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Herk-de-Stad (Municipality, Province of Limburg, Belgium)


Last modified: 2008-01-19 by ivan sache
Keywords: herk-de-stad | herck-la-ville |
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[Flag of Herk-de-Stad]

Municipal flag of Herk-de-Stad - Image by Jarig Bakker, 9 October 2001

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Presentation of Herk-de-Stad

The municipality of Herk-de-Stad (in French, Herck-la-Ville; 11,874 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 4,283 ha) is located in western Limburg. The municipality of Herk-de-Stad is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Herk-de-Stad, Berbroek, Donk and Schulen.

Herk-de-Stad was mentioned for the first time in 1107, as Harke, in a papal's bull concerning the abbey of Sint-Truiden. The town was named after the river that waters it; a tributary of the Gete, the Herk got its name from the Celtic root arca, "a small river". Originally named Wuest-Herck, the town was renamed Herck-la-Ville by the French rulers around 1800 to differentiate it from the neighbouring Herck-Saint-Lambert (a former municipality, incorporated in 1976 into Hasselt as Sint-Lambrechts-Herk), a name later translated into Dutch as Herk-de-Stad.
The region of Herk was among the personal possessions of the Count of Loon as early as in the XIth century and was then the center of the County. Located on the border with Brabant and on the important road Bruges-Cologne, the town was a very strategic place. In the XIVth century, cloth industry made of Herk a wealthy town, listed among the "good towns" of the County of Loon; after the incorporation of the county into the Principality of Liège in 1365, Herk was awarded the title of "good town" (bonne ville) of the Principality of Liège in 1388 and was allowed to build a perron symbolizing its status. The city walls were mentioned for the first time in 1379; the entrance of the town was possible through three fortified gates, the Gates of Diest, Hasselt and Sint-Truiden. In the XVIth century, the city wall was 3,600-feet long, 2-feet wide and 6-feet high. A drawing made by Leloup in 1743 still shows Herk with gates and a canal. The three gates were progressively suppressed, ending with the Gate of Sint-Truiden in 1882. The canal was drained and replaced by four roads.
Like several other towns, Herk experienced bad times in the XVth-XVIIth century, including nine epidemics of plague and three blazes (1669, 1679, 1699). The town was nearly completely destroyed by another blaze in 1781 and rebuilt in neo-classical style.

Herk is the birth town of the astronom Godfried Wendelen (aka Wendelinus, 1580-1667). Wendelen studied at the Latin school of Herk, the Jesuite college of Tournai and the High School of Leuven, but was mostly an autodidact who travelled more often than he sat in a classroom. Interested in astronomy, he travelled to Prague to attend classes by the famous Danish astronom Tycho Brahe (1546-1601). After a short return home, he moved again to Provence, where he expected to find a purer atmosphere, staying in Marseilles in 1599 and visiting Rome in 1560. From 1604 to 1612, Wendelen stayed with the family André d'Arnaud in Forcalquier, a town in the Provencal Alps, working as a private tutor. He studied law and graduated as utriusque juris doctor (Doctor in the two laws) at the University of Orange in 1612. Watching and watching the sky of Provence, Wendelen noticed that the revolution of the planets did not follow a regular circle but an ellipse with the sun located in its focus. This was nine years before Johan Kepler (1571-1630) published his three laws on the orbits of the planets.
Wendelen also defended Copernicus (1473-1543)'s system claiming that the Earth and the planet revolve around the sun, year before Galileo (1564-1642) was censored by the Roman Catholic church. In 1613, Wendelen proposed a Law that was explicited in 1613 by Newton (1643-1727) as the Law of universal gravitation. Back to Herk in 1612, Wendelen served as the director of the Latin school of the town; he then studied theology and was appointed priest in Geetbets in 1619, where he had a difficult life. He was then appointed priest in Herk in 1633 but most historical evidence on him at that time was lost during the 1669 blaze. His most famous astronomy book is Eclipses Lunaires (Moon eclipses"), published in 1644.

On 1 October 2000, Pope John Paul II canonized in Rome 120 martyres of the Boxers' War in China, including seven Franciscan nuns killed on 9 July 1900 in Tai-Yuan-Fou; among them was Sister Amandine (Maria-Paulina Jeuris, 1872-1900), born in the small village of Schakkebroek, near Herk, where a small museum with a Chinese chapel recalls the saint.


Ivan Sache, 18 July 2007

Municipal flag of Herk-de-Stad

The flag of Herk-de-Stad is horizontally divided red-yellow-red.
According to Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel, the flag was adopted by the Municipal Council of 3 March 1981, confirmed by the Executive of Flanders on 3 December 1984 and published in the Belgian official gazette on 8 July 1986.
The colours are the traditional colours of the County of Loon, very often used in the municipal heraldry and vexillology of Limburg.

The flag also recalls the municipal arms. According to Servais, the old arms of Herk, granted by Royal Decree on 21 August 1871, are "Per fess, 1. Gules a St. Martin and the poor all or, 2. Barully or and gules of ten pieces (Loon)". St. Martin is the patron saint of the town.
As shown on the municipal website, the modern arms of Herk, granted on the same dates as the flag, are "Per pale 1. Per fess, 1a. Gules a St. Martin and the poor all or, 1b. Barully or and gules of ten pieces (Loon), 2. Gules three cinquefoils or", that is "Per pale Herk ancient and Schulen ancient".
The old arms of Schulen, granted by Royal Decree on 24 April 1952, are the arms of the Counts of Arenberg, recalling that Schulen belonged to Lummen, whose modern arms still features the Arenberg arms in the first and fourth quarter.

Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 18 July 2007