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Flanders (Belgium)


Last modified: 2002-10-19 by ivan sache
Keywords: flanders | vlaanderen | lion (black) | seal | belgium | law | pilot |
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[Flag of Flanders]by Mark Sensen

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Status of Flanders

The Flemish Community (and Flanders Region, both institutions having merged into a single one) has competencies on the Flemish provinces and Brussels.
The Flemish Council and the Government of the Flemish Community exercize the legislative power of the Flemish Community. The Flemish Council is made of all the 118 Councillors directly elected in the Flemish Region and six Dutch-speaking, directly elected members of the Council of the Region of Brussels-Capital. The six Councellors from the Region of Brussels-Capital cannot vote the decrees of the Flemish Region.
Ten members of the Flemish Council are delegated to the Senate.
The Flemish Council votes decrees: the Flemish communautary and regional laws.

The Governement of the Flemish Community exercizes the executive power and is made of no more than ten ministers and a Minister-President. At least one of the Ministers shall live in the Region of Brussels-Capital. The Minister(s) from Brussels, member(s) of the Government of the Flemish Community, cannot state on decisions attributed to the Flemish Region.

 Source: Belgian Government website

Ivan Sache, 13 July 2001

Description of the flag

The flag can be described as 'or, lion rampant, tongued and nailed gules'. The official version of the Flemish lion can be described as 'or, a lion rampant sable, nails and tongue gules'.

Filip Van Laenen

This flag appears in the Flags of Aspirant Peoples chart [eba94], #72, with the following caption:

Dutch-speaking Comunity (Flemings)
North Belgium

with the official proportion of 2:3

Ivan Sache, 14 September 1999

Laws concerning the flag and the arms

The law of 6 July 1973 describes the flag of the Dutch cultural community - the law mentions also an hymn and a community day.
The law of 11 July 1985 gives an official picture of the flag of the Flemish communty (replacing the Dutch cultural community) in colour (not shown in the official paper) and in black and white (shown). Proportions 2:3.
The law of 13 April 1988 concerns the flag, the arms, the hymn and the community day. The arms here are or a lion sable, crowned, armed and tongued gules, surrounded by five black stars.
Law of 7 November 1990 states the same, but the arms are or a lion sable armed and tongued gules.

Pascal Vagnat, 17 May 1996

The stars in the seal were black. These five stars represented the five Dutch speaking provinces. These arms were (unofficially?) in use since 1972, according to H. de Vries [vri95]

Mark Sensen, 18 May 1996

Sealby Mark Sensen
(Click on seal for larger version)

There is no mention of who can use this flag and when, but I think that everybody (Flemish authorities and people) can use it. The community day is 11 July and on this day the flag surely flies, but I saw this flag flying on many buildings (Flanders and Brussels) and not only on 11 July.

Pascal Vagnat, 17 May 1996

Other uses of the flag

The Flemish flag is also used as marking on pilot ships, lights and tugs owned by the Flemish region.

Source: Album des Pavillons [pay00]

Zeljko Heimer, 2 March 2001


History of the Flemish lion

The motto Vlaenderen die Leu (Flanders the lion) was according to Eug. Sanders present on the arms of Pieter de Coninck at the Battle of the Golden Spurs on July 11, 1302 near the Groeningekouter. Some three hundred noblemen shouted it too when they saw, having fought in the French rows, that chances were turning in favour of the Flemish. In Spiegel Historiael, Louis van Velthem also refers to the lion in a song describing the battle of Blangys-Guinegatte (which took place in August 1472). Later, Hendrik Conscience used the motto in his Lion of Flanders.

The Myth
The first known attempt to establish the origins of the Flemish lion comes from John the Long, better known as Iperius, abbot and historian at the abbey of Saint-Bertrijns. According to hs story, from the first count on, the counts of Flanders used arms called Oude Vlaenderen (Old Flanders). But during the Crusade of 1177, the count of Flanders, Philip of Alsace, bravely won a black lion on a golden field from a mohammedan monarch in a fight against the Sarracens. At his return, Philip renounced the Oude Vlaenderen and adopted 'or, a lion rampant sable' as his arms. Since then, all counts of Flanders have used these arms.
Dr. E. Warlop noticed that this lion appears for the first time on a seal of Philip of Alsace in 1162, that is fifteen years before the 'acquisition' of the lion in the Holy Land. The story of Iperius dates from the second halfe of the forteenth century - two centuries after the facts - and therefore cannot be correct. Moreover, there is no scientific proof for the Oude Vlaenderen ever being used by one of the counts of Flanders. All known descriptions and depictions of it date from after the story of Iperius. Warlop concludes that they found their origin in the story, which admittedly was made up for some particular reasons. The origin of the lion should therefore not be sought in the Holy Land, but in the environs of Philip of Alsace.

Lions in Philip of Alsace's surroundings
Four years before the seal of Philip, in 1158, a counterseal of William of Ypres shows a lion passant, walking to the right. Guillaume may have inherited these arms from previous counts, or maybe he brought it home from England, where he stayed for twenty years as the leader of mercennary troops in the Kings services. Maybe Philip choose it as the son of Sybilla d'Anjou, sister of Godfrey Plantagenet, who used arms showing two lion rampants (walking to the left). He could also have chosen it because of his stay in England, where he was put under the protection of the King of England, Henry II Plantagenet while his parents were on a Crusade. Henry used arms with lions passants.

Symbolism of the Lion
In the 12th century, the lion passant, actually a descendant of the dragon, became the symbol of pagancy and rebelry against the Church. The lion rampant on his turn became the symbol of the christian knight. That makes it plausible that Philip of Alsace, who went to the Holy Land twice, used this symbol.
A second reason could be that both Diederik and Philip of Alsace wanted to take over the inheritance of William of Ypres, against his illegal but legitimized son. As to prevent the danger of userpacy, the arms of William weren't taken over litterally: the lion passant became a lion rampant.
Finally, the arms could also be taken after Godfrey Plantagenet, as the symbol of the christian knight. A lion rampant fitted better to a triangular shield, however.

Therefore, one may conclude that the story of the acquisition of the lion during a fight against the Sarracenes may be made up, to cover up the not so fine truth.

Filip van Laenen, 29 October 1997

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