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Kontich (Municipality, Province of Antwerp, Belgium)

Last modified: 2012-02-25 by ivan sache
Keywords: kontich | berthout |
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[Flag of Kontich]

Municipal flag of Kontich - Image by Jarig Bakker, 1 October 2001

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Presentation of Kontich

The municipality of Kontich (20,243 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 2,367 ha) is located 15 km south of Antwerp, close to Edegem. The municipality of Kontich is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Kontich and Waarloos.

Kontich was already settled in the Neolithic and Celtic periods. Excavations made from 1964 to 1987 yielded several Gallo-Roman remains, including foundations of villaes and of one of the biggest temples found in the region. Foundations of another villa with an hypocaustum (heating system) were found on the Alfsberg hill, locally known as the IJzermaalberg because remains of iron (in Dutch, IJzer) industry were found there. A Roman well, found in 1947, was rebuilt in the municipal park. Kontich was therefore an important Roman colony, named Condacum or Contiacum, located in a densely inhabited area stretching to Villariacum (Wilrijk); at that time, Antwerp was still a small hamlet.
However, popular legends give other origins for the name of Kontich. The most famous recalls a giant once standing with one foot on the cathedral of Antwerp and the other on the St. Rombout towers in Mechelen, so that his bottom (in Dutch, kont) was located above the village of Kontich. A more serious tradition claims that Condacum meant "a place near a confluence", here the confluence of the Rupel and the Schelde. A third tradition relates the name of the village to the Celtic landlord Contius.
Yet another legend claims that St. Renilde, the daughter of St. Amelberga and the niece of Pippin of Landen, was born in Kontich. At least she owned goods there, which she transferred to the abbey of Lobbes in the 7th century. In 1149, the Bishop of Cambrai confirmed that the church of Kontich belonged to Lobbes in a chart that bears the oldest mention of Kontich. The village had indeed two churches, the oldest, later suppressed St. Martin church being built close to the St. Martin well, maybe originating from a source venerated by the Celts, whose miraculous water was later used to cure eye diseases. The second church was located inside the town walls, in the domain belonging to the Berthout of Mechelen, while other parts of Kontich were ruled directly by the Duke of Brabant. This complicated situation, not unusual at the time, caused several administrative and legal problems. The Berthout's church was built from 1088 and 1149, with a fortified Romanesque tower.
In 1374, Kontich, including Lint, which would form an independent municipality in 1869, had some 700 inhabitants. The population peaked to 1,230 in 1526 but dramatically decreased to 710 in 1600 because of the Spanish occupation and the rascals led by Maarten van Rossem. When peace was restored, the population of Kontich climbed again to 2,188 in 1766 and 2,790 in 1789. There were more than 5,000 Kontichers in 1900, 9,393 of them in 1950 and 17,761 in 1976, including Waarloos. Once a rural village with significant clothing industry and brickyards, Kontich boomed in 1910 thanks to diamond-cutting; there were 30 cutting workshops powered by an electric engine.

Waarloos was mentioned for the first time in 1149, as Warlos. The name of the village comes from the Germanic words "wardo" and "loos", meaning "watch" and "a steep pasture", respectively. There was probably once a watch post on the Keizerenberg. Later, the church and the center of the village moved downhill, closer to Kontich.
In the Middle Ages, Waarloos belonged to the Country of Mechelen of Arkel, part of the Margravate of Antwerp. The village was transferred in 1572 to Cardinal of Granvelle, and belonged to the County of Cantecroy until 1626. The last lords of Waarloos belonged to the della Faille family.
In the 15th century, there were only 18-34 houses in Waarloos. The number of inhabitants of the village steadily climbed to 200 in the 17th century, 340 in the 18th century, 560 in the XIXth century, and more than 1,000 in 1910; just before the incorporation into Kontich, there were 1,560 inhabitants in Waarloos.

Source: Municipal website

Ivan Sache, 8 August 2007

Municipal flag of Kontich

The flag of Kontich is vertically divided in nine stripes in turn red and yellow.
According to Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel [w2v02], the flag was adopted by the Municipal Council on 8 September 1980, confirmed by Royal Decree on 9 December 1980 and published in the Belgian official gazette on 29 January 1981.
The flag is a banner of the municipal arms, the escutcheon being omitted.

According to Servais [svm55a], the arms of Kontich were granted by Royal Decree on 3 April 1849. They use a variation of the well-known arms of Berthout ("Or three pales gules"), while the escutcheon ("Per fess, gules a Latin cross argent, azure a lion or) belonged to the Portuguese family of Franco y Feo, last lords of Kontich from 1762 to 1793.

Servais explains the mythical origin of the arms of Berthout as follows:
In the 12th century, the Lord of Berthout helped the King of Aragon in his struggle against the Moors. He fought there three times; the first time, he was rewarded with an estate and the title of provincial governor, the second time he was rewarded with the King's daughter, but refused both and went back to Flanders. The third time, the King asked Berthout waht he would like as a reward. Berthout asked for the right to bear the arms of Aragon and was granted them with three pales instead of four, celebrating his three victories over the Moors.

The Gelre Armorial shows several Berthout coat of arms:
- Berthout (Die He. (the Lord) van Mechelen, #809, folio 72v): "Or three pales gules";
- Henri VII Berthout (Die He. van Duffel, #833, folio 73v): "Or three pales gules (Berthout) a franc canton ermine";
- Jean de Berlaer (Berthout) (Die He. van Helmunt (Helmont), #838, folio 73v): "Argent three pales gules" (Berlaer)
- Guillaume Berthout de Duffel (H. Willem v. Duffel, #893, folio 75v): "Or three pales gules a franc canton ermine a crescent sable".

Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 8 August 2007