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Celles (Municipality, Province of Hainaut, Belgium)

Last modified: 2007-11-03 by ivan sache
Keywords: celles | mal gironne |
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[Flag of Celles]

Municipal flag of Celles - Image by Ivan Sache, 14 November 2001

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Presentation of Celles and its villages

The municipality of Celles (5,447 inhabitants on 1 July 2007; 6,714 ha) is located 15 km north of Tournai, on the border with Flanders, here the river Scheldt. The municipality of Celles is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Celles, Escanaffles (in Dutch, Schalafie), Molenbaix, Popuelles, Pottes and Velaines.

Celles was probably named after a small monastery (in Latin, a cella is a monk's cell) depending on the St.Thierry abbey in Reims. There was a chapel in 1182, whose location has remained unknown; the first known abbot is Hugues, 1207. The village was divided in several domains in the Ancient Regime. Celles and Molenbaix were separated by Royal Decree in 13 June 1836. The village church, mostly built in Scheldtian Gothic style, was dedicated to St. Christopher in 1482; it houses a gilded arm-shrine of the saint from the late XVth century, which is venerated every year since 1924 during the car drivers' pilgrimages, with blessing of the cars. Celles has remained a rural village; in 1991, 16 out of the 31 farms listed before the Second World War were still active. In contrast, all the small industries related to agriculture (a windmill, a steam mill, a sugar mill, two breweries, two chicory drying sheds, a tannery, a sel refinery, a sawmill, the Claimil manufacture of potato planting machines, the Delabassée plough workshop and a garage) have disappeared.

Escanaffles was named after the Scheldt (in French, Escaut), which forms the natural border between Flanders and Hainaut, and the suffix -affles, from Germanic *ahwjo, "a wet grassland". The border is indeed marked by the old bed of the Scheldt; following the straightening of the Scheldt, a part of the territory of Escanaffles is located today on the left bank of the river, between its old and new beds. Escanaffles is located on the northern point of Tournaisis; in the past, it bordered the two Flanders, Avelgem in West Flanders and Orroir in East Flanders. Orroir was later incorporated to the Province of Hainaut (and even later to the municipality of Mont-de-l'Enclus).
There was in the past a fortress in Escanaffles, built in the curve of the Scheldt, which was bombed and destroyed by the troops of Louis XIV in 1695. In the past, according to a non exhaustive list, there were 87 pubs in the village. The sugar mill of Escanaffles, founded in 1872, was once one of the most modern in Belgium, but it was closed in 1990.

Molembaix, as said above, was a hamlet of Celles, then written Molenbaix, until the Royal Decree of 13 June 1836. However, it was under the Ancient Regime the seat of a powerful domain. Among the lords of Molenbaix were the Lannoy, the Glynes and the Croÿ-Solre. From the middle XVIIth century onwards, the lords of Molenbaix called themselves Barons or Marquis of Molenbaix, which was only a courtesy title.

Popuelles is a small village located in the valley of Lozet. In 1970, remains of a Gallo-Roman villa (Ist-IIIrd century AD) were found. There was in the XII-XIVth century a Popioel family ruling the village.

Pottes is mentioned for the first time in a document dated 1017, kept in the archives of Tournai. The village was crossed by a Roman way linking Tournai to Oudenaarde via the right bank of the Scheldt. The name of the village comes from Latin posta, "a post". In the Roman times, a post had 40 horses and several cars ready to go.

Velaines, mentioned for the first time in 1186 as Velaine, was Velanus' estate. In 1977, remains of a Gallo-Roman villa (Ist-IInd century AD) were found. According to Article 2 of the Treaty of the Limits, signed on 16 May 1769, the King of France transferred the enclave of Velaines to the Empress of Austria. At the end of the XIXth century, there were in the village 80 pubs, supplied by two breweries. In 1915, the boys' school was used as the headquarters of the VIth German Army.

Source: Municipal website, texts after documents gathered by the late Jean Delestrain

Ivan Sache, 3 June 2007

Municipal flag of Celles

The municipal flag of Celles is a gyronny of six pieces, yellow and blue.
According to Armoiries communales en Belgique. Communes wallonnes, bruxelloises et germanophones, the flag was adopted by the Municipal Council on 8 June 1991 and confirmed by the Executive of the French Community on 18 December 1991, as:
Mal gironné en pal et en sautoir jaune et bleu.

The flag is based on the municipal arms:
Mal gironné de six pièces d'or et d'azur, chargé en cœur d'un tourteau de gueules chargé d'une tour ajourée d'argent (Gyronny of six or and azure a roundel gules charged with a tower argent opened).
Mal gironné, lit. "badly gyronny", is used in French heraldry for "gyronny of six" (see for instance the canting arms of the family of Maugiron, Mal gironné de six pièces argent et sable).

Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 3 June 2007