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Mol (Municipality, Province of Antwerp, Belgium)

Last modified: 2008-04-26 by ivan sache
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[Flag of Mol]

Municipal flag of Mol - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 21 July 2005

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Presentation of Mol and its villages

The municipality of Mol (33,060 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 11,419 ha, that is the biggest municipality of Belgium) is located in Kempen, in the easternmost part of the Province of Antwerp, bordering the Netherlands (Reusel) and Belgian Limburg (Lommel). Mol is made of twelve parts: Centrum (the most crowded part), Achterbos, Donk, Ezaart, Ginderbuiten, Gompel, Heidehuizen, Millegem, Postel, Rauw, Sluis and Wezel.

Three funerary tumuli dated 2,000 BC found in Postel are the oldest remain of human settling in Mol. In the VIIIth century, the villages of Mol, Balen and Dessel belonged to Adalhard, Charlemagne's nephew.
Adalhard took the coat in the French abbey of Corbie, to which he ceded all his goods. The archives of Corbie state that the Norsemen trashed Mol, Gompel and the neighborhood in 882. The wealthy estate of Gompel (Gompelhoeve), which disappeared in the middle of the XIXth century, was built at that time. The Abbot of Corbie appointed a tutor (voogd) to manage his possessions, which were known as the Tutorship of Mol, Balen and Dessel (Voogdij Moll, Baelen, Desschel). As usual, there was a fierce competition for the power between the abbey and the tutors. Accordingly, the Duke of Brabant took the Higher lordship, whereas the Lower lordship and the domain of Gompel remained to the abbey until 1559, when they were purchased by Godfried van Bocholtz. The division of the power between the Count of Brabant and the Bocholtz family remained stable until the end of the Ancient Regime.

The XVIth century was a critical period for Mol, with several invasions and pest epidemics (1558, 1570, 1576). In 1506, the town was plundered by mercenaries from France and Gelderland. War resumed with Gelderland in 1528. The market place was destroyed by a blaze in 1567. The battle of Mol took place in 1579. The situation of the town improved at the end of the XVIIIth century. As the seat of the Tutorship of Mol, Balen and Dessel, Mol was inhabited by several administrators and civil servants, and the town grew out of its historical center. Cloth manufacturers (cloth was made in Mol since the 1300s and sold in Tilburg and Germany; it was the oldest industry in the tutorship), merchants and craftsmen constituted a sizeable part of the population of Mol. Outside thetowncity, the main activity was agriculture, with several small farms.

The industrial revolution reached Kempen with the building of canals, roads and of the railway Antwerp-Mol (1878). The line was later extended to Mönchengladbach and was known as the Rhine of Iron (IJzeren Rijn). The first industries in Mol were the Vieille Montagne company and the explosive factory N.V. La Forcite. At that time, cloth industry restarted and wool factories, such as Van Iersel, Van Hoof, Krings and Van Dooren, were built. After the beginning of sand extraction in 1872 by S.C.R. Sibelco, the glass bottle manufacture Beles Réunios was set up in Donk in 1920 whereas Glaverbel opened a window glass factory in Gompel in 1923. The factory produced later the word famous isolating glasses known as Thermolux (1937) and Thermopan (1948). Nuclear research and industry, set up in Mol after the Second World War, made the international fame of the town. A big research center (Studiecentrum voor Kernenergie - SCK) was built in the woods of Donk and employed 600.

Mol-Centrum developed on the northern bank of the river Molse Nete on a sandbank oriented east-west. They were two main poles in the center of Mol, the Markt (market square) and the Laar, which was until the end of the XIXth century mostly made of pastures and trees. The building of the railway station moved the center of Mol even more to the north.

Achterbos (lit., "behind the woods") was the living place of the painter Jakob Smits. The village is also known for its Way of the Cross, made of 14 smaller chapels made of brick and a 15th bigger one. Achterbos was already a place of pilgrimage in the XVIIth century; its patron saint, St. Apollonia, was invocated against toothache.

Donk (lit., "a place emerging from a marsh") is mostly known for its industries: the concrete factory Johns Manville (1911), later producing asbestos, the bottle factory Verlica (1922), the power plant Ebes (1929) and the aforementioned SCK, locally known as de Atoom.

Ezaart (once Esaert, "a shrubby place") has the last windmill still active in the municipality of Mol, built in 1856 and revamped in 1984, and the chapel Onze Lieve Vrouw in Nood (1511), located among linden trees and used by early travelers as a night shelter.

