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Zele (Municipality, Province of East Flanders, Belgium)

Last modified: 2008-04-26 by ivan sache
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[Flag of Zele]

Municipal flag of Zele - Image by Filip van Laenen, 4 January 2008

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Presentation of Zele

The municipality of Zele (20,444 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 3,306 ha) is located between Dendermonde and Lokeren.

Zele belonged under the Ancient Regime to the German abbey of Werden, founded by Ludger. A Friesian monk, Ludger (c. 742-809), was the first Bishop of Münster (Germany); in 799, he founded a famous Benedictine abbey in Werden (a former municipality incorporated into Essen in 1929), on the river Ruhr. Charlemagne granted to Ludger the monastery of Lotusa (Leuze, Hainaut, founded by St. Amandus), together with all the parishes and domains that belonged to the monastery; according to the oldest known vita of the saint, written in the first half of the IXth century, the grant occurred in 805. The second and third vitae, also written in the IXth century, present the grant as earlier, short after the return of Ludger from Italy in 787. The historians believe that the earliest dating is the most probable. The name of Zele is not mentioned in this text, but several street and hamlet names of Zele are listed in a register from the abbey of Werden, dated from the late XIth century or early XIIth century. A fourth vita of Ludger, released between 1125 and 1140; says that Charlemagne, short after the death of Ludger, transferred the royal domain of Zele, located between the rivers Schelde and Durme, together with the neighbouring woods and the church rights to the abbey of Werden.

The abbey of Werden founded a provostship in Zele, with a farm and stables, which was named by the villagers Ludthuysen (Ludgerushuizen, "Ludger's estate"). When this provostship was founded is not known, neither is the year of building of the oldest chapel in Zele. In 1183, the Bishop of Tournai transferred the rights on the church of Zele to the St. Bavo abbey in Ghent, but the abbot of Werden protested: after 11 years of dispute and the mediation of the archbishop of Reims, Werden was given back its rights on Zele in 1194, which were, subsequently, confirmed several times by the pope. The "Flemish money", collected in Zele and Grimbergen, mostly as grain, cattle and flax, was for centuries a main source of income for the abbey of Werden. The autonomy of the provost of Zele was significantly reduced with time; one of the last provosts of Zele, Johann von Limburg, was sentenced todeath by Abbot Konrad von Gleichen but the sentence was nullified by the Council of Basle in 1440.
In 1452, during the uprising of Ghent against the Count of Flanders, the provostship of Zele was burned down; the provost and the monks escaped to Werden and never came back. However, the abbey of Werden still ran the village; in 1721, Abbot Theodor Thier offerred wealthy relics of St. Ludgard to the parish church, which were blessed by the Bishop of Ghent and representatives from the abbey of Werden. The rule of the abbey in Zele ended in 1803 with the suppression of the abbey of Werden by the French rulers.

Source: Municipal website - Texts by Pr. Dr. Marc Van Uytfanghe

Zele is the birth town of the football goal keeper Filip De Wilde (b. 1956), who played 33 times with the Belgian national team and was champion of Belgium with SK Beveren (1984) and Anderlecht (1991, 1993, 1994, 1995, 2000 and 2001) and winner of the Belgian Cup with SK Beveren (1983) and Anderlecht (1988, 1989 and 1994). He has, unfortunately, remained famous for a big goof against Turkey during the Euro 2000, which yielded him a red card and contributed to the elimination of Belgium.

Ivan Sache, 4 January 2008

Municipal flag of Zele

The municipal flag of Zele is vertically divided green-yellow-red.
According to Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel, the flag was adopted by the Municipal Council on 20 December 1984, confirmed by the Executive of Flanders on 3 June 1985 and published in the Belgian official gazette on 8 July 1986.
The colours of the flag are taken from the municipal arms.

According to Servais, the arms of Zele, granted by (Dutch) Royal Decree on 20 October 1819 and confirmed by (Belgian) Royal Decree on 28 October 1840, are based on a municipal seal dated from the end of the XVIIth century. The arms show on a yellow shield two red, hammer-like tools, used in flax industry, standing on a green terrace. The origin of the colours is not known.

Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 4 January 2008