Last modified: 2008-04-05 by ivan sache
Keywords: rixensart | fleur-de-lis (red) | spine (red) | spinola |
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Municipal flag of Rixensart - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 29 October 2007
The municipality of Rixensart (21,426 inhabitants on 1 July 2007; 1,754 ha) is located 25 km south-east of Brussels, on the linguistic border between French and Dutch and the administrative border between Wallon and Flemish Brabant. The municipality of Rixensart is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Rixensart, Genval and Rosières.
Rixensart (898 ha) was originally a cleared place in a forest (sart,
in ancient and regional French, essart), named after its old lord
(Rixo / Rixo) or after the brook Ri that waters the sart. The village,
whose name appeared in 1224, belonged to the domain of Limal until the
XIVth century and to the parish of Limal until 1802. Until the middle
of the XIXth century, the village was made of a few big farms and
several smaller ones. The building of the Brussels-Luxembourg railway
and the industrial revolution dramatically transformed Rixensart. The
set up of "workers' trains" in 1870 allowed the workers from Rixensart to
go to Brussels every day; later, the "vicinal" trains opened up the
countryside. Since housing was cheaper there than in Brussels, several
employees and small private incomes settled in Rixensart and the
neighbouring villages; accordingly, urbanisation progressively ate away
at the rural lands and the woods. In slightly more than one century,
the population of Rixensart increased from 3,377 (1876) to 20,616
(1988), while agricultural lands represent today only 13% of the total
area of the municipality.
The castle of Rixensart, the seat of the domain of Limal, was sold in 1536 to Eustache de Croÿ, Bishop of Arras, who transferred it to his brother Adrien de Croÿ, Councillor of Charles Quint. In 1586, the castle was transferred by marriage to Charles de Gavre, Count of Frésin, whose daughter married Philippe Hippolyte Spinola, Count of Bruay, who revamped the castle (1631-1662) as we know it today. The castle of Rixensart, inhabited by the Princes of Merode since 1715, is considered as one of the most beautiful castles in Belgium. The gardens of the castle are said to have been designed after a drawing by Le Nôtre, Louis XIV's famous garden designer.
Genval (451 ha) was originally "the lower valley", from jusenne,
shortened to gen, "lower", and val, "valley". The lower valley is
probably the valley of the river Lasne, which has been the limit
between the villages of Genval, Rixensart and Rosières for ages.
The hamlet of Maubroux developed near Lake Genval; the railway
station opened in 1889 on the Brussels-Luxembourg line was used by
tourists and by workers heading to Brussels or to the Lannoye paper
mills. Auguste Lannoye developed Maubroux, building a church and
housing estates for his workers. The Papèteries de Genval were closed
Founded in 1945 in Genval, RIT (Recherche et Industrie Thérapeutiques) produced antibiotics and then vaccines (1963, anti-poliomelytis vaccine); a new factory was purchased in Rixensart in 1958 to produce new vaccines. In 1968, RIT became a fully-owned subsidiary of SmithKline Corp. In 1995, the site of Rixensart was deemed to small and another two sites were opened in Wavre (production) and Gembloux (scaling up). Following mergings with Beecham (1989) and Glaxo (2000), the group was renamed GSK Biologicals in 2000.
Rosières (416 ha) was probably once a place planted with reeds (in French, roseau) rather than with roses; reeds are still very common in the marshy neighborhoods of the river Lasne. Rosières belonged in the past to the domain of Issche, which is the origin of the Flemish municipality of Overijse, from which is seceded during the French rule. The ancient history of Rosières is recalled by Dutch toponyms.
Source: Municipal website
Ivan Sache, 29 October 2007
The municipal flag of Rixensart is horizontally divided yellow-chequy white and red-yellow with a flower-like spine stuck in the central stripe.
Armoiries communales en Belgique. Communes wallonnes, bruxelloises et germanophones describes the flag as Trois laizes longitudinales la première et la troisième jaunes, la deuxième échiqueté de blanc et rouge avec une épine en forme de fleur fichée dans celle-ci.
The flag is a banner of the municipal arms.
The lords of Rixensart do not seem to be directly related to Ambrogio Spinola,
but they are clearly from the same lineage. In 1585, Gaston Spinola
became lord of Bruay (today Bruay-la-Buissière, formerly
Bruay-en-Artois, formerly Bruay-les-Mines, in northern France) by
marrying Marie de Renty. His descendant Philippe Hippolyte Spinola
(1612-1670) is the lord of Rixensart whose arms have been reused by the
Another famous Spinola was Philippe Hippolyte Charles, Count of Bruay (maybe Philippe Hippolyte's son), who was appointed Governor of Namur by the King of Spain and defended in 1667 the fortress of Lille against Louis XIV. The siege of Lille is an example of the so-called "war in lace" of the time; Spinola asked Louis XIV in which castle he wanted to stay during the siege, promised not to shoot on his headquarters, and "requested His Majesty not to find bad that he defended the fortress very fiercely for the service of the Catholic king, his lord, the King of Spain". Louis XIV thanked him and told him that the strongest the resistance would be, the glorious his own victory would be. Lille surrenderred after nine days; Louis XIV entered the town and met the Count of Bruay, telling him: "Sir, I was unpleased by your misfortune because your are a gentleman, who did his duty for the service of his lord, and I have you therefore in even higher esteem". Spinola died in Brussels in 1709 while the last heir of the lineage, Gabriel Spinosa, died during the siege of Douai in 1713.
The arms of Spinola, and, therefore of Rixensart, are shown in several
- Wikipedia shows a colour print of the castle of Rixensart from the early XVIIIth century (Castellum Rixensart). The crown arms of Spinola are shown in the upper left part of the print. But Wikipedia shows a wrong coat of arms of Rixensart with a wrong blason, the spine being replaced by a fleur-de-lis, therefore losing the link with Spinola.
- Arnaud Bunel (Héraldique Européenne website) shows the arms of several Spinola: Doges (elected for two years): Battisto Spinola (1531), Lucca Spinola (1551), Simone Spinola (1567), Tomaso Spinola (1613), Andrea Spinola (1629), Alessandro Spinola (1654), Agustino Spinola (1679), Lucca Spinola (1687), Domenico Mario Spinola (1732), Nicola Spinola (1740), Ferdinando Spinola (1773); Knights of the Golden Fleece: Ambrogio Spinola (1569-1630), Knight in 1605, grant #304; Philippe (1596-1659), Ambrogio's son, Knight in 1631, grant #386; and Philippe-Hippolyte (1612-1670), Count of Bruay and Lord of Rixensart, Knight in 1667, grant #473; Knight of the Annonciade: Francesco Spinola, Knight in 1609, grant #147.
- The Spinola arms are shown on the Koffie Hag Nederland Album as # 271, "Ambrogio Markies v. Spinola".
- The Spinola arms were borne by Giambattista Cardinal Spinola, Jr. (1646-1719), Chamberlain of the Holy Roman Church (1698-1719). Quoting John Paul Adams: "The nephew of Giulio Card. Spinola and Giambattista Card. Spinola, Sr., he was Governor of Rome and Vice-Chamberlain of the Holy Roman Church between July 28, 1691 and December 12, 1695, when he was created Cardinal Deacon of San Cesareo in Palatio. He became Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church on November 24, 1698, and held the office until his death on March 19, 1719."
Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 29 October 2007