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Rotselaar (Municipality, Province of Flemish Brabant, Belgium)

Last modified: 2019-01-06 by ivan sache
Keywords: rotselaar | hellicht |
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Flag of Rotselaar - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 1 November 2007

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Presentation of Rotselaar

The municipality of Rotselaar (15,155 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 3,757 ha; municipal website) is locatednorth-east of Brussels, on the confluence of the rivers Demer and Dijle and on the common border of the three regions of Southern Kempen, Hageland and Dijleland. The municipality of Rotselaar is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Rotselaar, Werchter (except the borough of Wakkerzeel, allocated to the municipality of Haacht) and Wezemaal.

River Demer, today a still, rectilinear river locked by high dykes, formed once several meanders, especially between Aarschot and its confluency with the Dijle, in Werchter. In the early 16th century, all the meanders were drained to prevent floods and to facilitate navigation, a plan supported by William of Croÿ, lord of Aarschot. Until the middle of the 17th century, the Demer was a main way of communication between the Hageland and the County of Loon, with also links to Tienen and Zoutleeuw via the river Gete. The medieval wealth of the towns of Aarschot and Diest was significantly increased by the Demer. Emperor Charles V even planned to link the basins of the Scheldt and of the Maas via the Demer, but he ran short of money. After the building of the Leuven-Mechelen canal, the Demer lost its strategic importance. The opening of the Albert Canal in 1939 definitively ruined the proposed Scheldt-Maas link via the Demer.

Rotselaar and Wezemaal were mentioned for the first time in 1044, nearly one century before the first mention of Werchter. Rotselaar means "the clearing in the wood" (laar) settled by Hrosda" (a German anthroponym); Wezemaal means a "lowland" (male) but the meaning of the prefix wis- is unknown; and Werchter is an hydronym of unknown meaning.
In the 12th century, Rotselaar and Wezemaal belonged to the Duchy of Brabant, while Werchter belonged to the Counts of Aarschot, from the powerful Berthout family. In the 13th century, vassals of the Duke of Brabant progressively selfstyled lords of the domain of Rotselaar and Wezemaal.
In the 14th century, the lords of Wezemaal and Rotselaar expelled the Berthout from Werchter and Haacht and set up the Barony of Rotselaar, transferred in 1516 to the Croÿ family and included in the Marquisate of Aarschot, elevated to the Duchy of Aarschot in 1533.

Ivan Sache, 1 November 2007

Municipal flag of Rotselaar

The flag of Rotselaar is white with three red fleurs-de-lis couped.
According to Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel [w2v03], the flag, adopted on 30 September 1981 by the Municipal Council, is prescribed by a Royal Decree issued on 2 February 1982 and published on 21 April 1982in the Belgian official gazette and, again, on 4 January 1995.
The flag is a banner of the municipal arms.

The municipal website gives the official description of the flag as "white with three red fleurs-de-lis with cut foot". The municipal arms are "Argent three fleurs-de-lis couped gules. The shield surmounted with a helmet argent, with grid, chin strap and stripe or, fimbriated and tied [to the shield] gules, with chignon and mantle argent and gules. Crest: an antique flight [two wings] argent".

Before the municipal reform, the three municipalities of Rotselaar, Wezemaal and Werchter had their own arms. On 30 September 1981, the new municipality of Rotselaar applied for the arms of the former municipality of Rotselaar, which had been adopted by the Municipal Council on 12 March 1968 and confirmed by Royal Decree on 25 January 1973. This was a logical choice since Rotselaar, Wezemaal and Werchter all had three fleurs-de-lis gules in their arms, recalling they were once part of the Barony of Rotselaar. The coloured mantle and crest were added to make the arms more attractive.
On 28 September 2000, the Municipal Council prescribed that the municipal arms should be used only on official documents. On 19 December 2002, the Municipal Council adopted a logotype, which superseded the municipal arms on the official letterhead.

According to Servais [svm55a]/A>, the arms of Rotselaar are the arms of the Rotselaar family, shown on Gerard of Rotselaar's seal, dated 1272, and on later municipal seals from the 14th century onwards.
Gelre Armorial shows "Argent, three fleurs-de-lis couped gules" for Jean II of Rotselaar (Die He. v. Rotseler, #821, folio 37) and "Argent three fleurs-de-lis couped gules a label azure" for Gerard of Rotselaar, lord of Vorselaar (Die He. v. Vorslaer, #825, 37r).
The Lalaing Armorial shows "Argent three fleurs-de-lis couped gules" for Rotselaar (Rotselaer, #25, folio 72v).
The same municipal arms were used by Werchter and Haacht, also parts of the Barony of Rotselaar.

These arms are a countercoloured version of the arms of the lords of Wesemael. Wezemaal is today part of the municipality of Rostselaer, which means that the lords of Rotzelaer and Wesemael were neighbours, if not relatives. The use of the odd fleurs de lis couped in the two coats of arms cannot be merely a coincidence.
The arms of the Wesemael family also appear on the flag of Grobbendonk, while the fleurs-de-lis couped also appear on the flag of Duffel, being there rather related to Wesemael or the abbey of Nivelles.

Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 1 November 2007

Hamlet of Hellicht

[Flag of Hellicht]         [Flag of Hellicht]

Flag of Hellicht - Images by Ivan Sache, 4 July 2008
Left, correct design
Right, incorrect design

The hamlet of Hellicht (locally known as d'Hellicht; 518 inhabitants in 2007) is part of Rotselaar. The origin of the name of the place is not known and a matter of local wordplays (see, for instance, the band called Helleblazers, Hell Blowers, and the womens' group called Hellebloempjes, Hell Flowers).
As explained on the Hellicht website, a few years ago, the need for a flag arose and local Geert Nys's design, showing four white birds facing the hoist and placed 1 + 2 +1 on a red field, was chosen. It specifically counters the municipal flag of Rotselaar. Not only have the colours been deliberately switched, Hellicht feels it deserves one unit more. The birds are white ravens, an expression indicating people of distinct character; moreover they all look into the same direction, typically, against the wind - as the little community needs to be united to achieve anything. We are assured the flag is very popular and people are ready to enlighten any outsider inquiring about the "chicken". Due to a mistake in manufacturing a limited number of flags shows a mirror image.

Jan Mertens, 4 July 2008