Kortenberg was first mentioned as Curtenbergh in 1095, in the charter by which Gualcherus, Bishop of Kamerijk (Cambrai) granted the altar of Kortenberg church to the abbey of Kortenberg. This act was recorded in the Belgian Public Record Office (Archives générales du Royaume) in Brussels under the Ecclesiastical Archives of the Charter of Kortenberg (see the text on the front cover). The abbey originally lay on the Curtenbergh, or Eikelenberg hill. In the 13th century, a new abbey for Benedictine nuns was established in the "Minneveld". Only the parish church survived until the 18th century on the Curtenbergh. A map by Sanderus known as the "Holy Chronograph of Brabant" dating from 1659 again records the hill church. As its escutcheon the abbey bore a golden coat of arms with an oak tree (vert) standing in the same green colour, having a trunk (rouge) with (right) a squirrel climbing on it.. In heraldry, vert is the terminology for green and rouge for red. The municipality of Kortenberg adopted this coat of arms as its shield by Order in Council of March 16th 1914. Kortenberg abbey was also the secular authority of the village itself. It appointed the mayor, the aldermen and the registrar, or town clerk. Kortenberg is especially famous for the "Charter of Kortenberg" that was granted in 1312 by Duke John II of Brabant for the Duchy of Brabant (nobelty and townsfolk) came into existence: the 14, later 16 "Gentlemen of Cortenbergh", who in theory assembled after 1312 every three weeks in the abbey of Kortenberg, sealed the coat of arms of the abbey (which appears on the cover) in 1340.
1. KORTENBERG : THE ABBEY AND COUNTRY HOUSE COMMUNITY
Kortenberg is a municipal merger (since January lst 1977) in the heart of Middle Brabant, lying between the cities of Brussels and Leuven. It is known as the chicory region in this horticultural area of Belgium. It includes four merged villages: Kortenberg itself, Erps-Kwerps, Everberg and Meerbeek. It has a total surface of 3,451 hectares and a population of around 15,000 inhabitants. Kortenberg itself is especially known for the Benedictine nuns abbey, which was mentioned in books dating back as far as 1095. The abbey was originally located on the "Curtenbergh"', the hill which was a checking point on the old mediaeval Brussels - Leuven route. In the 13th century the abbey was abandoned and a new abbey was built in the"Minneveld".
The entrance gate dating from the 17th century remains as well as the 18th century abbey castle and the farmhouses "De Brouwery" and "Veerhof". The knights' hall and the chapel date from 1933. In this abbey, the famous Charter of Kortenberg was signed in 1312. The well-known surrealist painter Paul Delvaux made regular visits to the artist Emile Salkin in the abbey, and sought inspiration there.
When speaking of Kortenberg, one thinks immediately of the well-known Belgian French-speaking writer Felicien Marceau, a pen name for Louis Carette, who was born in Kortenberg in 1913.. His birth house is still standing on the Leuvensesteenweg (road to Leuven), next to the unharnessing yard "De Drie Koningen" (The Three Kings). He wrote in detail about his youth in Kortenberg in the novel "Les années courtes" (the brief years). The village of Kortenberg expanded after construction of the road from Brussels to Leuven, which was built in 1706~1709.
At the end of the 19th century, new country houses sprung up beside the farmhouses, which were often rebuilt as gentleman's houses. These are the 'villa's' (country houses) of Kortenberg, because Kortenberg is not only an abbey village but also a country houses' community. Examples of Eclecticism and Art Nouveau - Jugenstil styled buildings are found side by side.
The famous architect J.P. Cluysenaer who built
the St. Hubertus Gallery in Brussels, designed the Eikelenhof country house for
the Verheyden family. This villa is built on the old Curtenbergh. The villa park
is a natural park, which can still be visited.
A striking feature of the Doyen villa is its typical iron entrance gate. This house is located on the Leuvensesteenweg and was built by the architect Van Haverbeke between 1900 and 1910 for the German merchant Lurmann.
