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Heers (Municipality, Province of Limburg, Belgium)

Last modified: 2007-12-02 by ivan sache
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[Flag of Heers]

Municipal flag of Heers - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 8 January 2007

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Presentation of Heers and its villages

The municipality of Heers (6,812 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 5,307 ha) is located in the south of Limburg, in the region of Droog (Dry) Haspengouw (in French, Hesbaye), on the linguistic border between Dutch and French. The municipality of Heers is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Heers (including Batsheers, Opheers, Gutschoven, Mettekoven and Veulen since 1970), Bovelingen (made in 1970 by the merging of Mechelen-Bovelingen and Rukkelingen-Loon), Heks (including Horpmaal and Vechmaal since 1970) and Klein-Gelmen (part since 1970 of the municipality of Gelmen, together with Groot-Gelmen, Engelmanshoven and Gelinden, the latter three villages having been incorporated to Sint-Truiden in 1976.

Heers (899 ha) has kept a castle from the XIIIth century, then one of the most powerful in Limburg. Among the famous lords of Heers was Henri de Rivière, who had 14 children and said wie zal het einde van deze rivier zien?, something like "where is the end of this river?". However, the Rivière lineage ended in 1774 with the death of Henri's daughter, Barbe, who was abbess of Herckenrode. Her tomb bears the Latin motto In me rivus extinctus est, "the river ended with me".
An even more famous lord of Heers was Raes van Heers (d. 1477). He commanded the troops of Liège revolted against Prince-Archbishop Louis de Bourbon, who was supported by Duke of Burgundy Philippe le Bon. Raes set up an alliance with King of France Louis XI, Philippe le Bon's main opponent. In August 1465, he sacked the town of Herve and besieged the castle of Valkenburg but he was defeated by the Burgundians on 20 October 1465 in Montenaken. In 1466, he seized the town of Sint-Truiden as a retaliation for the sack of his own castle by the Sint-Truiden militia. On 28 October 1467, he was again defeated by the Burgundians, commanded by Charles the Bold. In November of the same year, he was forced to exile to France. After the peace was signed between the Burgundians and Liège, Raes was given back his domain on 28 April 1477; the rebuilding of the then ruined castle stopped when Raes died but was resumed by his widow Pentacosta van Grevenbroeck.
Batsheers (227 ha) is also known as Neerheers. Both names mean "Lower Heers", Batsheers might be a corrupted rendition of the French correct name Bas-Heers, used in 1282. The patron saint of the village is St. Stephen, invoked in the past against childrens' convulsions.
Opheers (415 ha) means Upper Heers. The farm of the Herkenrode abbey, built in Renaissance style in 1639, with its tithe barn added in 1734, is still there.
Gutschoven (277 ha) is known in French as Gossoncourt-les-Looz, then equivalent of the old Dutch written form Gutschoven-bij-Borgloon.

Mettekhoven (217 ha), known in French as Martincourt, is "Martin's estate" (in Latin, Martini curtis; in Dutch, Martenshoef). The village is watered by the Herk.
Veulen (381 ha) is known in French as Fologne. The castle, dated from the XIIIth century, was the seat of the domain owned by Duke of Brabant Hendrik I. In the XVth century, the castle was transferred to the Count of Loon, and later successively to the families of Aa, Merode and Argenteau; the castle was eventually transfered in 1809 to Knight André de Donnéa. The parish of Heers included the villages of Heers and Veulen; because of the rivalry between the lords of Heers and Veulen, a chapel was built in the latter village. A church was then founded on 13 November 1450 on the model of the collegiate church of Borgloon.

Mechelen-Bovelingen (446 ha) is known in French as Marlinne. The village had limited industrialization in the XIXth century (sugar and sawmills). Coins dated back to the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (161-180) were found there. The hamlet of Pepingen already had a chapel in 1218; its oldest known lord is Fastrad, who died in 1322.
Rukkelingen (388 ha) is known in French as Roclenge. In the past, Roclenge and Marlinne formed the domain of Bovelingen, part of the County of Loon. Arnoul, Knight of Ruckelingen, purchased in 1213 all the local goods of the abbey of Averbode, as well as those of Egbert, Knight of Bas-Heers.

Heks (476 ha) is the birth place of the writer, priest and teacher Ludovic Van Winkel (1893-1954) aka Lod. Lavki. Van Winkel served during the First World War as a stretcher-bearer; in the Russian camp of Mailly, near Verdun, he translated his name to Lavki. He was ordained priest in 1921 and became a famous scouts' chaplain. In 1923, Lavki wrote a tale for his scouts, which became quickly his first book De Kleine Koning. In 1939, his book Siee-Krath was awarded the Prize of the Flemish Provinces for Youth Books. Lod. Lavki is still one of the most read Flemish writers for the youth.
Horpmaal (553 ha) had for earliest known lord Vrient van Horpmael, who died in 1264. The history of the village is made of a succession of seizures and sacks by foreign troops (a feature most probably shared by the other villages of Heers).
Vechmaal (714 ha) was known for its marls, which were exploited in underground quarries. Due to their constant temperature, the caves were later reused to grow mushrooms. The Hinnisdael Caves were named after their first owner.

Klein-Gelmen (309 ha) was known in French in the XIXth century as Petit-Jamine. The village is watered by the Herk, a tributary of the Demer.

Source: Heers unofficial website

Ivan Sache, 8 January 2007

Municipal flag of Heers

The municipal flag of Heers is square, yellow with a red lion with blue tongue and claws.
According to Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel, the flag was adopted by the Municipal Council on 19 September 1977, confirmed by Royal Decree on 21 June 1978 and published in the Belgian official gazette on 26 August 1978.
The flag is a banner of the municipal arms.

The arms of Heers are "Gules a lion or armed and langued gules". Servais shows the same arms for Heers before the municipal reform, therefore we can assume that the new municipality of Heers reused the arms of the former municipality of Heers, which itself reused the arms of the early lords of Heers: the Lalaing Armorial (late XIVth century) shows the very same arms for Gerard, Lord of Heers (Die He. v. Heer, folio 107r, 1554).

Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 8 January 2007