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La Louvière (Municipality, Province of Hainaut, Belgium)

Last modified: 2008-01-19 by ivan sache
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Presentation of La Louvière

The municipality of La Louvière (77,509 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 6,424 ha) is located between Mons and Charleroi, in the heart of the region of Centre, along the former Haine-Sambre-Meuse coal basin. The municipality of La Louvière is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of La Louvière, Boussoit, Haine-Saint-Paul, Haine-Saint-Pierre, Houdeng-Aimeries, Houdeng-Goegnies, Maurage, Saint-Vaast, Strépy-Bracquegnies and Trivières, together with the hamlet of Besonrieux, part of the former municipality of Familleureux (the rest of which was incorporated to Seneffe).

La Louvière is named after a farm built in Saint-Vaast by the abbey of Aulne. Today a romantic field of ruins located on the municipal territory of Thuin, the once powerful abbey of Aulne owned on the banks of river Thiriau big domains listed in the XIIth century charts as Menaulu and Meneilut. These names comes from the Romance expression meigne au leu, "the wolf's den" (leu is also the old French form of loup) and they were later latinized to Luperia (1157) and Lovaria (1168), after lupus, "the wolf". Translated back to Romance, the name of the place became Lovière in 1217, Le Lovière in 1284 and eventually La Lovière. At that time, the place was indeed surrounded by thick woods probably haunted by wolves.
Around 1390, drilling for coal was made in Saint-Vaast, but the abbey of Aulne refused "to have its land drilled", postponing the industrial exploitation of coal mines until the beginning of the XVIIIth century. In the XIXth century, La Louvière boomed thanks to coal extraction and the related heavy industries, but, administratively, it was still a hamlet of Saint-Vaast. On 27 February 1869, a Special Law made of La Louvière an independent municipality, which was confirmed by Royal Decree on 10 April 1869.

A famous Mayor of La Louvière (1891-1895) was the industrial Augustin Gilson (1848-1921), owner of the Usines F. Gilson et Ateliers du Thiriau. He promoted the society La Prévoyance, involved in the building of workers' developments. Gilson let build in 1912 the Château Gilson, surrounded by a park.
In 1992, the local artist Pol Bury (1922, Haine-Saint-Pierre - 2005) offered an hydraulic fountain to the Gilson park. Bury joined the Surrealist group Rupture, founded by the Walloon poet Achille Chavée (1906-1969) in 1934; originally influenced by Tanguy and Magritte, he moved in 1947 to abstraction and met Christian Dotremont and Pierre Alechinsky, founders of the CoBrA group. In 1952, he founded the Art Abstrait group and, a few years later, joined the movement known as kinetism or kinetic art, working mostly with wood, cork, stainless steel and copper. In 1976, he designed his first hydraulic fountain. Pol Bury died during the preparation of an exhibition of hydraulic fountains in the castle of Seneffe.
La Louvière is the birth town of the footballer Enzo (Vincenzo) Schifo (b. 1966). Three times national champion with Anderlecht in 1985-1987, Schifo started an unsuccessful international career in Inter Milan and Bordeaux, before being completely "revamped" in Auxerre by the wizard coach Guy Roux. He then played with Torino (winner of the Italian Cup in 1993), Monaco (French champion in 1997) and came back to Belgium, where he played for Anderlecht (national champion in 2000) and Charleroi. Scifo played 84 times for the Belgian national team, scoring 16 times and competing in four World Cups (1986-1998).
Born in Italy in 1952, Franco Dragone emigrated to La Louvière with his parents in 1958. In 1982, he moved to Québec and worked for 12 years with the famous Cirque du Soleil, setting up ten shows. In France, he contributed to the creation of the Cirque Archaos. Back to Belgium in 2000, he set up in 2001 the Dragone group in La Louvière, working for instance for the singer Céline Dion and the Las Vegas casino tycoon Steve Wynn.

Source: Municipal website

Strépy-Brequigny is the place of the Strépy-Thieu boat lift, built on the Canal du Centre in 1982-2002. Prescribed by Law of 4 August 1879 to link the Meuse and the Scheldt, the Canal du Centre was inaugurated in August 1917. It was modernized in 1963 to fit the European standard (1,350 t). The main problem for the Canal is 70 m difference level between La Louvière and Thieu, overcome in the past by two locks and four hydraulic lifts. They were replaced by a single vertical lift compensating a 73-m drop, still the biggest boat lift in the world.

Source: Walloon Region website

Ivan Sache, 12 August 2007

Municipal flag of La Louvière

According to Armoiries communales en Belgique. Communes wallonnes, bruxelloises et germanophones, the Heraldry and Vexillology Commission of the French Community proposed a flag for La Louvière, as Deux laizes transversales, bleue et blanche, la laize bleue chargée dans sa partie supérieure d'une louve romaine blanche.
That is, a vertically divided blue-white flag with a white Roman she-wolf in the upper part of the blue stripe.
The colours of the flag and the she-wolf come from the municipal arms, D'azur à la fasce d'argent, accompagnée en chef de trois merlettes du même, rangées, et en pointe d'une louve au naturel (Azure a fess argent in chief three merlettes of the same in base a she-wolf proper).

According to the municipal website, these arms, granted by Royal Decree on 5 March 1954, are those of the abbey of Aulne with the she-wolf added in base.
Thuin uses a flag made on the same model as La Louvière, with the three merlettes of Aulne instead of the she-wolf.

Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 12 August 2007