Ginderbuiten is located close to the Buitenhijde ("the outer moor"). In the Middle Ages, the inhabitants of Ginderbuiten cleared and dug the moor. They were later famous for the wool they produced. The fair (kermis) of Ginderbuiten was the most famous in the region.

Gompel is, according to the historian Adolf Reydams, the oldest settlement of the municipality of Mol. In the Middle Ages, a wide sand path linked the farm of Gompel to the village of Ezaart. Gompel developed after the opening of the glass factory in the 1920s. The grotto located near the village church is decorated with pieces of glass made in the factory.

Heidehuizen (lit. "the houses in the moor") was until the 1960s hardly a village, made of only a few houses built at the end of the XVIIth century. The inhabitants used the moor for cattle grazing; since the moor was quite far from their houses, they built small huts for the shepherds. The development of Heidehuizen started in the 1960s with the set up of the municipal establishments De Hutten and the St. Paul Technical Institute.

Millegem (from mille, "light soil", "sand") was incorporated to Mol in 1818 and the current borders of the municipality were delimited (definitively in 1854). Beforehand, the village belonged to the domain of Geel.

Postel is mostly known for its abbey, built between 1128 and 1138 by the Norbertine order as a daugther house of the abbey of Floreffe. In the Middle Ages, the monks took care of the souls, of the poor and of the travelers, since the abbey was located on the crossroads of the busy roads Antwerp-Cologne and Leuven-Den Bosch. The monks exerted the right of sanctuary. The abbey was suppressed in 1797 by the French revolutionaries and reestablished in Limburg in 1840 and in Postel in 1847. Some 30 monks still live in Postel, following St. Augustine's rule. There are currently five Norbertine abbeys in Flanders (Averbode, Grimbergen, Park (Heverlee), Postel and Tongerlo) and only two in Wallonia (Leffe and Bois-Seigneur-Isaac). The monks produce the Postel cheese, made of cows' milk poduced in nearby farms and aged for at least four years. The famous Postel Dobbel, Tripel and Kerstbier beers are no longer brewed by the monks but by Heineken, under contract for the abbey.

Rauw, mostly known for its canals and lakes (one sixth of the municipal territory is made of water), was in the past split between Lommel and Balen. Rauw was known in the Second World War for the spriet (bowsprit). In 1928, the Meuse-Scheldt canal was enlarged and deepened; the dredger picked up several pieces of broken wood out of the canal, which the inhabitants of Rouw immediatly brought home on wheelbarrows. During the war, coal was rationned and the spriet pieces were extremely popular as a very good firewood.

Sluis, named after the locks (in Dutch, sluis) built on the local watercourses to irrigate the fields, was for a long time a rural village. The sand pits located near the border with Donk were exploited from 1845 onwards. In 1959, the provincial recreational domaine Zilvermeer was founded on a former place of sand extraction.

Wezel ("a wood with pastures", from wese, "pasture", and lo, "wood") developed around the lead and zink factory of Vieille Montagne, founded in 1889.

Source: Municipal website

Ivan Sache, 21 July 2005

Municipal flag of Mol

The municipal flag of Mol is vertically divided red-yellow with a yellow key placed vertically in the red field.
According to Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel, the flag was adopted by the Municipal Council on 5 October 1987, confirmed by the Executive of Flanders on 6 June 1989 and published in the Belgian official gazette on 8 November 1989.
The colours of the flag are taken from the municipal arms. The key represents St. Peter, the patron saint of the abbey of Corbie.

According to the municipal website, faultive municipal arms were granted to Mol by Royal Decree on 20 December 1846 as Een schild van goud, met vijf aaneengesloten ruiten van keel, kruiselings gerangschikt, gekantonneerd van twintig zelfkleurige blokjes, "Or five rhombs gules placed 1+3+1 five billettes gules placed 2+1+2 in each quarter". These arms belonged to the de Mol family, from Brussels. The family indeed owned the domain of Mol, Balen and Dessel from 1626 to 1660 but their arms are not found on any municipal document of the time.
The today's arms of Mol were granted by Royal Decree on 8 September 1930 as In keel een Sint Pieter met nimbus, houdende in de rechterhand een sleutel en in de linkerhand een boek en begeleid van twee looftakken, het geheel van goud, "Gules a saint Peter holding a key in dexter and a Bible in sinister all or, surrounded by two branches of the same". They are based on the seal used by the St. Peter abbey of Corbie, owner of the domain of Mol, Balen and Dessel since 774. The seal appeared on all official documents, including, for instance, a chart relating the destruction of the village in 1593.

Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat, Jan Mertens & Ivan Sache, 15 January 2008