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Alken (Municipality, Province of Limburg, Belgium)

Last modified: 2019-09-07 by ivan sache
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Flag of Alken - Image by Ivan Sache, 7 October 2001

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Presentation of Alken

The municipality of Alken (in Limburgian, Alleke; 11,059 inhabitants on 1 July 2006; 2,814 ha) is located south of Hasselt.

Alken was mentioned for the first time in 1066, as Alleche. It was an enclave of the Principality of Liège inside the County of Loon, until the incorporation of the County into the Principality. Several prince-bishops of Liège had a residence in Alken.

The Alken-Maes group (N.V. Brouwerijen Alken-Maes Brasseries S.A.; website) is the second brewing group in Belgium (after InBev Belgium), formed in 1988 by the merging of the Alken and Maes breweries and purchased in 2000 by the British Scottish & Newcastle group.
In 1880, the brick maker Egied Maes purchased the Sint-Michaël brewery in Waarloos (Antwerp). Maes was succeeded in 1901 by his sons Theophiel and Ferdinand, who renamed the brewery to Stoombrouwerij Mouterij St-Michaël Gebroeders Maes / Brasserie - Malterie à vapeur St-Michaël - Frères Maes (St-Michael Steam Brewery - Maltery Maes Brothers). They produced their first pils in the early 1920s. In 1926, the third generation of Maes modernized the production, which was tripled in 1928; in 1969, Maes was incorporated to the English Watneys brewery.
The Alken brewery was founded in 1880 by Arthur Boes. In 1928, the brewery launched the then revolutionary Cristal pils. The Cristal was awarded the World Quality Medal in London in 1989.
The Alken-Maes group has kept three production sites. In 2003, the Waarloos brewery was closed but the social seat of the group stayed there. Both the Maes and Cristal pils are no longer brewed in Alken. The De Keersmaker brewery in Kobbegem (Asse) brews the Mort Subite gueuze and kriek. The Union brewery of Jumet (Charleroi) brews the Grimbergen and Ciney beers; its closure was announced in January 2007. In 2002, Alken-Maes bought the Louwaege brewery in Kortemark, which brews the Hapkin beer.
Alltogether, Alken-Maes employs 750 workers for a turnover of 200 millions euros and a production of 2 millions hl of beer. In 1998, Alken-Maes was granted the title of "Patented Supplyer of the Court".

Ivan Sache, 16 May 2007

Flag of Alken

The flag of Alken (municipal website) is horizontally divided red-white-yellow.
According to Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel [w2v02], the flag, adopted on 30 January 1981 by the Municipal Council, is prescribed by a Royal Decree issued on 24 February 1981, and published on 2 April 1981, and, again on 4 January 1995, in the Belgian official gazette.
The colours of the flag are most probably taken from the arms, "Gules a bust of St. Aldegond proper clad like a Benedictine holding in dexter a book and in sinister an abbess staff, all gold, above her head a nimb of the same; the saint surmounted with a descending Holy Spirit [dove]" (municipal website).

St. Aldegonde, the patron saint of Alken celebrated on 30 January, was born around 630 in Coulsore, near Maubeuge (today in the north of France, close to the border with Belgium) as the daughter of Count of Hainaut Walbert IV and of the Thuringian princess Bertilla. Her elder sister was St. Waltrude, the founder of the abbey of Mons. From 642 (the legal age of marriage) to 660 (the legal age to take the coat if still a virgin), she resisted all attempts to marry her. She escaped from the family castle through the neighbouring forest, chased by her pretender. A source gushed forth to refresh her and angels helped her to cross the river Sambre. She founded there, in a place called Maldodium, a nuns' monastery around 658, which is the origin of the town of Maubeuge.
Aldegond died in 684 and was buried in the family tomb in Coulsore. Her relics were brought back to Maubeuge and placed in 1039 in a wooden shrine, replaced in 1611 by a wealthy silver shrine. The bones were calcined during a blaze in 1808; the saint's skull was damaged during the bombing of the town in 1815. On 16 May 1940, the remaining relics were carried away to the village of Caudry and escaped the destruction of the town. The church of the village of Malzy owned a shoe lost by the saint when she crossed the river Oise, but it finally crumbled into dust.
St. Aldegond is invoked against infantile diseases; she is the patron saint of eleven parishes in France and several other in Belgium and Canada.
[Malzy website, by Norbert Quiny]

Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 16 May 2007