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Maasmechelen (Municipality, Province of Limburg, Belgium)

Last modified: 2008-03-29 by ivan sache
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[Flag of Maasmechelen]

Municipal flag of Maasmechelen - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 20 January 2007

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Presentation of Maasmechelen

The municipality of Maasmechelen (36,456 inhabitants of 1 Janary 2007; 7,628 sq. km) is located in eastern Limburg, on the border with Netherlands, which is there the river Maas. The municipality of Maasmechelen was formed 1976 by the merging of the former municipalities of Mechelen-aan-de-Maas (with the administrative seat of the municipality) Eisden, Leut, Meeswijk, Opgrimbie, Vucht, Boorsem and Uikhoven.

Eisden is one of the oldest settlements in the Maasland region, having been constantly inhabited since the Mesolithic period. Remains of Roman villas have been found and it has been proposed that Eisden was then the Roman post shown on the Peutinger Table as Feresne. The area was colonized by the Franks in the beginning of the IVth century; in the Xth century, Eisden belonged to the lord of Kessenich, who transfered it to the Abbess of the Principality of Thorn, a direct vassal of the German Emperor. Balthasar van Vlodrop, lord of Leut, pruchased Eisden in the XVIth century and took the Protestant party (see below), which yielded hard times for the village.
Until the beginning of the XXth century, Maasland was a poor rural country and several farmers worked in German factories during the winter season. In 1876, Guillaume Lambert, Professor at the University of Leuven, claimed that the soil of Kempen was loaded with coal. This was confirmed on 1 August 1901 by the geologist André Dumont, who extracted coal in As. Coal mines were set up in several places in Limburg and the Limburg-Maas company was founded in 1907 in Eisden. Because of the First World War, the first shaft was dug only in 1921; coal was extracted for the first time on 7 September 1922. In the 1950s, coal was no longer the main source of energy and the extraction of coal from deep shafts was no longer profitable; the mines were progressively closed and the history of coal mining ended in Eisden in 1987. The mining site of Eisden was converted into the recreational park named Leisure Valley.

Leut is known for the castle Vilain XIIII. The oldest representation of the castle dates back to the early XVIth century but its structure (donjon, moat and entrance gate) clearly indicates that it was originally a feudal water castle. The lords of Leut had several goods and rights in Leut, Meeswijk and Eisden. In 1274, the lord of Leut was Jacob van Tongeren. The lords of Leut later purchased the rights on Valkenburg and were Rijksheren, that is direct vassals of the German Emperor.
From 1475 to 1752, the castle belonged to the Van Vlodrop family; in the XVIth century, they joined the Orangist, Protestant party against the King of Spain, which yielded hard times for the villages. The domain was then a small Dutch satellite state, with Protestantism as the official religion, but the Catholic majority was not repressed. The villagers served in the Dutch army and the Van Vlodrop made their careers in the Dutch army or diplomacy.
The castle and the domain were purchased in 1752 by the Catholic William van Meeuwen, from Maastricht. The castle was revamped and transformed into a comfortable palace arranged in Classic style. The religious freedom was preserved, which attracted more and more Protestant families to Leut. In 1795, the domain was suppressed and the lord became Mayor of the village of Leut.
The next owner of the castle was Burgrave Charles Ghislain Vilain XIIII (1803-1878), from a famous lineage from East Flanders. He was Deputy (1831-1836; 1841-1848) of the Catholic Party, diplomat in Rome (1832-1833; 1835-1839), Minister of the Foreign Affairs (1855-1857), Governor of East Flanders (1834-1836) and Mayor of Leut (1842-1878). He was succeeded in the castle of Leut by Countess Louis Vilain XIIII, who spent most of her wealth in donating money to the churchs and schools of the neighborhood, and had to sell the castle in 1892. The castle was abandoned until 1920, when the Limburg-Maas mining company purchased all the goods of the Vilain XIIII and transformed the castle into an hospital for miners. The hospital was closed in the 1980s and classified as a natural monument, including the 80-ha park designed by the famous lansdcape gardener Pedersen and including seven beeches standing for Burgrave Vilain's seven daughters.

Opgrimbie was once the smallest municipality of Maasland, with only 147 inhabitants. By Decree of 7 April 1851, Daalgrimbie was separated from Maasmechelen and merged with Opgrimbie. The new municipality had 1,737 inhabitants in 1961 and an area of 1,269 ha. The village was known as Grimbede (1221) and later as Grymbede, Grembede, Grimbij, Grembij, Grimmij and Gremmij. The inhabitants of Opgrimbie called their village Grimmie whereas their neighbours from Daalgrimbie call it Gremmen. The name of "Grimbie" most probably means "a settlement on a gravelled place". The place was indeed settled by the Romans, probably by the garrison that watched the bridge over the Maas to Maastricht. In the Vth century, the Franks set up several villages forming a fiscus (domain); the place was very wet and not suitable for agriculture, which was good for the Franks, who favoured cattle-breeding. In the Middle Ages, Opgrimbie and Daalgrimbie belonged to two different domains. The Bernardine abbey of Hocht was founded in Opgrimbie in 1185.


Ivan Sache, 20 January 2007

Municipal flag of Maasmechelen

The municipal flag of Maasmechelen is vertically divided, with the left half horizontally divided yellow a red crozier - red a white star and the right half yellow with an half-eagle with red beak, tongue and claws.
According to Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel, the flag was adopted by the Municipal Council on 14 February 1989, confirmed by the Executive of Flanders on 9 May 1989 and published in the Belgian official gazette on 8 November 1989.
The flag is a banner of the municipal arms.

Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 20 January 2007