Other villa's and unharnessing yards along the Leuvensesteenweg became the gentleman's houses. Empress Maria Feodorowna from Russia made a stop at Kortenberg in 1818 at "De Drie Koningen", the exchange place of the stage- coaches in the 18th and 19th century. Mrs Abts-Emmens, who sewed the first Belgian flag was originally from the farm "In Voscappel" on the Leuvensesteenweg. The extremely beautiful little chapel of "O.L. Vrouw Sedes Sapientiae" ( Our Lady Seat of Wisdom) was built in baroque style in 1661 at the Kapellestraat (Chapel Street ).
The "Vierwegenschreden" an 18th century manor-house with the name Schuermans Brouwerij above the doorway reminds us of the Kortenberg brewing tradition from the end of the 19th century. There were as many as 5 breweries at that time.
The well-known theologian Edward Schillebeeckx spent his youth in Kortenberg. His home is now the "Rubenszaal" on the Leuvensesteenweg, a building that also dates back to the end of the 18th century.
Few people are aware that the inventor of the control lever, Joseph Chantraine, lived and worked in Kortenberg. The " Aeromobile", his aeroplane, made him famous.
In the "O.L.Vrouwekerk" (Our Lady Church) we find a late gothic Madonna from around 1500. The church tower was built in 1771 in the Austrian period. This church is located near the Leuvensesteenweg and was expanded considerably in the neogothic style both in 1887 and 1914 following the plans of Pierre Langerock. Over 175 years the population of Kortenberg has been multiplied by 15, thanks to the Leuvensesteenweg (built between 1706~1709) and the Brussels-Leuven railway (since 1866).
After World War II, Kortenberg became known for
her "Veiling Midden-Brabant" (agricultural auction sale) and the
"Nationale Witlooffeesten" (national chicory festival).
An abundance of nature can be found here as well, this includes "De Warande"' of Everberg ( a nature conservation park). Hikers find in Kortenberg the following routes: Curtenbergwandeling, PastorijwandeIing (vicarage walk), Abdijwandeling (abbeywalk), Vierhuizenwandeling (four houses' walk) and the Villawandeling (country houses' walk).
The Ludo bicycle factory gives this village quite a name with its tourist cycles, which can be rented from many Belgian Railway Stations. Kortenberg was an eminent tourist centre in the "Belle Époque". With the year 2000 in view, it retains the same appeal with its walking and nearly 200 km of cycling paths, its tourist advisers (since 1988), its tourist guides (Guides Association of Mid Brabant) its interurban tourist guides classes (organized by the Guides Union of the Mid Brabant Region), its biennial Kortenberg Drawing Prize. In the short term there are plans to start a National Chicory Museum and a Tourist Information Centre.
2 ERPS : THE VILLAGE OF MONUMENTS
Erps-Kwerps includes 2 parishes: Erps and Kwerps. The latter ancient name is Quarebbe. It is interesting to note that the parish community of Kwerps is surrounded by that of Erps. This is due to the fact that Kwerps parish community only extends its boundaries as far as those of the former Quarebbe manor. In the middle ages, Erps was an important administrative and economic centre on the road to Cologne, that linked Cologne with Brugge (Bruges) and London. In 1286 it was a chief mayoral centre.
The village square of Erps is a pearl of monuments: the 18th century "Schavenberghof", the old 'Pastorij' (vicarage), the "Engel"(Angel), the "Rooden Scilt" (Red Shield), the "Zwaan"(Swan), the "Vier Heemskinderen", the Ackermans farm and the village hall. These buildings stand around the neo gothic church of St. Amandus. On the Peperstraat (Pepper street) in this immediate area we find the 17th century Van Hamme house and the 17th century Buelens wheel factory and in the Kammestraat we find the kam of Jan van Ransem, which was formerly a brewery. The village square and adjacent streets reached their peak by the Austrian period, a time of fullness. Some of the farmsteads acquired superstructures and became "high houses".
Around 1900 Erps had some sandstone quarries from which the white Ledian sandstone was extracted. The sandstone interlaces with Spanish bricks to form the traditional sand and brick style. A typical example of this is seen in the white stone cross windows at the houses and the round arched doorways. These were replaced at the end of the 18th century by doors in the Louis XVI style, which involved sandstone masonry and angle chain links.
