Last modified: 2012-04-13 by ivan sache
Keywords: spiere-helkijn | espierres-helchin | cross (white) | mortagne |
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Municipal flag of Spiere-Helkijn - Image by Ivan Sache, 10 November 2001
The municipality of Spiere-Helkijn (in French, Espierres-Helchin; 2,047 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 1,078 ha) is located 15 km south-east of Kortrijk, on the linguistic border between Dutch and French, here the border with Hainaut. The municipality of Spiere-Helkijn is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Spiere (1,162 inh., 598 ha) and Helkijn (867 inh., 479 ha).
Spiere was the place of a significant archeological discovery in 1977,
when a settlement dating from the Age of Stone was found. Scientific
studies have shown that the settlement, spreading over c. 5 ha, could be
related to the Michelsberg culture, one of the oldest farmers' culture
(4200-2500 BC) in the region. Further excavations made in 1993 in the
center of the village yielded more remains, such as ditches, canals and
a part of the stockade that partially protected the settlement. The
other side of the settlement was naturally protected by the river
Scheldt. Several broken pieces and tools made of flint were also found.
In the 8th-9th centuries, the villagers built an earthen wall to protect themselves from the Northmen, who had a camp in Rollegem. Around 814, a document signed by Louis the Pious mentions Spira, a village located in a meander of the Scheldt. The modern written form Spiere appeared in 1105, after the name of the local river, a tributary of the Scheldt (and, of course, called Espierres in French). The oldest known lord of Spiere was mentioned as Wante del Espire in 1227. Rogier van Mortagne, lord of Spiere, was listed in 1275 on a document of Count of Flanders Guy of Dampierre. In the late 14th century, after the death of Agnes van Mortagne, Dame of Spiere, the domain was transferred to the family of her husband, the lords of Gruuthuse. In the 16th century, the Gruuthuse family united the two domains of Spiere-Vlaanderen (Spiere-Flanders, ruled by the Opperhof van Spiere - Higher Court of Spiere) and Spiere-Doornikse (Spiere-Tournaisis, ruled by the Nederhof van Spiere, Lower Court of Spiere).
Spiere was split again in 1593 after the bankruptcy of the heiress of the Gruuthuse family, and the two domains had several successive owners. Nicolas Delfosse, lord of Espierres-Tournaisis c. 1700, who built in 1710 the castle of Spiere as we know it today, was made Baron del Fosse et d'Espierres by Emperor Charles VI in 1720. The relations between the two domains were not always good, and the two lords had a trial in the Council of Flanders in 1732. In 1767, Bruno-August Delfosse purchased Spiere-Vlaanderen, reuniting Spiere. The last lord of Spiere, August Fellix del Fosse, died in 1832.
Built in 1839, the Spiere canal follows the valley of the Zwarte Spierebeek. With a lengtht of 8.4 km, a width of 16 m and a depth of 2 m, the canal, linking the Deule and the Scheldt, was mostly used to ship coal from the Hainaut collieries to France.
Helkijn developed around a church built by St. Eligius around
650 and served by the monks of the St. Martin abbey in Tournai. The village was mentioned for the first time in 847, as Helcinium, ("Hidilco's estate"), while its French name, Helchin, appeared in 1156.
In 1282, the Bishop of Tournai let build a fortified castle in the village, later revamped as a vacation residence for the bishops. However, being originally located on the border of Flanders and Tournaisis (France), the bishop's palace was a matter of dispute. In 1325, the castle was plundered by Jacob van Artevelde and the militias from Ghent. The militias blocked on the bridge of Spiere French troops commanded by Duke of Étampes and heading to Flanders; hundreds of Flemings were killed after the French had reconquered the bridge and the castle. The last owner of the bishop's castle was Bishop of Prag, Florentius of Salm-Salm; after the French Revolution, the castle was locked and abandoned, so that it progressively felt into ruins.
The only industry in Helkijn was the sugar mill (Sucrerie d'Helchin), which employed 174 workers in 1896 and was closed in 1930.
Source: Municipal website
Ivan Sache, 24 November 2007
The municipal flag of Spiere-Helkijn is red with a white cross.
According to Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel [w2v02a], the flag was adopted by the Municipal Council on 4 February 1981, confirmed by Royal Decree on 25 June 1981 and published in the Belgian official gazette on 3 October 1981.
The flag is a banner of the arms of Rogier of Mortagne, the oldest known lord of Spiere (13th century), "Gules a cross argent".
The municipal arms of Spiere-Helkijn are shown on the municipal website, together with the official description, In lazuur een dwarsbalk van goud, beladen met drie rozen van keel, geknopt van goud en gepunt van sinopel, in de punt vergezeld van een vierblad van zilver. Het schild getopt met een baronnenmuts van de Oostenrijkse Nederlanden. Schildhouders: twee aanziende tijgers van natuurlijke kleur, gehalsband van goud, elk houdende een banier, die van rechts: in lazuur, bezaaid met lelies van goud, een toren van zilver geplaatst over twee schuinsgekruiste bisschopsstaven van hetzelfde, die van links: in keel kruis van zilver. Het geheel geplaatst op een grasgrond. They are made of a shield "Azure a fess or charged with three cinquefoils gules leaved vert in base a quatrefoil argent", supported dexter by a tiger holding a banner "Azure a semy of fleur-de-lis or a tower over two croziers per saltire, all argent" and sinister by a tiger holding a banner "Gules a cross argent". The shield is made by the arms of the Barons Del Fosse et d'Espierres, that appeared on the municipal seal of Spiere in 1774. The dexter banner is made by the arms of the former municipality of Helkijn, while the sinister banner is made of the banner of arms of Rogier of Mortagne, today the municipal flag of Spiere-Helkijn.
The former arms of Spiere, granted by Royal Decree on 17 December 1971,
are similar, but with the banner of arms of Del Fosse et d'Espierres
instead of the banner of arms of Helkijn.
The former arms of Helkijn, as described above, recall that Helkijn belonged to France and was the residence of the Bishops of Tournai.
Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 24 November 2007