Last modified: 2009-03-21 by ivan sache
Keywords: sankt vith | saint-vith | lion (red) |
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Municipal flag of Sankt Vith - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 7 May 2005
The municipality of Sankt Vith (in French, Saint-Vith; 9,190 inhabitants on 1 January 2007, 14,692 hectares), part of the German-speaking Community, is the capital of the Belgian Eifel. The municipality of Sankt-Vith is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Sankt Vith, Crombach, Lommersweiler, Recht, and Schönberg.
No Prehistoric, Celtic or Roman remains have been found on the current municipal territory of Sankt Vith. It is therefore believed that the region was a crossing point without any permanent settlement. The two main roads crossing there linked Cologne to Reims (north-south) and the two abbeys of Prüm and Malmedy (east-west). The monk Remacle founded there an abbey in 648; in the 12th century, Abbot Wibald (1098-1158) obtained the transfer of the relics of the martyre Vitus. Vitus (Guy) gave his name to the village of Sankt Vith, which had developed around the abbey around 900. St. Vitus, said to have been martyrized in the 4th century, was invoked against epilepsy and St. Vitus' dance, a microbial nervous disease known today as chorea.
In the 13th century, Sankt Vith was an important market place, belonging to the Duchy of Luxembourg. Around 1350, Johann of Valkenbourg-Montjoie increased the castle and built a town wall with defense towers, and Sankt Vith was confered the title of town and the right of bearing a coat of arms. After the death of Valkenbourg-Montjoie in 1352, the domain of Sankt-Vith was ruled by the Counts of Vianden for the next four centuries. The town became an economical, administrative and military center. Unfortunately, the town was regularly damaged by blazes, wars and epidemics; in the middle of the 14th century, the black plague epidemics that spread all over Europe nearly killed all the inhabitants of Sankt Vith.
As a part of the Duchy of Luxembourg and therefore of the Spanish Low Countries, Sankt Vith was often plundered during the 16th-17th centuries wars. In 1632, during the Thirty Years' War, the Dutch troops seized and looted the town; the black plague hit the town once again at the end of the war. In 1689, King of France Louis XIV, at war with the Holy Empire and the Low Countries, ordered the demolition of all the border fortresses taken to the enemy, including Sankt Vith. The Treaty of Utrecht (1713) confered the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg to Austria and the Peace of Aachen (1748) was the beginning of a peaceful period in Sankt Vith. Leather industry developed in Sankt Vith during the reign of Maria Theresia.
In June 1794, the troops of the French Republic won the Battle of
Fleurus and occupied Belgium. The feudal system was abolished and Sankt Vith became a municipality and the capital of a canton included in the arrondissement of Malmedy and department of Ourthe.
After the fall of Napoléon, the Congress of Vienna incorporated the canton of Malmedy, including Sankt Vith, to Rhenan Prussia, into the administrative division of Aachen. The life improved in Sankt Vith, where the railway arrived in 1887.
After the First World War, the Treaty of Versailles reincorporated the
Eastern Cantons (Eupen and Malmedy) to Belgium. They were reincorporated to the Third Reich in May 1940.
In December 1944, the last German counter-attack (Battle of the Bulge) severely hit Sankt Vith. Fightings in the vicinity of the town started on 17 December; the 7th Armored Division was awarded the following Presidential Unit Citation:
By virtue of the authority vested in me as President of the United States and as Commander in chief of the Armed Forces of the United States, I have today awarded
THE PRESIDENTIAL UNIT CITATION (ARMY)
FOR EXTRAORDINARY HEROISM
COMBAT COMMAND B. 7TH ARMORED DIVISION
Combat Command B. 7th Armored Division, composed of the following units: Headquarters and Headquarters Company; 17th Tank Battalion; 31st Tank Battalion; 23d Armored Infantry Battalion; 38th Armored Infantry Battalion; 87th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron Mechanized (less Troop D); 275th Armored Field Artillery Battalion; 434th Armored Field Artillery Battalion; 965th Field Artillery Battalion; 168th Engineer Combat Battalion; 1st Platoon, Company F, 423d Infantry Regiment (amended from 3rd Platoon in Defense Department Permanent Order #032-01, dated 1 Feb 1999); Company B, 33d Armored Engineer Battalion; and Company A, 814th Tank Destroyer Battalion (SP), is cited for outstanding performance of duty in action from 17 to 23 December 1944, inclusive, at St. Vith, Belgium. Combat Command B, 7th Armored Division, was subjected to repeated tank and infantry attacks, which grew in intensity as the German forces attempted to destroy the stubborn defenses that were denying to them the use of the key communication center at St. Vith. By the second day, the flanks were constantly threatened by enemy forces that had bypassed the St. Vith area and pushed far to the rear in an effort to encircle the command east of the Salm River. The attacking forces were repeatedly thrown back by the gallant troops who rose from their fox holes and fought in fierce hand to hand combat to stop the penetrations and inflict heavy losses on the numerically superior foe. As the command continued to deny the important St. Vith highway and railroad center to the Germans, the entire offensive lost its initial impetus and their supply columns became immobilized. By 21 December, the German timetable was so disrupted that the enemy was forced to divert a corps to the capture of St. Vith. Under extreme pressure from overwhelming forces, this command, which for 6 days had held the St. Vith area so gallantly, was ordered to withdraw west of the Salm River. By their epic stand, without prepared defenses and despite heavy casualties, Combat Command B,. 7th Armored Division inflicted crippling losses and imposed great delay upon the enemy by a masterful and grimly determined defense in keeping with the highest traditions of the Army of the United States
The Germans occupied Sankt Vith, which was submitted to air bombings on 24 and 25 December. Nearly 90% of the town was destroyed, 153 civilians and more than 1,000 soldiers were killed. The rebuilding of the town, on the same site, was completed in the 1960s. The Büchel Tower, built in the 14th century and revamped in 1961, is the only remain of the historical town.
Source: Municipal website
Ivan Sache, 9 March 2009
The municipal flag of Sankt Vith is vertically divided red-white-red (1:2:1), with the white stripe charged with the lion from the municipal coat of arms.
Aaccording to Armoiries communales en Belgique. Communes wallonnes, bruxelloises et germanophones [w2v03a], the municipal arms of Sankt Vith,
D'argent au lion de gueules, la queue fourchue, couronné d'or, armé et lampassé d'azur ("Argent a double-tailed lion gules crowned or armed and langued azure") were adopted by the Municipal Council on 24 February 1977, confirmed by the Executive of the German-speaking Community on 8 June 1979, and published in the Belgian official gazette on 12 September 1979.
The former arms of Sankt Vith, adopted by the Municipal Council on 4 October 1924, confirmed by Royal Decree on 3 July 1925 and published in the Belgian municipal gazette on 9-10 November 1925, were the arms of Valkenburg-Limburg, featuring the lion of Limburg, "Argent a double-tailed lion gules crowned and armed or".
According to Servais [svm55], the lords of Fauquemont (Valkenburg) either descended from the lords of Heinsberg, who used a silver lion on a red shield, or from the Dukes of Limburg, who used a red lion on a silver field. The oldest known use of the double-tailed lion dates from 1342 on a seal form Jean de Fauquemont (Johann of Valkenburg in the above text). Fauquemont is today the town of Valkenburg aan de Geul, in the Dutch province of Limburg, with a different coat of arms, still supported by two lions with a forked tail.
Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 20 April 2008