Also beyond the village square one can see many nicely renovated buildings including the "Ransemhoeve" on the Kasteelstraat (Castle Street), "De Koning van Spanje" (the king of Spain) on the Leuvensesteenweg and the "Pachthof van Stie" (Stie Farmhouse) on the Bruulstraat.
Throughout the history of Erps-Kwerps, the eight castles and gentlemen's seats have been reduced to two: " Hof ter Brugge" (Bruges Court) and "Wijnegemhof". The first castle is from the 17th century and was the home of the Viscounts de Plaines, a family from Burgundy, whose ancestor Thomas de Plaines was president of the Grand Council of Mechelen (Malines). Marc Sleen renamed it as the "Rat's castle" in his comic. Wijnegemhof is an 18th century "plaything" built by the noble family of Viscounts Van der Noot. Later it became a property of Count Coghen, the great-grandfather of Queen Paola.
The churches of Erps and Kwerps have a few noteworthy features. In the St. Amandus church of Erps, we find two 18th century paintings by Pieter Jozef Verhaegen. One represents St Barbara - Erps was formerly a pilgrimage centre featuring this saint. The other painting portrays St Donatius, defender against lightning and thunder. The Erps village square is depicted in the background.
Opposite the St Peter's church of Kwerps is the gravestone of Claude Fisco, the famous Brussels architect who died in the parsonage of Kwerps in 1825. This parsonage is now a beautifully restored house on the Kwerpsebaan. Fisco was the designer of the Martelarenplein (Place des Martyrs) in Brussels.
Erps-Kwerps also has a number of small chapels including: "O.L. Vrouw van Bijstand" (Our Lady of Assistance) which was built in baroque style in 1655 near "Hof ter Brugge" ( Bruges Court), the St Rochus chapel built in 1866 against cholera,.... A municipal cycle path has been named "Kapelletjesbaan" ( Little Chapels Path).
Hikers can find here no less than eight routes. "Keizerdellewandeling", "Heuvelingwandeling", "Romeinse heirbaanwandeling", "Villawandeling", "Silsomwandeling", "Borhoutenswandeling", "Ransem- & Hagedochtwandeling" and "Lazarijwandeling".
The bakers of Erps-Kwerps are famous for their
chicory tarts, fruit tarts covered with an upper crust; these are mostly only
available on weekdays at the local bakeries. They are served in ' witloofkoten'
(the rooms in which the chicory is cleaned). In Erps-Kwerps the former alderman
of agriculture Maurice Janssens began cultivation of red chicory. At municipal
receptions, stuffed chicory leaves are served as savouries.
3. EVERBERG : THE VILLAGE OF PRINCES.
In 1268, Everberg became a principality benefiting the princes of de Rubempré, chief huntmasters of Brabant. The most striking building in the village is the castle in "het Broek" or the "Hof van Montenaken". In 1743, a romantic episode was played out here when the 3rd Prince of de Rubempré married his mother's chambermaid. This costed him a few months in prison and his chief huntmasters title. The princes of Rubempré were followed by the Counts and later the Princes of Merode, who are still living in the castle now. The present castle was built in the classical style with Louis XVI style by the architect F. Neuville in 1727. At the beginning of the 19th century, Count Charles Guillaume de Merode lived in this castle. He was the only surviving member of his family. Under Napoleon I; he was burgomaster of Brussels. He was the father of :
1. Count Frederik de Merode, who died in 1830 during the days of the revolution.
2. Count Félix de Merode, member of the Provisional Government.
3. Count Henri de Merode-Westerloo, who described in detail in his published " Souvenirs " the charm of Everberg and Kortenberg.
4. Count Werner de Merode. who inherited Everberg.
The latter died in the "Warande" forest. A monument there reminds us of this. Other European reigning monarchs have descended from Everberg:
- Prince Albert I from Monaco (hid mother was
Countess de Merode ).
- King Amadeus I from Spain (his mother-in-law was a de Merode ).
- King Tomislav I from Croatia (his great-grandmother was the Countess Louise de Merode from Everberg ).
Thanks to Everberg, the municipal merger of Kortenberg belongs to the " International de Merode Union" which is a group of villages who have connections with the de Merode lineage. The St Martin and St Louis church of Everberg has a roman tower and a late gothic choir.
