Last modified: 2008-04-05 by ivan sache
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Municipal flag of Maaseik - Image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 31 August 2007
The municipality of Maaseik (in Limburgian, Mezeik; 23,879 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 7,691 ha) is located in northern Limburg, on the river Maas that forms the border with the Netherlands and the neighbouring town of Roosteren. The municipality of Maaseik is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Maaseik, Neeroeteren and Opoeteren.
Maaseik (once known as Maeseyck, lit. "Eyck on the Maas", and even earlier as Eche, 1139, and Eike, 1155, from Germanic eikja, "oak") emerged as the village of Aldeneik ("Old Eyck"), where the Frankish lord Adelhard built a convent for his daughters Sts. Harlindis (c. 695-753) and Relindis (c. 695-780) in 730. Harlindis was appointed first Abbess of Aldeneik by St. Willibrordus and was succeeded after her death by her sister, appointed Abbess by St. Bonifatius. The nuns' convent of Aldeneik was destroyed by the Northmen around 870 but quickly rebuilt. A chapter made of 12 canons was set up by Bishop of Liège Richer in 930; to secure the goods of the convent, Emperor Otto I transferred them in 972 to Bishop Notger.
A new village developed south-west of Eycke between two former arms of the Maas, forming an independent parish in 1244. It was protected by walls and named Nieuw Eyck ("New Eyck"), and is the direct origin of the modern Maaseik. The counts of Loon owned a castle in Maaseik, around which they built new fortifications with towers and canals in the XIIIth century; in 1386, they granted municipal rights to the town, which was granted the title of "Good Town" of the County of Loon (and later of the Principality of Liège), while its inhabitants were called burgenses (burghers). The earthen walls were later increased with stone towers; in 1467, Duke of Burgundy Charles the Bold ordered the suppression of the fortifications after a revolt of the town against the Prince-Bishop's rule and the castle of Maaseik was superseded by the castle of Stokkem as a local seat of power. The walls were rebuilt in the XVIth century, with a width of 40 feet (11.14 m). At the end of the XVIIth century, the French engineer Vauban revamped and increased the fortifications, which were partially demolished in 1675 and eventually suppressed in 1935. Their only remains is the names of the four former gates of the town, removed in 1847 but kept in the local toponymy.
Maaseik was an important center of cloth trade, being located on the Maas between Liège and Maastricht; the foreign vessels passing by had to moor for a given time and to buy and purchase goods on the local market. Still wealthy in the beginning of the XVIIth century, the trade on the Meuse was ruined by the wars that scoured the Principality of Liège in the XVIIth century.
Maaseik is the birth town of two of the most famous Flemish painters,
Hubert (c. 1366-1426) and Jan van Eyck (c. 1385-1441). Next to nothing
is known on Hubert, whose existence has even been challenged by some
historians, except a mention on the Ghent altarpiece, which he started and was finished by Jan after Hubert's death.
Contrastively, there are a lot of details on Jan's life. He started his career as the painter of Bishop of Liège John of Bavaria in 1422/1424 and was hired by Duke of Burgundy Philip the Good, moving to the court then located at Lille. The duke expressed a strong admiration for the painter, saying he "would never find a man so much to his taste, or such a paragon of science and art". For eleven years, van Eyck worked for the duke and rich Italians who spread his fame to Italy, where the painter was called onore della pittura (honour of painting) and il piú grande pittore del nostro tempo (the greatest painter of our times). Among his fans, Vasari erroneously credited him with the invention of oil painting, which he had indeed dramatically improved but not invented. The duke also commissioned the painter for diplomatic missions in Spain, Portugal and England.
Jan van Eyck's main paintings are the Ghent Altarpiece (1432, St. Bavo cathedral, Ghent), the Portrait of a Man in a Turban (1433, National Gallery, London, and a matter of debate on whom is represented, self-portrait or not?), the Arnolfini Portait (1434, ibid.), and the Madonna of Chancellor Rolin (1435, Louvre Museum, Paris).
Source: Robert Hughes, Introduction to "The Complete Paintings of the Van Eycks", including a detailed analysis of van Eyck's stylistic, especially his very accurate representations of the least details in his paintings.
Ivan Sache, 31 August 2007
The flag of Maaseik is horizontally divided yellow-red-white-green.
According to Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel, the flag was adopted by the Municipal Council on 3 September 1980, confirmed by Royal Decree on 1 December 1980 and published in the Belgian official gazette on 22 January 1981.
The colours of the flag are taken from the municipal arms.
The municipal arms of Maaseik are shown on the municipal website and
described as follows:
Gedeeld 1: gedwarsbalkt van tien stukken van goud en keel (rood), beladen met een omgewende vis van zilver, paalsgewijze geplaatst. Gedeeld 2: in zilver een eik van sinopel (groen) op een grasgrond, in het schildhoofd vergezeld van drie verkorte kruisjes van keel.
Per pale, ten fesses or and gules overall a fish argent, argent an oak vert on a terrace of the same in chief three crosslets gules.
Servais shows the arms of Maaseik before the municipal reform as identical, but without the fish, which was added to the arms of the new municipality of Maaseik. Like for several other municipalities of Limburg, the dexter half of the shield is made of the arms of the County of Loon.
Former flag of Maaseik (?) - Image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 31 August 2007
Interestingly, the municipal website says that the (new) municipal flag
was designed from the former flags of Maaseik, Neeroeteren and
Opoeteren, which are unfortunately not described.
The BelgiumView website shows a photography of the town hall of Maaseik, with the flag of the European Union and a flag vertically divided red-green, which could be the former flag of Maaseik.
Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 31 August 2007