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Sint-Laureins (Municipality, Province of East Flanders, Belgium)

Last modified: 2010-12-04 by ivan sache
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[Flag of Sint-Laureins]

Municipal flag of Sint-Laureins - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 11 November 2007

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Presentation of Sint-Laureins and its villages

The municipality of Sint-Laureins (6,591 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 7,450 ha) is located in the north of the rural region of Meetjesland, on the border with the Netherlands. The municipality of Sint-Laureins is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Sint-Laureins (2,134 ha), Sint-Margriete (1,049 ha), Sint-Jan-in-Eremo (1,260 ha), Waterland-Oudeman (901 ha) and Watervliet (2,108 ha).

Sint-Laureins emerged in the 12th-13th centuries as a peat diggers' village, known as Sinte Lauwereine ter Woestine (1323, a woestine being a desert land), Sinte Laureins ten Moere (1326, "in the moors") and Sente Laureyns ten Blocke (1436). Built in late Gothic style, the St. Lawrence church has an enclosed choir, an unusual feature in village churchs.
The hospital called Godshuis was built in 1843 by lady Antonia van Damme, allowing the villagers from Aldegem, Maldegem and Sint-Laureins to be healed locally rather than in the then remote town of Bruges. A four-winged building, 75 x 56. 5 m in size, and completely symmetrical, the hospital was inaugurated in 1849, its chapel being consecrated to St. Joseph on 25 September 1849. The first nuns came from Ghent, together with 16 female orphans, whose number grew up to 118 a few years later. Lady Van Damme bequeathed the hospital to the municipality of Sint-Laureins after her death. Deemed obsolete, the hospital was abandoned in the 1970s and became a squat. It was restored in the late 1990s and reopened to the public in 2004 as a conference center.
The Leopold Canal, built in 1846-1848, marks the border between the polders and the hinterland.

Sint-Margriete is located in the middle of polders. Near the church square, a statue portrays the fox Reynaert in front of the throne of King Nobel (a lion), together with the bear Bruin, the rooster Canticleer and the raven Tiecelijn. Outside the village can still be seen four border poles from the 15th-16th centuries that marked the border between the possession of the St. Bavo and St. Peter abbeys of Ghent and of those of the Bishopric of Tournai.

Sint-Jan-in-Eremo is also located in the polders. The picturesque white one-naved chapel dedicated to St. John the Baptist was once a famous place of pilgrimage. In the hamlet of Bentille, the St. Eligius church superseded a chapel built in the 13th century on a relatively high place and used as a shelter in case of flood. Those floods (for instance, the St. Elisabeth's flood, which suppressed 18 villages and killed most of their inhabitants in 1376) dig five creeks, stretching over 65 ha, which were once used as a source of peat. The polders are protected by dykes, the most important of them being the Graafjansdijk (John Fearless' Dyke), built in 1404 and named after Duke John Fearless.

Waterland-Oudeman had in the past a small port named Sint-Niclaes ter Varent, located today in the Netherlands. The domain of Waterland was founded in the 16th century and there was also near the village a famous monastery named Elmare, mentioned in Reynaert's Tale as Ic (Reynaert) maectene (Ysengryn) moonc ter Elmaeren. There was indeed a monk, and later prior, of Elmare named Reingert, who might have been the "model" of the wolf Ysengrin.
Around 1607, the parish split between the Catholics, who built a new church in Oudeman, and the Protestants, who built the chapel of Waterland.

Watervliet is another polder vilage. The Ascension church was nicknamed "The Cathedral of the North" thanks to its rich decoration, especially a unique collection of paintings from the 16th-18th centuries.


Ivan Sache, 5 November 2007

Municipal flag of Sint-Laureins

The municipal flag of Sint-Laureins is red with five blue-white-blue-white-blue wavy stripes in the middle.
According to Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel [w2v02a], the flag was adopted by the Municipal Council on 10 May 1984, confirmed by the Executive of Flanders on 7 May 1985 and published in the Belgian official gazette on 8 July 1986.
The flag is a banner of the sinister half of the municipal arms, without the star, the crescent and the fleur-de-lis. This half is an improved representation of the arms of Watervliet, designed after the arms of the Lauwerein (later, Laurin) family.

The municipal arms of Sint-Laureins, as shown on the municipal website are (something like) "Per pale, 1. Argent a bend azure, 2. Gules a wavy fess argent two wavy fesses azure above the fess a mullet and a crescent or below the fess a fleur de lis of the same". The shield is presented, unsurprisingly, by St. Lawrence holding a palm and a gril, all or.
The arms of Watervliet, as shown by Servais, were granted by Royal Decree on 17 December 1828, as "Gules three wavy fesses argent..." The new village of Watervliet, rebuilt in 1506 after its destruction by a flood in 1287, was granted to Jeroen Lauweryn, Chancellor and Treasurer of Duke of Burgundy Philip the Handsome, also Governor of Flanders. The arms were created after the refoundation of the village and adopted by the Lauweryn family. While the waves symbolize water, the star and the crescent symbolize night and dark times, respectively, and the fleur-de-lis symbolizes the reclaimed territory. The Lauweryn family disappeared in 1719 but the Municipal Council of Watervliet kept its arms.

Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 5 November 2007

Unofficial "naval" flag of Sint-Laureins

End of 2008, Frigate Captain Jan de Beurme, commander of the Marie Louise and a native of Sint-Laureins, received a modified municipal flag (photo) for use on his mission patrolling the coast of Somalia.
The wavy stripes on the flag have been shifted to make room, in the centre, for the name "SINT-LAUREINS" in green letters without serifs.

Jan Mertens, 30 September 2010