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As (Municipality, Province of Limburg, Belgium)

Last modified: 2019-06-26 by ivan sache
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Municipal flag of As - Image by Jarig Bakker, 7 October 2001

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Presentation of As

The municipality of As (7,579 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 2,207 ha) is located in Kempen, east of Genk, on the watershed of the Demer (a tributary of the Scheldt) and the Maas. The municipality was established in 1971 as the merger of the former municipalities of As and Niel-bij-As.

The two villages of As and Niel-bij-As are located on the Bosbeek (aka Oeter), a small river flowing into the Maas near Maaseik. The name of As comes form the Prehistoric hydronym aska, originally used to name the river and then the village as Assche, Asghe, Asch, and, eventually, As. Niel means "ahead" in Middle Dutch.
Flint artifacts from the late Age of Stone have been found in As, as well as a cemetery dated 500 BC. The Romans built the Tongeren-Venlo way via Munsterbilzen and As; however, they did not settle Kempen because the sandy soil was not fertile. The Franks did, as proved by the Merovingian cemetery found on the Schuttenberg, providing evidence for a significant settlement in the 6th-8th centuries. Kempen was evangelized in the 8th century and a primitive church was built in As, later replaced by today's St. Aldegonde church. The church is mentioned for the first time in in chronicle dated 13 December 1108, by which Prince-Bishop of Liège Otbert transferred to the abbey of Rolduc his rights on Riemst, Genk, As and Gellik.
Niel is mentioned for the first time in a charter dated 4 June 1253, by which Count Arnold of Loon was granted the villa of Dilsen, including Niel, from the castle of Stokkem. On 16 May 1299, Arnold of Loon appointed Arnold of Gellik pastor of As. Niel became an independent parish in 1721.

André Dumont (1847-1918), Professor of Geology at the Catholic University of Leuven (homonym of another geologist from Liège, 1809-1857), founded in 1872 the Union des Ingénieurs de Louvain, which he presided from 1876 to 1879. In 1877, he described in the Union's bulletin the coal basin recently found in the Dutch Limburg. He pointed out that Guillaume Lambert had suggested in 1873 that coal could also be found in the Belgian Limburg. On 13 October 1898, Dumont obtained the set up of the Société Anonyme de Recherche et Exploitation, whose aim was to fund and organize drillings. In 1901, a coal vein was found in As at a depth of 541 m. A Royal Decree created in 1906 the Concession André Dumont sous Asche [As]. The first shafts were built in 1912 but industrial exploitation of the coal mines started only after the First World War.
The railway As-Genk was built in 1873 to link Maaseik and Hasselt. The station of As was built in 1876-1878. The line was purchased by the Belgian state in 1913 and linked to the coal mines of Eisden. From 1921 to 1926, As was the bridgehead of the coal trains, so that the station was progressively increased and modernized, with the building of two big signal boxes. The two lines to Waterschei and Eisden were known as Kolenspoor (Coal's line). Traffic on these lines was eventually suppressed in 1985. The As-Maaseik line was transformed in 1988 into a pedestrian and cycle path. In 1989, the Waterschei-As-Eisden line was transformed into a tourist railway; the As station, registered as an historical monument in 1996, was axquired by the municipality in 1999. The As station is one of the gates of the Upper Kempen National Park.

Ivan Sache, 19 May 2007

Flag of As

The flag of As is horizontally divided dark green-white-dark green.
According to Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel [w2v02], the flag and arms, adopted on 1 June 1987 by the Municipal Council, are prescribed by a Decree issued on 13 October 1987 by the Executive of Flanders and published on 16 September 1988 in the Belgian official gazette.

The colours of the flag are taken from the arms, "Argent a tree vert surrounded sinister by a fawn gules climbing the trunk. The shield supported by a St. Amor holding dexter a pilgrim's staff and sinister a church all or".
St. Amor / Amour of Aquitaine (9th century) was an hermit who lived in Maastricht and founded the Munsterbilzen convent in Liège.

Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 19 May 2007