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Onhaye (Municipality, Province of Namur, Belgium)

Last modified: 2015-07-28 by ivan sache
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Presentation of Onhaye

The municipality of Onhaye (3,124 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 6,553 ha) is located 5 km west of Dinant and 10 km north of the border with France. Them unicipality of Onhaye is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Onhaye, Anthée, Falaën, Gerin, Serville, Sommière and Weillen.

Onhaye is the place of a popular pilgrimage dedicated to St. Walhère, a saint officially recognized by the Roman Catholic church ins spite of no known canonization process. Walhère (Walter; in Walloon, Vohy) was born in Bouvignes in the beginning of the XIIth century. After his mother's death, the canons of the abbey of Leffe educated him and sent him to the Benedictine College of Waulsort. Walhère joined the secular clergy since he did not want to abandon his father. A document dated 1163 lists him together with Priest Héribrand, he would later succeed, and Vicar Fauchon, traditionally considered as his nephew. Walhère was later appointed Dean of Florennes, as written in 1190. In 1199, Walhère went to Hastière, then depending on the abbey of Waulsort, to solve a conflict between monasteries. Brought back nightly to Onhaye on a small boat by a vicar, Walhère was murdered by the vicar who dropped down his body into the Meuse. On the next day, 23 June 1199, the body was found by fishers and woman tossing grass. On the place where the body landed gushed forth a fountain that never dried up. People from Bouvignies, Hastière and Onhaye, as well as the Abbot of Waulsort, showed up. The body was placed on a cart headed to Waulsort but the horses refused to move on. They were replaced by two heifers that immediatly took the direction of Onhaye, climbed up and down the hills and stopped in front of the St. Martin church, where the body was laid down. A chapel was built to keep the saint's shrine.
St. Walhère is invoked against headache (because the nasty vicar hit his head with an oar) and for the protection of cows.

Source: Saint-Walhère de Onhaye, by Monique Collard

Falaën is dominated by the ruins of the castle of Montaigle, watching the confluency of the Molignée and the Flavion. The Belgian government commissionned in 1867 the geologist Édouard Dupont to study the caves (locally called trous, lit., "holes") located in the rocky spur of Montaigle. He named each of them after the trees growing near the cave's entrance; Trou du Sureau (Elder), Trou du Chêne (Oak), Trou de l'Erable (Maple), except the lowest one, named Trou Philippe after the name of the hermit who lived therein. Prehistoric remains were found in all of these caves; Dupont described the Cro-Magnon civilization years before the French paleontologists, but the French nomenclature was adopted, though. The "Montaiglian" layer was later renamed "Aurignacian", after the cave of Aurignac in the Pyrénées.
Remains from the Age of Iron (450 BP) were found on the plateau of Montaigle in 1992 but the place bacame strategic only at the end of the Roman Empire, when northern Gaul was threatened by the Germanic invaders, until then maintained beyond the Rhine (limes, the border). Around 260, military posts were hastily set up all along the basin of Meuse. A small, non-permanent garrison settled Montaigle; built in the beginning of the IVth century, a 2 m-wide wall surrounded a 3,400 sq. m-area, settled in 370 by a big garrison of German volunteers, living in wooden huts with women and children. Short after 450, the garrison was disbanded and Montaigle was abandoned for the next four centuries. A Merovingian cemetary (VIth-VIIth century) found in the hamlet of Foy, on the northern bank of the Molignée, seems to indicate that the inhabitants had moved down the valley.

Around 900, a first castle was built on the top of the spur, reusing parts of the Gallo-Roman wall. It was ran by the lords of Faing, probably close relatives of the Count of Namur, mentioned for the first time in 1050; they were avoués (managers) of the abbey of Waulsort and lords of Montaigle. In the early XIIth century, Montaigle declinedand was transferred to Gilles of Berlaymont by Count of Namur Pierre of Courtenay; the new lord built a square donjon on the spur.
Guy of Dampierre, Count of Flanders and Marquis of Namur, purchased the domain and castle of Faing in 1298 and granted them to his junior son Guy of Flanders (aka Guy of Namur) as his apanage. Guy built a new castle, mostly a residence but still a big fortress designed on a symmetrical plan, as common at that time, with a 33 m-deep well. Pope Clement V edicted in Carpentras on 6 July 1310 the Bull founding the chapel of the castle. Guy of Namur was Regent of Flanders while his father was prisonner in France and fought the war againt France, with a main success in 1302 during the Battle of the Golden Spurs. Two days after the battle, he listed Faing as a possible jail for a dozen of French knights captured in Kortrijk. Engaged with Marguerite of Lorraine in March 1311, Guy of Namur but died before the celebration of the wedding. Anyway, the wedding contract lists the "chastel de Fainges, com dist de Maontaigle" (the castle of Faing, aka Montaigle), which is the oldest written joint mention of Faing and Montaigle.
The castle was reincorporated to the personal domain of the Counts of Namur, who used it mostly as the administrative seat of a Bailiwick. In 1455, Jeanne of Harcourt, last heir of the Counts of Namur, died, and the castle was incorporated into the Duchy of Burgundy, as was already done with the County of Namur in 1429.

When Charles V decided to fortify the borders between the Low Countries and France by setting up new fortified towns and revamping the old fortresses, Montaigle was deemed not useful, being not located on a main way of communication and being militarily obsolete. In summer 1554, King of France Henri II invaded the County of Namur via the Meuse and Duke of Nevers was ordered to get rid of the local fortresses, including Montaigle. Abandoned by its garrison relocated in Namur, the fortress was plundered and burned, but not completey destroyed. The fortress was never rebuilt and the Baillif moved to Falaën, even if the name of Bailiwick of Montaigle remained. In the famous Croÿ's Album, Adrien de Montigny pictures an abandoned amount of ruins, which was, indeed, resettled from time to time in the XVI-XVIIth centuries and partially revamped.
After the French Revolution, Montaigle had several owners. On 10 July 1827, the ruins were purchased by Césaire Colette Flavie du Rot (1790-1865), from Ghent, who built there a summer house. Upset by the looting of the ruins by the inhabitants of the neighbouring villages, she sold them in 1854 to Count of Beauffort, the first President of the Royal Commission for Monuments. The ruins were eventually purchased in 1865 by Emmanuel and Eugène de Marmol, members of the Archeology Society of Namur, who progressively secured the ruins, still owned by their descenders.
The romantic ruins of Montaigle attracted several artists and poets, followed by tourists. The ruins of Montaigle were registered as an historical monument on 5 November 1965 and their neighborhood as an historic site on 25 October 1946 and 11 September 1981; Montaigle was registered on the Walloon Main Heritage's list in 1993.

Source: Les Ruines de Montaigle

Ivan Sache, 8 September 2007

Municipal flag of Onhaye

Armoiries communales en Belgique. Communes wallonnes, bruxelloises et germanophones describes the flag of Onhaye as Trois laizes transversales blanche, rouge et blanche (1-2-1) avec, au centre, le buste de Mercure blanc du blason communal (Vertically divided white-red-white [1:2:1] with, in the middle, the bust of Mercury from the municipal arms).
The municipal arms are De gueules au buste de Mercure d'argent (Gules a bust of Mercury argent).

Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 8 September 2007