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Herentals (Municipality, Province of Antwerp, Belgium)

Last modified: 2007-12-02 by ivan sache
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[Flag of Herentals]

Municipal flag of Herentals - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 21 August 2005

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Presentation of Herentals

The municipality and town (Stad) of Herentals (locally known as Hèrtals; 26,152 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 4,856 ha), located 20 km east-south-east of Antwerp, is the historical capital city of the region of Kempen. The town is located on the river Kleine Net and near the junction of the Albert Canal and Kempen Canal, both linking the Scheldt and the Maas (Antwerp-Liège and Herentals-Maastricht, respectively). The municipality of Herentals is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Herentals, Morkhoven and Noorderwijk.

Like many towns in the region, Herentals became extremely wealthy in the XVth century thanks to the cloth and wool trade. The cloth makers and the wool weavers built in the beginning of the XVth century on the Market Square (Grote Markt) the Cloth Hall (Lakenhal) in Brabant Gothic style; in 1430, the building was renamed Town Hall (Stadhuis). It was partially destroyed by a blaze in 1512 and rebuilt in sandstone in 1534. The town hall is surmonted by a 35-m high, octogonal belfrey, made of red bricks. The first peel of bells was added to the belfrey in 1541-1551; the today's peel (1965) has 50 bells, for a weight of "only" 3,678 km. It can go to four octaves.
The inhabitants of Herentals are nicknamed klokkenververs, that is bell painters. A legend says that the burghers of the town once decided to paint the bells in order to protect them from rust; the consequence of the painting was that the bells lost their nice tone.
The former city walls of Herentals are recalled by the second nickname of its inhabitants, peestekers, more or less those who lock the door with a carrot. A legend says that a guard lost the bolt of a gate of the city and replaced it with a huge carrot, which was eaten with delight by those who passed by.

Close to the Lakenhal, a monument made by Ernest Dieltjens in 1898 recalls the bloody battle of Herentals, which opposed on 28 October 1798 the young men of Kempen who refused the conscription imposed by the French revolutionary authorities. The battle was part of the Peasants' War (Boerenkrijg) that broke out all over Belgium.

Herentals has one of the oldest Beguine convents of the old Duchy of Brabant and of Kempen. The old Beguine convent (Oude Begijnhof) of Herentals already existed in 1226. In 1470, it housed 300 beguines. During the Eighty Years' War (1568-1648), the convent was demolished in 1578 for strategical reasons. After the reestablishment of the Spanish rule in Herentals in 1590, the magistrate allowed the building of a new Beguine convent in the Burchtstraat. In 1952 took place the last beguine's profession of faith in Herentals; there were no more beguines in the convent in 1998.

There is a skull museum (Schedelmuseum) in the village of Morkhoven, showing more than 700 skulls of mammals, birds and reptiles from all over the world.

Source: Municipal website

Herentals is famous for two cyclists, Rik Van Looy and Mario Aerts.
Rik Van Looy, born in 1933 in Grobbendonk, is known as the Emperor of Herentals (Het Keizer van Herentals), the town where he lives. He won 365 races during his professional career, 1953-1970. His most significant victories in one-day races are the world championships (1960, 1961; 2nd in 1956, 4th in 1957 and 2nd in 1963); Tour of Flanders (1959, 1962); Paris-Roubaix (1961, 1962, 1965); Liège-Bastogne-Liège (1961); Milan-San Remo (1958); Tour of Lombardy (1959); Ghent-Wevelgem (1956, 1957, 1962); Flèche Wallonne (1968); Paris-Tours (1959); and Paris-Brussels (1956, 1958). Van Looy never won one of the three main national tours but won 17 stages in Tour of Spain (5 in 1958; 4 in 1959, 3rd; 8 in 1965; green jersey), 12 stages in Tour of Italy (4 in 1959, 4th; 3 in 1960, polka dot jersey; 3 in 1961; 2 in 1962) and 7 stages in Tour de France (4 in 1963, green jersey; 2 in 1965 and 1 in 1969). Most emperors have lost a battle; in 1963, Van Looy was expected to become World Champion for the third time, but his compatriot Benoni Beheyt defeated him in the ultimate meters. Benoni never rode again.
Mario Aerts, born in 1974 in Herentals, started his professional career in 1996; until now, he won four races, the most significant of them being the Fléche Wallonne (2002).

Ivan Sache & Jarig Bakker, 21 August 2005

Municipal flag of Herentals

The municipal flag of Herentals is vertically divided red-white with a white uprooted oak in the red field.
According to Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel, the flag was adopted by the Municipal Council on 7 September 1987, confirmed by the Executive of Flanders on 9 May 1989 and published in the Belgian official gazette on 8 November 1989.

[Former flag of Herentals]

Flag of the former municipalities of Herentals and Noorderwijk - Image by Ivan Sache, 21 August 2005

A vertically divided red-flag was used in the past by the municipalities of Herentals and Noorderwijk, made after the colours of their coat of arms. The red field of the modern flag of Herentals is a banner of the municipal arms of Herentals.

According to the International Civic Heraldry website, all known coats of arms of Herentals feature a tree, with different shapes and a disputed origin. The oldest known colour representation of the arms is dated 1536. The arms used by Herentals before the municipal fusion were granted on 9 January 1841.

Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 21 August 2005