The St Hubert chapel from 1720 reminds us of the duties of the chief huntmaster of the de Rubempré family. In the church, we see the tombstones and crypts of the first and second Prince de Rubempré. Both were Knights of the 'Gulden Vlies' (Golden Fleece ). The well-known architects Hendrik Beyaert and Paul Hankar built the nave and the two side aisles in neo-gothic style around 1890.
A plaque at the back of the church reminds us of
the architect and the generous donors: the Counts de Merode, Prince Albert 1 of
Monaco, the Princess of Savoie-Aosta. The Princes de Merode have their reserved
place in the tomb chapel in the grave yard (in the first part of the church ).
The princes of Everberg, to their great credit, kept Everberg green. The Warande. is a beautiful complex with nice walking paths and noteworthy little structures as the chapel of "Onze Lieve Vrouw van Scherpenheuvel", (Our Lady of Scherpenheuvel ) and an ice cellar. The rural aspects of Everberg village have remained, with old farmhouses such as the "Gasthuishof met Tiendenschuur" (Guesthouse farm with tithe barn), the "Huis van de Vroegmis" (house of the early mass), the "Henneken" and the "Drie Linden" (three lime trees), the oil mill and the "Biesthof", (which was the former court yard of the castle).
Walkers and nature lovers will greatly enjoy the "Kruisborre", the "Vrebos", the "Troost" and the "Kastelen" trails. In addition the "Rosberg" trail was initiated in 1988 for wheelchair users. The nature trail around the Everberg Warande is also noteworthy.
Everberg has a changing landscape including the
meadows bordering the Wasbeek, the village acres and the Brabant Plateau with
its forest and fields at Vrebos. Everberg was a tourist attraction during the
"Belle Époque". Many city inhabitants built their country house in
Everberg : the "Twee Leeuwen" (the two lions) built with scrap
materials from demolished mansions in Brussels has a classic orangery from the
Arenberg Hotel from Brussels in the garden.
4. MEERBEEK : OR RURAL MIDDLE BRABANT.
Meerbeek is the most rural village of the four villages that form the town of Kortenberg. The St. Anthony Church stands at the edge of the village on the border between meadows and planting fields. The square tower is Romanesque and dates back to the 13th century. A striking feature of this church is the early Romanesque font in the christening chapel at the back of the church. It is embellished with four heads with primitive decorations. Meerbeek is the only village where the cemetery still surrounds the church. It became a barony in 1687 in benefit of Jan Baptist Christijn. Libertus Christijn, a son of the baron of Meerbeek, is buried near the tower.
Facing the church is the 18th century parsonage of Meerbeek. The old vicarage was burned down in 1694 by French soldiers. In the 18th century a new one was built by the Abbey of Affligem, in whose tithing (district) Meerbeek fell. The Abbot of Affligem stayed here whenever he passed through on his way to Leuven. The framework of the door is in the Louis XVI style. The monumental oak staircase in the hall and the oak panelling of the large reception hall testify to the richness of this building that still fulfils the function of parsonage today.
In the 18th and 19th century, Meerbeek was a village of cereal farmers. The "Zeven slapers" ( Seven sleepers ) farm on the Goedestraat with its 18th century monumental barn is a reminder of this. This rented farm has been the property of the Leuven Foundation of the Seven Sleepers since 1460. It's an half open farmstead. After the agricultural crisis in 1880 the Meerbeek farmers switched over to cattle breading ( there were as many as 5 dairy farms in the area). Later on the chicory cultivation became emphasised. Meerbeek has also a naturist camp " Helios " on Grevesbos.
It is possible to have a guided tour at the water
reservoir on the Tomme of the State Water Board (NMWL) and in the immediate
vicinity are the radar installations of Bertem. These are the biggest in Europe.
Walkers who come to Meerbeek are offered the "Schoonaardebroek" walk, the "Pachthoven" walk and the "Burcht- & Tomme" walk, the "Grevesbos" walk and the "Vijfwegenboompad" (five ways tree path ).
