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Oudenaarde (Municipality, Province of East Flanders, Belgium)


Last modified: 2008-03-29 by ivan sache
Keywords: oudenaarde | audenarde | lion (black) |
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[Flag of Oudenaarde]

Municipal flag of Oudenaarde - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 24 August 2005

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Presentation of Oudenaarde

The municipality of Oudenaarde (in French, Audenarde; 28,820 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 6,806 ha) is located on the river Scheldt (in Dutch, Schelde; in French, Escaut), 20 km south-south-west of Ghent and 15 km east of Kortrijk. The municipality of Oudenaarde is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Oudenaarde (including Bevere, Edelare, Eine, Ename, Leupegem, Nederename and Volkegem since 1964; Heurne, Mater, Melden and Welden since 1970) and Mullem. The 1964 municipal merging was the first of that kind in Belgium.
Oudenaarde is a main economical center in Flanders; the luggage manufacturer Samsonite set up its European headquarters there. The other main, traditional activity in Oudenaarde is clothing industry.

Oudenaarde is c. 1000-year old. It can be called a gift from the Scheldt. The river was a cheap and convenient route for Flemish trade, linking the sea and its recently developed cities with the older big cities watered by its southern tributaries, for instance Arras (now in France). The river was also a main route of invasion, and Oudenaarde kept a strategic role for centuries. Two complete destructions and a big blaze did not stop the growth of the town.
A first spei (a prmitive lock with a basin) was built in the XIth century for the blossoming shipyard. With years, the economical center of Flanders moved northwards and Oudenaarde increeased its role of regional and interregional trade town. Oudernaarde was also a main center of tapestry production, particularly famous for the verdures (green work).
Oudenarde was of strategic importance for the Counts of Flanders, who increased and embelished the town. The States of Flanders took place in Oudenaarde several times, and the Counts made of the town a strongthold against their southern neighbours and later against Ghent. In the golden Burgundian period, Oudenaarde was nicknamed the "Residence of the Nobles" (Verblifplaats der Edelen), who were up to 120 in the town.
Emperor Charles V also spent a few months in the town. He got there in 1522 a daughter with the daughter of the tapestry weaver Vanderghynst, Margaretha van Parma, later appointed Governor. The Emperor loved not only the weaver's daughter but also tapestries. He played a major role in the regulation of the tapestry industry. His general ordinance (91 articles) released on 16 May 1544 is considered by the historian H. Pirenne as the oldest document of trade policy in Belgium. The main goal of the ordinance was to fight fraud and to preserve the quality of national trade.

In 1593, Oudenaarde incorporated the old town of Pamele, founded around 1100 on the right bank of the Scheldt. The main remain of the ancient town is the church of Our Lady of Pamele, built in 1235-1300 in the Scheldt Gothic style. A building inscription dated 1234 gives the name of master Arnulf de Binche. The expensive stone from Tournai was used for the building.
On 11 July 1708, during the War of the Spanish Succession, Duke of Marlborough and Prince Eugene of Savoy defeated the French in the battle of Oudenaarde. After the defeat, the French had to withdraw from Ghent and Bruges they had seized a few days before.

The St. Walburga collegiate church rises above Oudenaarde. It was built in a combination of Gothic styles from Tournai and Brabant. The church was rebuilt in 1150 after the big blaze of 1126. The choir of the present church is a remain of the Gothic church. In 1406, the apsis was added on for Duke of Burgundy Jan Zonder Vrees (John Fearless), who stayed in the town. A complete rebuilding of the church was decided in 1414 but was only partially achieved because of money shortage. All the medieval furnishing was destroyed during religious riots in 1566 and afterwards. During three centuries, tapestry weaving was the most important industry in Oudenaarde and the Saint Walburga church played an important role in the life of the weavers, as it was the centre of their religious life.
The town hall of Oudenaarde was designed in Brabant Gothic style by architect Hendrik Van Pede; its building was launched in 1526 by Philips de Lalaing, governor of the town. Since 1538, the gilded brass statue of Hanske de Krijger, made by the local silversmith Willem Blansterins, watch the neighbourings of Oudenaarde from the belfry. As it was the case in several Flemish town halls, the ground floor of the building included rooms for the traders; the Corn House (Korenhuis), the Weight (Waag) and the lower Clothmaker's Hall, used today to show the world-famous tapestries from Oudenaarde. The most important room, the Alderman's Hall, opens through a monumental porch made by the local sculptor Pauwel Van Der Schelden in 1533-1536.
Another museum dedicated to tapestry is the House de Lalaing (XVI-XVIIIth century), located in Pamele. A restoration workshop and a modern weaving workshop can be seen there, as well as an historical collection of looms and scientific material related to tapestry.

Oudenaarde was also very famous in the XV-XVIIIth century for silversmith's trade, whose masterpieces are shown in the Silver Room of the town hall. It shows for instance the oldest teapot made in Oudenaarde, dated 1702. There were two-three silversmiths per generation on that period, most of them belonging to two or three families in each century. The number of silversmiths in each town was stictly controlled and each silversmith had his own mark registered with the guild. The St. Elooi's guild was founded in Oudenaarde in 1700.

Source: Municipal website

Ivan Sache, 24 August 2005

Municipal flag of Oudenaarde

The municipal flag of Oudenaarde is horizontally divided red-yellow-red-yellow-red-yellow with a black lion with a red tongue and claws.
According to Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel, the flag was adopted by the Municipal Council on 29 June 1992, confirmed by the Executive of Flanders on 6 October 1992 and published in the Belgian official gazette on 21 June 1994.
The flag is a banner of the municipal arms.

According to Servais, the arms of Oudenaarde were granted by Royal Decree on 29 May 1838. The greater arms shall be crowned and show two savages as supporters.
The arms of Oudenaarde first appear on the seal of the town dating from 1339. The arms are a combination of the oldest arms of the Looz family and the lion of Flanders. Gerard, lord of Oudenaarde in the early XIVth century descended from the Looz family.
The basic design of the arms did not changed during the centuries, but the arms have been shown with a variety of crowns and supporters. The present savages were already in use in the XVIIth century.
According to the Early Blazon website, Arnulf IV of Oudenaarde (c. 1180-1242), lord of Oudenaarde and Pamele and Bailiff of Flanders, already used the arms of the Looz family.

Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 24 August 2005