Last modified: 2008-06-21 by ivan sache
Keywords: quaregnon |
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Municipal flag of Quaregnon - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 11 April 2005
The municipality of Quaregnon (18,640 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 1,108 hectares) is located 10 km west of Mons. The municipality of Quaregnon is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Quaregnon and Wasmuel.
Quaregnon appeared, as Quaternione, in documents from the XIth-
XIIth centuries. The origin of Quaternione is obscure: quater
clearly refers to a group of four objects, which might have been
brooks, trees, fields or anything else.
In 956, the Count of Hainaut built a fortress to protect Quaregnon, which was one of his second residences and the seat of a roving justice court. The remains of the fortifications are locally called Château du Diable (Devil's Castle).
Quaregnon is the capital of Borinage, a densely inhabited area
(100,000 inhabitants) including the towns of Quaregnon, Boussu,
Frameries, Colfontaine and Saint-Ghislain. Borinage is a former main
coal-mining basin, which explains that a sizeable proportion
of the inhabitants of Quaregnon is of Italian origin; more than 30
nationalities are represented in the municipality.
Coal extraction started in Borinage in the XIIth century but really developed only in the XIXth century. There were 35 shafts in Quaregnon, belonging to different companies:
- S.A. Charbonnage du Nord du Rieu du Coeur; shaft #1 called Le Renard or Le Brûlé
- S.A. Couchant de Flénu; shaft #2 Sans Calotte and #5 Sans Calotte
- S.A. des Produits; shaft #20
- S.A. Les Charbonnages du Rieu du Cœur et de la Boule réunis; shaft Saint-Florent, shaft #2 L'Epette (1,350 m, the deepest in Borinage), shaft Saint-Placide, shaft Saint-Félix, and shaft La Boule
- S.A. Charbonnage du Fief de Lambrechies; shaft Fief.
The Laminoirs de Jemappes company had rolling mills in Quaregnon. The industry in Borinage was often qualified as a "monoindustry" but there were also earthenware factories, glass factories, brickyards, breweries, printing works, foundries, shoe factories, chicory factories and soap factories in Quaregnon and Wasmuel.
Quaregnon is famous in the history of the workers' movement for the Chart signed there on 16 March 1894 and known as Charte de Quaregnon. The Chart was discussed in Quaregnon during the Xth Congress of the Parti Ouvrier Belge (POB), founded in 1885 and the forerunner of the Parti Socialiste. Written under the direction of Émile Vandervelde, the Chart was inspired by the Encyclopedists (Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot...) and the principles of the French Revolution. The Chart of Quaregnon wass the doctrinal and ideological program of the POB.
Several places in Quaregnon are part of the collective memory of the
coal mining era. The Promenade de la Noire Bouteille (Black Bottle's
Walk), already mentioned on maps in 1846, recalls a café located on the
border of Quaregnon and Fléhu; the customers of the café were mostly
coal miners who had a shower in the café before the set up of public
bathes. The sign of the café was a bottle. The café disappeared long
time ago but the place and the borough have kept its name.
In 1931, the Saint-Placide colliery was closed and transformed into a ventilation shaft for another colliery; on 24 September 1939, 20,000 joined a procession to the top of its coal tip, where a huge concrete cross (height, 18 m; weight, 16 tons) was built. Since then, the tip is known as Terril de la Croix (Cross' Tip).
In the beginning of the XXth century, Father Charles Mahieu, Priest of Monsville from 1901 to 1934, built in the borough a church with two tower bells and a perfect replica of the Lourdes grotto. A pilgrimage takes place there the second Sunday of September.
In the 1970s, the mines and the rolling mills were closed. The
economical redevelopment of the region failed: several industrial ruins
and wastelands could not be revamped. In the last two decades, a new
urban renovation plan was more successful: the coal tips were
transformed into recreational areas or planed down in order to build
new houses. In the town of Quaregnon, the boroughs of Cité Cosmopolite
and Carnot have been totally revamped while the revamping of the Monsville
borough shall start soon.
Cultural and educational plans have also been launched (creation of a College of Music, sport teams, libraries...) to get rid of the ancient image of Borinage as a black and poverty-stricken area.
The lyric singer (tenor) Jules Godart, aka as le Grand Blond (the
Tall Blond) was born in Quaregnon in 1877. He was awarded a first
prize in the Academy of Music of Brussels and sung in the operas of
Rennes, Rouen, Marseilles, Geneva and Paris. He was hired by the
Manhattan Opera House of New York but never sung there, since he was
poisoned accidentally and died in 1909.
In Marseilles, Godard met another singer from Quaregnon, the barytone Pharaon Houx (1884-1965). Houx learned music in Ghent and specialized in opera and Biblic oratorios. Invited to the opera of Cairo, his performance was so estimated that he was paid with gold. Back to Belgium, he was nicknamed Pharaon or "The Gold Digger". Houx spent most of his subsequent carreer in Mons, where he sung at the "Eden", and gave his last public performance in Quaregnon in 1952.
The painter Modeste Carlier (1820-1878) was born in Wasmuel. Hired at the age of 11 years by the Sans-Calotte colliery, he drew sketches of
his fellows miners. The director of the colliery was shown Carlier's
sketches and decided to send him to the Art Academy of Mons. Carlier
went to Paris in 1836 and came back to Belgium in 1850, where he was
awarded the prestigious Prix de Rome. In 1870, Carlier was appointed
Imperial painter by Napoléon III, but he had to come back to Belgium
the same year because of the Franco-Prussian War.
The painter Victor Dieu (1873-1954) was Professor at the Art Academy of Mons in 1938. He painted several landscapes and portraits highlighting the social condition of the miners.
The miners of Quaregnon were also honoured by the writer Malva Constant (Alphonse Bourlard, 1903-1964), who called the miners the "underground heroes". After the First World War, Constant was hired as a miner in the Rieu-du-Cœur colliery. In 1931, he published Histoire de ma mère et de mon oncle Ferdinand and left coal mining in 1940. He met the writers from the Surrealist group, including its leader Andre Breton, and published several books related to coal mining.
Ivan Sache, 11 April 2005
The municipal flag of Quaregnon is vertically divided green-white, according to information provided by the municipal administration.
However, Armoiries communales en Belgique. Communes wallonnes, bruxelloises et
germanophones gives for Quaregnon a more complicated flag,
Vert à trois chevrons blancs, dont la largeur des bras est égale au
dixième du guindant (Green with three white chevrons, whose arm width is one tenth of the flag height).
It seems that the flag currently in use is a simplified version of the flag given in the source book, which does not seem to be official either (no adoption date is provided).
The white chevron (here the white colour) and the green colour recall the coat of arms of the Chapter of St. Waudru abbey in Mons, which purchased the hereditary municipality of Quaregnon from the Carnières family in 1421 and put it in pawn several times.
Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 11 April 2005