5. THE CHARTER OF KORTENBERG, a first constitution for the DUCHY OF BRABANT.
The Kortenberg Abbey is renowned above all for the Charter of Kortenberg, signed by John II of Brabant who suffered from kidney stones and wanted his duchy peacefully handed over to his son upon his death.
The abbey of Kortenberg was an ideal place because it lay halfway between Brussels and Leuven. A modernised version of the Charter is given below as follows:
CHARTER OF KORTENBERGWe duke John II of Brabant, agree
1/ That no other demands or taxes be levied than those which are known as the three feudal cases:
The taxes will be reasonable (fiscal prerogative).
2/ An honourable jurisdiction for rich and poor. (judicial prerogative).
3/ To recognise the freedom of our good towns. (municipal prerogative).
4/ To establish a council which shall be comprised of :
3 from Leuven
3 from Brussels
1 from Antwerp
1 from `s Hertogenbosch (now Netherlands)
1 from Tienen
1 from Zoutleeuw
5/ This council be allowed to meet at Kortenberg in the Abbey. It will meet every 3 weeks to check whether the financial, judicial and municipal prerogatives are observed.
6/ That in the future improvements are introduced to the administration of the land by the council.
7/ That upon the death of members of the Council of Kortenberg, new members be designated.
8/ That the members of the Council take an oath on the Holy Gospel that they will pursue the best interests of the public.
9/ That the people have the right to resist should the Duke or his descendants refuse to observe the Charter of Kortenberg.
On September 27th 1312, Brabant got a charter that should better be referred to as a constitution. It was valid for the entire duchy. From this charter originated a kind of "Parliament of Cortenbergh" or a " Council of Cortenberg" or what was called an assembly of "The gentlemen of Cortenbergh".
This control organ, a precursor of the later
"Estate assembly" namely the
first estate = clergy
the second estate = nobility
the third estate = municipalities gathered in the Abbey of Kortenberg and elsewhere with ups and downs until 1375.
From 1332 on the council was extended by two more members, so that there were 16 "Gentlemen"; Antwerp got a second member and the Brabant Walloon town of Nivelles also got a member. In 1340 documents were sealed with a special seal on which a tree was planted on a little hill ( the "short" or " sharp" ? ). The seal bore the legend "SIGILUM COMMUNE : CONSILII DE CORTENBERGHE " (the common or usual seal of the Council of Kortenberg.
6. CHICORY : a Product of Middle Brabant.
Belgium is, after France, the most important producer of chicory in the world and 80 % of our national production comes from Brabant. Nationally and internationally the chicory area is growing and strong modernisation in this sector is beginning.
The chicory plant was known from early times and appeared in the writings of Horace. One variety serves as a coffee substitute, which achieved great success here under Napoleon I `s Continental Blockade. It was a period of high prosperity for bitter worth roasts and bitter drying places. The second variety of chicory plant gives us "witloof ", that according to Dodoens in his 17th century " Cruydtboek" (Herb book) was prized for its beneficial effects on stomach disorders.
Credit for the first real cultivated chicory should be given to a Schaarbeek (Brussels) farmer, named Jan Brammers, who kept the chicory. roots in his cellar under thin soil. The white shoots appeared to be edible and moreover they were tasty. Only the crop formation seemed to be a problem, but Bezier found a solution in 1850-51. The full ground cultivated chicory could be found in the area around Schaarbeek, Evere and Haren. Later, cultivation was extended to Woluwe, Zaventem, Sterrebeek, Erps-Kwerps, Kortenberg, Steenokkerzeel and Kampenhout. It became the "white gold", the agricultural gem of Middle Brabant.
THE FARMERS OF EVERE.
The technical methods of chicory cultivation at the end of the previous century cannot be compared to the actual methods. Adriaan Van Dijck of Kortenberg outlines for us the work of his father, who cultivated chicory in Evere in that period. It was sown by hand in windless weather, at night whenever this situation happened to present itself. After sprouting, it needed to be cut back and thinned out so that the plants stood 20 cm apart from each other. The chicory roots were dug-up with a fork or pitch fork and the green leaves cut off ... Then the bed had to be prepared. The sides were built up and reinforced with planks. The chicory roots were set within and completely covered with soil. The beds were about one meter across and ran the whole length of the garden.
