Last modified: 2008-04-26 by ivan sache
Keywords: tournai | doornik | procession | kain |
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Municipal flag of Tournai - Image by Ivan Sache, 14 September 2003
The municipality of Tournai (67,844 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 21,375 ha, therefore the biggest Belgian municipality in Belgium by its area) is located on the river Scheldt, 25 km east of Lille (France) and 85 km west of Brussels. The municipality of Tournai is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Tournai, Barry, Beclers, Blandain, Chercq, Ere, Esplechin, Froidmont, Froyennes, Gaurain-Ramecroix, Havinnes, Hertain, Kain, Lamain, Marquain, Maulde, Melles, Mont-Saint-Aubert, Mourcourt, Orcq, Quartes, Ramegnies-Chin, Rumillies, Saint-Maur, Templeuve, Thimougies, Vaulx, Vezon, Warchin and Willemeau. Beside the town of Tournai proper, 2/3 of the area of the municipality of Tournai is rural.
Tournai emerged in the Roman times, as Tornacum, a town that
progressively grew up around a military camp in the first half of the
Ist century AD; remains of the ditches that surrounded Tornacum have
been found in the borough of La Loucherie in 1954. Tornacum was located
on the crossroads of Roman ways and the river Scheldt, on the border of
the former territories of the Menapians and the Nervians. The Peutinger
Table and Antonin's Itinerary show the town under the name of Turnaco.
Tournai is therefore the oldest town in Wallonia and the second oldest
town in Belgium after Tongeren. Tornacum was also an important river port, still called a portus in the Carolingian times.
In the middle of the Vth century, the Salian Franks (aka Salii) seized Tournai and made of the town their capital. The tomb of King Childéric (d. 481) was discovered in 1653 on the right bank of the Scheldt; it contained jewels, probably representing cicada but misinterpreted as bees. Childéric's son was Clovis, who united the Frankish kingdoms and is considered as the founder of France. The later kings of France had a special devotion to Tournai as the cradle of their "dynasty", although there are historical gaps between Clovis and the kings; moreover, the Tournai "bees" are the origin of the bees widely used in the Napoleonic iconography.
Tournai was the capital of an administrative division called
Tournaisis, which succeeded to the Roman "civitas tornacensium", and of
a Bishopric founded in the VIth century by St. Eleuthère and merged
with the Bishopric of Noyon until 1146; in the IXth century, the Bishop
of Tournai was able to exclude the town of Tournai from Tournaisis and
to make of it a domain belonging to the Kingdom of France, with the
bishop as its lord. Progressively, the bishops of Tournai increased
their power across the Scheldt, that is on lands nominally depending on
the German Empire. In the XIth century, the Tournaisis was incorporated
to the County of Flanders; the administrative seat of (Flemish) Tournaisis was located outside the town, on a small islet of the Scheldt (today the Castle's borough). Around 1147, the burghers of
Tournai set up a municipal administration; city walls were built in the
XIIth century, encompassing the Market, St. Piat and St. Brice's
boroughs. The bishop lost the right of Higher Justice, which was
transferred to King of France Philippe-Auguste, as stated in charts
signed in 1188 and 1211. In 1289, the town of Tournai increased,
incorporating the Flemish islet and the industrial borough of
Chaufours, including Allain and Warchin, a former dependance of the
In 1313-1314, the king of France invaded Tournaisis. In 1321, the bishop of Tournai transferred to the king his civil rights on Tournai. The municipality, however, was very revendicative and attempted to get rid of the power of both the bishop and the king of France. Accordingly, the king suppressed the municipal administration in 1332; following the resistance of the town to the Flemish militias commanded by Jacob Van Artevelde in 1340, the municipality was reestablished. The next year, the municipality was transferred all the civil rights on the town. The set up of new taxes caused riots and the suppression of the municipality in 1367. The Constitution of 6 February 1370 set up a municipality led by the local aristocracy, but the democratic revolution of 1423 increased the power of the traders and craftsmen.
Maintained by King Henry VIII during the English occupation of the town (1513-1518), the municipal administration was eventually suppressed by Emperor Charles V in 1522 after the incorporation of the town to the Spanish Low Countries, but Tournai and Tournaisis remained two distinct entities until the French Revolution.
Seized by Turenne on 24 June 1667 during the War of Devolution and
reincorporated to the Kingdom of France, Tournai was seized again by
the Anglo-Dutch in 1709, during the War of the Spanish Succession. The
Treaties of Utrecht (1713) and Rastadt (1714) confirmed the
incorporation of the town into the Austrian Netherlands. After the battle of Fontenoy, during the War of the Succession of Austria, Tournai became again French for a short period (1745-1748). The Bailiwick of Tournai-Tournaisis was made a Provincial Council by Empress Maria-Theresia in 1773.
Tournai was severely damaged during the First World War and even more during the Second World War: the bombings of 16-20 May 1940 killed or injured 250, destroyed 1,732 houses and damaged another 3,500.
The historical wealth of Tournai is due to the extraction of stone and
clothing trade. Limestone used for building and to prepare lime was
already extracted on the current site of the cathedral of Tournai in
the beginning of the Ist century AD. Stone extraction and cutting faded
away during the Frankish period but resumed in the XII-XIVth century.
A. Dumont called in 1832 "Tournaisian" the first level of the Carboniferous period (359.2 ± 2.5 - 345.3 ± 2.1 Million Year BP). A characteristic fossile of the Tournaisien is Spirifer peracuta, found in the schistous strata of Maredsous. The limestones and psammits from the strata of Etrœungt and Comblain-au-Pont are also worth being mentioned, as well as the Waulsortian facies of the stratum of Celles, and, last but not least, the so famous Tournaisien dolomites, which can also be found in the French Boulonnais.
