Stooringe (Great Trouble) broke out during an official ceremony in the school; the organizer of the incident was Albrecht Rodenbach (1856-1880), born from a famous family of Roeselare. The grandson of Ferdinand Rodenbach (1783-1841), who led the 1st Flemish Volunteers' Company during the independence war of Belgium, and grand-nephew of Alexander Rodenbach (1786-1869), aka "Blind Rodenbach" or "the Blind from Roeselare", who was for 38 years member of the National Congress (later, the Belgian Parliament) and strongly defended the rights of blind and deaf-mute people, Albrecht Rodenbach wrote several symbolic and romantic poems and songs, including De Blauwvoet, the song of the Great Trouble, which gave its name to the movement called Blauwvoeterij.
Roeselare is nicknamed "Rodenbachstad" ("Rodenbach's Town) and the memory of the poet is celebrated by a statue portraying him holding a flying blaouwfoet bird, made by Jule Lagae in 1909. In 1956, during the celebration in Roeselare of the 100th birthday of Albert Rodenbach, a new pressure group, the Christelijke Vlaamse Volksunie, was formed, shortly after transformed to a political party, the Volksunie, was formed.

The Renaissance musician Adriaen Willaert (c. 1490-1562) was born in Rumbeke (most probably). After having studied with the French musician Jean Mouton in Paris and, then, at the University of Leuven, Willaert moved to Italy in 1515, staying at the court of the wealthy Este family in Ferrara, and travelling to Rome, Milan and Hungary. Willaert served as the precentor at the St. Mark basilica in Venice from 1527 to his death. He composed masses, religious and non-religious Latin motets, anthems, double choirs, psalms, Italian madrigals and French songs. Venice was then a main center of polyphonic music and counterpoint in Europe, and Willaert taught several musicians, including his successor at St. Mark basilica, Cipriano de Rore.

Beveren (5,615 inh.; 1,059 ha; locally known as Beveren bij Roeselare, lit., "near Roeselare", to differentiate it from the other villages named Beveren) was until 1960 a calm village mostly known from the Jonckheere body shop, which was founded as a family business in 1881 by Henri Jonckheere and purchased in 1994 by the Dutch group Berkhof. The factory specialised in the 1920s in the production of buses. The business park "Roeselare-Noord" dramatically changed the town of Beveren over the last decades.
Beveren was mentioned in the XIIth century as Beurene (1149) and Beverna (1145), names later changed to Bevrene, Befre and eventually Beveren, all related to the beaver via a Celtic (bebro) or Germanic (bivru) root. Carnoy believes thet Beveren was named after the brook Bebronna, known for its beaver populations. Until the French Revolution, Beveren was split in the two domains of Beveren and Onlede, both belonging ot the Brugse Vrije. Jan of Flanders, the bastard son of Count of Flanders Lodewijk of Male, was the most famous lord of Beveren and Onlede.

Oekene (1,758 inh.; 535 ha) is located in the road from Tournai to Oudenburg, mentioned in the XVIth century as upde heerstrate die naer Cortrijcke loop ("the main road heading to Kortrijk"), and that succeeded an old Roman way. A chapel dedicated to St. Martin, and therefore of probable Merovingian origin, seems to be the primitive center of the village; a chart kept in the Ghent Archives and dated 1116 mentions a chapel in Holcana, granted, together with the chapel of Cakingehem (Kachtem), to the St. Bertinus abbey in St. Omer by Lambert, Bishop of Noyon-Tournai. Oekene became an independent parish (with a church) in 1252. The organ of the church was built in 1781, in Louis XIV style, by the famous organ builder Pieter Van Peteghem, from Ghent.

Rumbeke (11,764 inh.; 1,991 ha), literally the brede beek, "the wide brook", belonged to the High Lordship of Ieper. The castle of Rumbeke, built by the Count of Flanders, was transferred successively, in the XIIIth century, to the lords of Wervik, Nevele, Lichtervelde, Gistel and Antoing. In the XVth century, it was transferred via marriage to the Thiennes family. On 13 September 1649, King Philip IV signed Letters Patented creating the County of Rumbeke for René de Thiennes, lord of Lombise. The Thiennes family kept the castle, together with the neighbouring wood Sterrebos until 1856.
Rumbeke is the mythical cradle of the County of Flanders. The legend says that Boudewijn The Iron Arm abducted in 862 Judith, the daughter of King of Francia Occidentalis Charles the Bald, and hid her for a while in a small fort in Rumbeke. Judith probably enjoyed her stay in Flanders since her father pardoned Boudewijn and appointed him the first Count of Flanders, with the duty to watch the northern border of the kingdom.
The battle of the Sterrebos, in Rumbeke, took place on 27-28 May 1940; it was the last battle of the so-called 18 Days' War, during which the Belgian army attempted to resist the German invasion.
Born in Rumbeke, the "Flandrian" cyclist Odiel Defraeye (1885-1965) won the Tour de France in 1912 and Milan-San Remo in 1913.

Source: Municipal website

Ivan Sache, 30 October 2007

Municipal flag of Roselare

The municipal flag of Roeselare is white with a black patriarchal (double) cross.
According to Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel, the flag was adopted by the Municipal Council on 30 March 1981, confirmed by Royal Decree on 16 November 1981 and published in the Belgian official gazette on 13 January 1982 and, again, on 4 January 1995.
The flag is a banner of the municipal arms.

According to the municipal website, the oldest known municipal seal of Roeselare, dated 1309, is c. 7 cm in diameter and shows Archangel Michael slaying a dragon (representing the devil). A double-armed cross is represented on each side of the archangel.
E. Gevaert (Heraldiek der Belgische Provincie) writes that the early lords (Burgraves) of Roeselare bore "Sable a double cross argent". The Gelre Armorial, however, shows for Roeselare (Roeselaer, #975, folio 81v) "Argent three cinquefoils sable". Gailliard shows "Argent a double cross sable", while L'Espinoy shows "Sable a double cross argent".
The historic origin of the double cross is unknown. A local legend says that during the Investiture Controversy opposing (for a while) Pope Gregory VII and the German Emperor Henri IV, Oscar, Burgrave of Roeselare, faughting in Rome, seized a castle named Engelenburg and hoisted the Papal flag over it. The Pope blessed Oscar and offerred him his own shield, charged with the double cross. Back home, Oscar prescribed that the double cross would appear on the municipal arms.

Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 30 October 2007