Evere farmers obtained horse manure from the military barracks of Etterbeek to " force" the chicory. This had to be controlled regularly and the farmer had to stay up at night to open the beds, whenever the manure was burning too hard. Otherwise he ran the risk that all the crop would be burned. When the chicory was finally ready for consumption, it was removed. The roots were taken out with a fork and gently carried away from the roots with two fingers and laid down in a "fisherman's basket with two handles". The women then cleaned the chicory according to the approved manner.
The chicory cultivation was done exclusively during the winter and on a limited scale. Till 1914, 20 chicory beds from 1 m to 10 m constituted a life supporting small business. In summer the farmers mostly grew vegetables which were brought to the market in the town.
People continued to adapt the cultivation methods. The problem with the horse manure was resolved by using a grill and later a " pipebowl " so that a kind of heating with warm air was obtained. The basketmakers, who came to sell their wicker baskets to the farmers in chicory season got competition from the saw mills, their wooden boxes provided for easier exports abroad. Around 1910 sowing machines arrived on the market. A small scraping machine saved labour.
In recent years, there has been a changeover to precision sowing machines and calibrated seeds. The modern system operates with plastic ribbons on which the seeds are placed at regular intervals. There are now machines for chopping that can cut eight to ten rows at the same time. All absolute heating systems have now been replaced by central heating, container culture and aquaculture are the latest novelties. After packaging the chicory was sold to the private merchants, co-operatives or garden produce auctions. Chicory merchants had their fixed clients among the growers or went to see the "schoil" ( slate ) in the taverns. Such a " schoil " can still be found in the Victoria café in Meerbeek.
CHICORY SEED CULTURE
Certain farmers in Middle Brabant have specialised in seed cultivation and have refused export to France. By the "taking", the well cultivated roots remained in the ground until after the winter. The seed shoots and becomes ripe approximately in August. It has to be dried, threshed and sifted before it can be seeded.
FOLK CUSTOMS AND CHICORY
As soon as the last chicory is gathered in "mei" (may) the celebration with a strong dram begins. The women get a piece of tart and coffee. A chicory farmer who marries will surely find his farming materials on the door. Chicory balls, the election of Miss Chicory, chicory giants, the "Endiva" students' club, an own chicory language and real chicory festivals ( in Kortenberg ) are common in this region. Gastronomically speaking, chicory is a high flyer. From the usual raw or cooked chicory one can progress to baked chicory in farm ham to chicory with oranges and green pepper salad.
A National Chicory Competition was organised at
Kortenberg in 1985. Jacques Marit from Braine 1'Alleud was the winner with an
especially tasty dish : " Woodpigeons with chicory salad and bilberries in
vinegar sauce" for which the recipe is gladly given below:
2 chicory stems
100 gr. fine French beans
2 young carrots
vinegar sauce from red bilberries
2 soup spoons of veal gravy
Let the woodpigeons bake in an oven with a few shallots, carrots and thyme for 20 minutes. The chicory should be washed and sliced, the crisply cooked beans should be cut into small cubes and mixed with the chicory (witloof). The two carrots are sliced in olive form and boiled.
For the vinegar sauce: mix 2 soup spoons veal gravy with a coffee spoon of mustard, a soup spoon of red bilberries vinegar and wine vinegar. This should be beaten together with 2 soup spoons olive oil, 2 soup spoons peanut oil, pepper and salt.
The sliced woodpigeon breast can then be placed around a heaped salad mixture for the proper presentation. Lukewarm vinegar sauce is poured over the whole dish. Garnish with red bilberries, carrots and chopped chervil.
A light red wine or a dry rosé is a good idea to drink with this dish. Enjoy your meal!!!!
7. THE ROMAN VILLA AND THE MEROVINGIAN BURIAL
FIELD AT ERPS - KWERPS.
Brief report on the first excavation campaign
by Mark Verbeeck
During one of his investigative expeditions Mr. W. De Keyzer discovered the remains of a Roman Villa at the hamlet " Lelieboomgaarden " (Lily tree orchard). After contacting the K.U. LEUVEN (Catholic University of Leuven) archaeology department, they resolved to institute an excavation. This enterprise got the support of the municipality of Kortenberg and took place in co-operation with the Leuven University. The investigation was done by volunteers and archaeological students under the direction of Mark Verbeeck and Marlyse De Clerck.
