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Meeuwen-Gruitrode (Municipality, Province of Limburg, Belgium)

Last modified: 2008-03-29 by ivan sache
Keywords: meeuwen-gruitrode | letter: g (white) | letter: m (white) |
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[Flag of Meeuwen-Gruitrode]

Municipal flag of Meeuwen-Gruitrode - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 14 January 2007

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Presentation of Meeuwen-Gruitrode and its villages

The municipality of Meeuwen-Gruitrode (12,611 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 9,126 ha) is located in the Limburgian Kempen, west of Maaseik. The municipality of Meeuwen-Gruitrode is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Meeuwen (including Ellikom and Wijshagen since 1971) and Gruitrode (including Neerglabbeek since 1971).
The unofficial websites of Meeuwen and Gruitrode clearly say that the merging of the two municipalities was not locally welcome. The hyphen in the name of the new municipality is not considered as a sign of union (in Dutch, the hyphen is called koppelteken, "coupling mark", in French, trait d'union, "union stroke") but as a sign of separation (scheidingssteken); the inhabitants of the two villages are considered as orphans forced to live under the same roof.

Meeuwen is a village with an uneventful history, located in the beautiful and fertile valley of brook A, where a few watermills still work. In the south, the flat landscape is bordered on one side by the slag heaps of the former coal mines of Genk and on the other side by the shooting range of the Air Force. The population of the village has changed from small farmers to factory workers.
Théodore Masy (1840-1935), a wealthy mine engineer and owner of three collieries in the province of Liège, purchased at the end of the XIXth century 310 ha of moor land in Meeuwen, which he transformed into the famous Eickenberg domain. In the beginning of the XXth century, he built a beautiful castle, with electricity, running water in all rooms and a lift (whereas electricity was supplied to the village of Meeuwen only in 1925). He set up an arboretum with more than 200 tree species, greenhouses and stables, where he managed a collection of more than 200 sheep breeds. In 1904, Masy built a chapel-mausoleum for his wife, deceased in 1900, on the model of the Placidia chapel in Ravenna and the Dante mausoleum. He then married in Liège a Corsican singer called Elisabeth Emilie Couret, who stayed for 15 years as a princess in the castle; Masy found with her a second youth and still improved the domain, introducing mechanized agriculture in the region. He died aged 95 in Liège and was buried in the castle chapel. Afet his death, his widow spent every Saturday to Monday in the castle. Suffering from a nervous disease, she eventually had to move back to Paris, where she died in 1943. Transferred to the Belgian state in 1938, the Eickenberg domain was completely sacked and ruined during the September 1944 fighting.
Meeuwen is the birth place of the footballer Georges Leekens (b. 1949), five times national champion (1973, 1976, 1977, 1978 and 1980) and winner of the national cup (1977) with FC Bruges. Leekens then coached several teams (once again national champion with FC Bruges, 1990), including the national teams of Belgium (1997-1999) and of Algeria (2002-2003).

Ellikom forms a salient between the neighbouring towns of Bree and Peer. The village is one of the oldest settlements in Limburgian Kempen; the St. Harlindis & Relindis parish is also one of the oldest in the region, probably dating back to the IXth century. The population of the village has dramatically increased since the set up of two big industries in the neighborhood.
Wijshagen, along with Ellikom, was part of the municipality ("schepenbank") of Meeuwen.

Gruitrode (locally called Roj) was in the past the biggest municipality by its area in the canton of Bree. The Oudsberg (93 m asl) is the highest point of Limburg. In 1078, the village was known as Roda, later transformed to Roth. The name of the village was later increased as Gruytroede (1267), Grutrode, Gruterode, Grootrode and eventually Gruitrode. The prefix recalls St. Gertrude of Nivelles, the patron saint of the village. Gruitrode played a main role in the early history of Kempen, being the seat of a a commandery of the Teutonic Knights, depending on Alden Biezen. Until the French Revolution, the Commander of Alden Biezen was also the lord of Gruitrode. The church of Gruitrode was built in 1428 in late Gothic, flamboyant style.
On 14 September 1944, the village was the starting point of the Gruitrode Breakout led by the US Army 2nd Armored "Hell on Wheels" Division.
Gruitrode is the home of Ludo Philippaerts' riding school and training center Dorperheide. Philippaerts, born in Genk in 1963, started his international career in 1988 with his legendary horse Darco, winning his first World Cup competition in London. In the Olympic Games, Philippaerts ranked 7th in 1992 (Barcelona), 13th in 1996 (Atlanta), 4th in 2000 (Sydney) and 2004 (Athens); in the European Championships, he won the silver medal in 2001 (Arnhem).
Neerglabbeek belonged since the XIIt century, along with Opglabeek, to the princely domain of the Counts of Loon. After the French Revolution, Neerglabbeek became an independent municipality but remained part of the parish of Opglabbeek. This very small village, which never had its own mill and brewery, still stands hidden on the Gruitrode-Opoeteren road. On its border with Opitter, Neerglabbeek shows a nice hilly landscape.


Ivan Sache, 14 January 2007

Municipal flag of Meeuwen-Gruitrode

The municipal flag of Meeuwen-Gruitrode is horizontally divided into ten stripes, in turn yellow and red, with a blue diagonal stripe overall. A white letter "M" is placed in upper fly whereas a white letter ""G is placed in lower hoist.
According to Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel, the flag was adopted by the Municipal Council on 30 March 1989, confirmed by the Executive of Flanders on 20 July 1989 and published in the Belgian official gazette on 8 December 1990.
The flag is a banner of the municipal arms.

The ten stripes are the arms of the former County of Loon, used in other Belgian municipal flags (for instance, Borgloon). The former arms of Gruitrode, as shown on the unofficial village website, have a white "G" added to the arms of the County of Loon.

Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 14 January 2007