Wool merchants from Tournai were already registered in Ghent in the early XIth century. The next century, the Tournai Guild joined the London Hansa and, in the XIIIth century, the Seventeen Towns' Guild. The free fairs of Tournai attracted Flemish, Brabantian and German traders. The second half of the XIVth century, with political unrest, wars, famines and epidemics, was not favourable to trade, which was also limited by the decline of the port of Bruges. The situation improved in the XVth century when the Tournai tapestries became highly prized by the sovereigns. After the reincorporation of Tournai to the Kingdom of France, Louis XIV decided the modernization of the town: a new citadel was built by Vauban, who also revamped the city walls, while the Scheldt was canalized. Under the Austrian rule, textile industry developed in the town, employing up to 3,000 workers. Tournai eventually declined after its reincorporation to the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the reestablishment of the border with France and border taxes; industry faded away and Tournai did not took any advantage of the industrial revolution of the XIXth century.
Tournai is the birth town of the Flemish painter Rogier van der Weyden (c. 1399/1400-1464, born Rogier de la Pasture or Rogier de le Pasture). Rogier entered the workshop of Robert Campin, probably the mysterious "Master of Flémalle, in 1427 and was appointed member of the Painters' Guild of Tournai in 1432. Official painter of the town of Brussels in 1435, the painter took his Flemish name and worked for the court of Duke of Burgundy Philip the Good, who was fond of art. Influenced by Van Eyck, Rogier made big compositions for the court of Burgundy, the most famous of them being the "Polyptich with the Last Judgement", aka the "Beaune Altarpiece", a series of 15 panels ordered by Chancellor Rollin for the Hospital he had founded in Beaune, and still there.
Source: Municipal website
Ivan Sache, 7 December 2007
The municipal flag of Tournai is vertically divided red-white.
According to Armoiries communales en Belgique. Communes wallonnes, bruxelloises et germanophones, the flag, described as Parti rouge et blanc, shows the traditional colours of the town.
The arms of Tournai, as shown by Servais, are "Gules a castle argent
masoned sable open on the field a chief azure three fleurs de lis or".
The Hainaut Armorial states that the arms were granted by
Royal Decree on 30 April 1931, as De gueules à la tour d'argent ouverte, crénelée d'une pièce et de deux
demies, à la herse levée du même, percée de deux meurtriè:res, maçonnée de sable, au chef cousu d'azur chargé de trois fleurs de lys d'or rangées.
These arms are clearly of French origin and are shown on a metallic banner decorating the belfrey of the town.
Tournai-related arms, "Azure a semy of tleurs-de-lis or a castle
argent", are shown by different historical sources. The arms are shown
by Rogier van der Weyden on his "Tryptich of the Seven Sacraments", aka the "Chevrot Altarpiece" (c. 1445, Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Antwerp). The upper part of the central panel shows two coats of arms. According to Jacques Stiennon, Professor Emeritus at the University of Liège, the left coat of arms belongs to Bishop Jean Chevrot (1437-1460) while the right coat of arms belongs to Tournai.
On the Guerriers du Moyen Âge blog, a blogger mentions van der Weyden's tryptich and also a map of Tournai from the XVIIth century, kept in the local historical museum, showing the same two coats of arms.
However, a website dedicated to the lords of Clugny shows the arms of Ferry de Clugny (1474-1483), Cardinal-Bishop of Tournai, as "Quartered, 1 and 4 azure two keys or accosted, 2 and 3 argent three fleurs-de-lis sable, an escutcheon azure a semy of fleurs-de-lis or a tower argent", and says explicitely that "the escutcheon represents the arms of the Bishops of Tournai".
The Héraldique Européenne website, by Arnaud Bunel, shows the arms of the Ecclesiastic Peerages of the Kingdom of France. The field of the arms of the Duchies of Reims, Laon and Langres is "Azure a semy of fleurs-de-lis or"; the arms of the County of Noyon (remember that the Bishoprics of Tournai and Noyn formed once a single entity) is "Azure a semy of fleurs-de-lis two bishop's croziers accosted argent".
Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 7 December 2007
On 14 September 2003, the 910th Great Procession (Grande
Procession) took place in Tournai. In 1090, Bishop Radbod II
vowed to organize every year a procession to thank the Blessed Virgin
for having relieved the town of the black plague. The Great
Procession has been organized every year since 1092, except in 1566,
when the Iconoclasts severely damaged the religious buildings in the
town. The Procession Day shall be the second Sunday in September.
Flags carried during the Great Procession can be seen on Didier van de Kerkhove's website:
- page 1: armorial banners of the Cathedral's Chapter, Belgium, and Tournai;
- page 3: a banner accompanying St Eleutharius's reliquary, which is traditionally borne by the inhabitants of nearby Blandain.
Another page of that website also shows pictures of the Fout Pageants, enacted annually beginning of June. Flags can be seen on:
- photo 6: rider bearing the banner of the Friends of Tournai;
- photo 7: drummers of the Conservatory of Music, with drum banners.
In both cases the flags differ from the banner of the municipal arms in leaving out the chief of France, that is azure three fleurs-de-lis or.
Jan Mertens, 19 September 2003
Kain (6,668 inhabitants; 1,128 ha) is among the 29 rural villages incorporated to the municipality of Tournai in 1976. The village website says that the flag of Kain was officially adopted on 14 October 1962.
IVan Sache, 7 December 2007