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Ronse (Municipality, Province of East Flanders, Belgium)


Last modified: 2012-10-13 by ivan sache
Keywords: ronse | renaix | carnival | eagle: double-headed (black) |
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[Flag of Ronse]

Municipal flag of Ronse - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 13 May 2007

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Presentation of Ronse

The municipality of Ronse (in French, Renaix; 24,426 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 3,448 ha) is located 10 km south of Oudenaarde, on the linguistic border between Dutch and French. Omar Wattez nicknamed the town "the pearl of the Flemish Ardennes".

Ronse was already settled in the Roman times. Remains of Roman buildings have been reused in the Romanesque vault of the St. Hermes crypt, as was a part of a sculpture portraying a dancing bacchante. Coins from the IInd and the IVth century have been found in Hogerlucht and the Muziekberg, respectively.
The first significant pre-urban settlement in Ronse was set up in the middle of the VIIth century when St. Amandus evangelized the region. Amandus himself or one of his disciples founded in Ronse a small religious community dedicated to Sts. Peter and Paul. On 6 July 860, the relics of St. Hermes arrived at Ronse. Emperor Lothar had promised to transfer these relics, that were mentioned in Salzburg in 851, to Ronse, but he died in 855, so that his follower, Louis II, met his commitments. He also transfered the rights on Ronse and the monastery to the abbey of Inde (CornelismÜnster), near Cologne.
The monks had to leave Ronse for Cologne in 880 to protect the precious relics from the Northmens' raids. In 940, the intervention of Fulbert, Bishop of Cambrai, allowed the St. Hermes chapter to recover the monks' goods and the relics. Ronse developed as a town; in 1089, the relics were transfered to a new Romanesque crypt, which was surmounted in 1129 by a new St. Hermes church. St. Hermes was invoked against mental disorders. A dictum still says "St. Hermes cures the fools from the neighborhood and lets the inhabitants of Ronse as they are". The relics of St. Hermes are still transported during a 32.6 km march called Fiertel on the Sunday after Whit. Another tradition related to St. Hermes is the Bommelfeesten, in the beginning of January, which includes the Fools' Monday (Zotte Mandaag) carnival, dating back to the Middle Ages.
Very little is known on St. Hermes. Quoting the Catholic Encyclopedia:

Martyr, Bishop of Salano (Spalato) in Dalmatia. Very little is known about him; in Romans 16:14, St. Paul says: Salute Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes, and the brethren that are with them. This last name is supposed by many to refer to the subject of his article, who is also said to have succeeded Titus as Bishop of Dalmatia, and to have been martyred. A passing mention is made of a Hermas in the Acta SS. Bolland., April 8, under Herodion; and Pape says he was one of the seventy-two disciples of Our Lord. Hermes was a very common name among slaves. Migne (P.G., 4 November) says he was one of the seventy disciples, along with Patrobas, Linus, Gaius and Philologus; and Canisius talks of a Hermeus presbyter who converted many from idols to Christ, suffered for his faith with Nicander, Bishop of Myra, and was lacerated and hanged.

In 1240, Gerard of Waudrupont, representing the abbey of Inde, granted a first chart to the town. However, the Franchise (Vrijheid) of Ronse, an enclave ruled in total independence by the chapter of the St. Hermes church, was maintained until the end of the Ancient Regime. At the same time, cloth industry developed in Ronse. Duke of Brabant John I granted to the cloth merchants from Ronse a big space in the Weavers' Hall in Leuven as well as tax exemption. After the suppression of wool trade because of the English competition, Ronse survived the Wars of Religion thanks to linen production. The linen products were traded on the markets of Oudenaarde and Ath and shipped to the New World via Spain. The town burned in 1513 and 1553; in 1559, a third blaze burned the downtown and the neighbouring houses in three hours. Only eight houses escaped the fire, and the whole textile industry was ruined. In 1566, the St. Hermes church was occupied by the Iconoclasts and the canons fled to Ath.

On 28 March 1629, Jan of Nassau-Siegen purchased the Barony of Ronse. He built there one of the biggest castles in the Low Countries. He was Colonel of a German regiment and later General of the Cavalry of Flanders, and died in Ronse in 1638. After the French invasion of Belgium, the castle was sold and fell into ruins. During the Napoleonic era, the textile industry was modernized and mechanized. In 1806, 450 workers produced 70,000 kgs of cotton cloth. At the end of the XIXth century, Ronse specialized in mixed and fancy cloth. Between the two World Wars, Ronse was the second biggest textile center in Flanders, but this industry declined in the 1960s.

Source: Municipal website

Ivan Sache, 13 May 2007

Municipal flag of Ronse

The municipal flag of Ronse is vertically divided green-white with the municipal shield of arms centered in the upper part of the green stripe.
According to Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel, the flag was adopted by the Municipal Council on 26 August 1987, confirmed by the Executive of Flanders on 17 November 1987 and published in the Belgian official gazette on 16 September 1988. This flag was already used in Ronse before the official adoption.

The municipal website gives the history of the municipal arms.
The oldest known representation of the arms of Ronse is a seal, dated 1497, belonging to Pauwel de la Porte, Dean of the St. Hermes Chapter. On the seal, St. Hermes portrayed as a soldier holds a shield with a double-headed eagle. On the municipal seals of Ronse known since the beginning of the XVIth century, there is always a shield with a double-headed eagle, hold by a nude woman. A sculpture of a double-headed eagle can be seen on the median keystone of the southern transept of the St. Hermes church. On the XVIIIth century representations of the arms on wood and other supports, Hermes is often represented crowned with a wreath.
Under the French rule, Ronse attempted to obtain official arms in 1811-1813. The sketch of the arms is still kept in Paris. The shield portrayed St. Hermes and was hold by a lady with a wreath as crown and belt, recalling the Ancient Regime. The battle of Waterloo prevented the completion of the project. On 2 September 1818, the King of the Netherlands granted arms to "the town of Renaix":
Zijnde van goud, beladen met een zwarte dubbelden arend, met rooden bekken, tongen en klaauwen. Het schild gedekt met een gouden kroon (Or a double-headed eagle sable beaked langued and armed gules. The shield topped with a crown or).
These arms were confirmed by (Belgian) Royal Decree on 13 April 1838.

Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 13 May 2007

Flag used during the Ronse carnival

[Carnival flag]         [Carnival flag]

Carnival flags in Ronse - Images by Ivan Sache, 13 May 2007

The official website of the Ronse carnival shows several photographies on the event. A few of them show a group marching near a car decorated with vertically divided yellow-blue flags, and smaller, square, diagonally divided blue-yellow, flags. Blue and yellow are the colours of the group, which seems to be De Kabouterkies.

Ivan Sache, 13 May 2007