The site is half way up a gentle south eastern
facing slope incline on the left bank of the Weesbeek. The first excavation
campaign began June 15 and ran until November 15th 1987. Over this period about
450 sq. metres were examined. An experimental dig of 30 by 1,5 m north - south
ran transversely through the adjoining superficial concentration. After that it
was decided in theory to continue working with a quadrants system; 21 quadrants
of 4 by 4 m were construed to the west of the trial dig. This trial groove
allowed us to confirm that the preservation conditions of the remains were very
Erosion and deep ploughing destroyed not only the foundation rubble but also different habitation levels. Traces of habitation were noted in the undisturbed clay soil immediately under the furrow. In addition to the breaking up of the consolidations, the later disturbances had also led to the bad conditions of preservation.
The main objective of this investigation centred on the finding of remnants of the Roman inhabitation. At the start of the excavation the group stumbled across the remains of a merovingian grave. This now became the objective of the excavation: uncovering the Merovingian row burial field in the ruins of the Roman villa.
During the first, excavation campaign half of the Roman villa was revealed. The results of this investigation revealed that the building belonged to the type of porticus villa with projecting corner pieces.
In many cases it was obvious that the negative traces of broken up walls remained preserved only to the height of a few centimetres. The fundamentals were intact, only in a few places and here it was possible to research their manner of construction. Foundations were built up from irregular blocks of sandstone that were laid or else filled in dry stone connection in the foundation ditch.
The building with its gallery facade faces towards the south east. As the facade of this gallery was not completed, we can suppose that the front side was partially opened. The rectangular area at the rear is divided in a large hall of 10 by 8 metres which is enclosed by at least 5 smaller rooms.
In the rear of this room traces were found of an
older residence. The orientation of these wall fragments didn't correspond with
those of the villa. At the present stage of research it is impossible to give it
a precise date.
Nothing remains on the elevation of the building. We can hypothesise about the disposition of the buildings' upper structure. It was probably half timbering built, as in the filling of the excavated fundaments parts of hut clay were found. Parallel with the gallery facade, the remains of a hardened narrow path were discovered. It was presumably used in roman times to reach the front of the building.
Until now 16 graves in the Merovingian row burial field (7th century) have been uncovered. The graves lie in a north-east / south-west orientation, which allowed the dead to be interred facing towards the East. In the Merovingian burial field too, erosion and deep ploughing have left their traces.
Only vague shallow outlines of the graves and a few bones remain from some of the graves. Nine graves or remains of graves were laid open. Some obtained a few obvious burial gifts, On the basis of these burial gifts, we can distinguish the graves of 5 men and 2 women.
Pathological research into the sex, age and definition of size of the various individuals was undertaken by Dr. Janssens. The richer graves were revealed by the care taken in their completion. The graves were demarcated by the rubble of the Roman villa, such as sandstone, mortar blocks, roof tiles, etc. .....
Graves 24 and 38 provided to be the richest.
Grave 24, a woman's grave, was situated in the south-eastern corner of the
corner of the corner chamber. Amongst the burial gifts 2 biconical pots and a
pot of Eifelware were found. Other gifts included : 2 lead crosses (
anthropomorphic figures ? = God in human forms ) at the height of the right
femur, some glass beads and amber stones around the neck, an iron knife and a
bronze clasp on the pelvis, 3 bronze plate mountings between the legs, a
spinning disk on the breast and a bronze strap thong on the left foot.
Grave 38, that of a man, lay next to grave 24 but was situated outside the villa. From this interment, it was possible to reconstruct the wooden coffin. The burial gifts included a "scramasax " ( a single edged short sword ) at the height of the left femur and a demasked buckle with counter and mounting plate on the pelvis. Discoveries at the surface and human skeletal remains that were found on these and surrounding plots suggest that the burial ground extended even further.
The finding of the Merovingian burial ground is very important : its the only burial place up to the present to be discovered in the Brabant Loam Plateau.
An interesting and intriguing question hereby is: where is the settlement of the early middle ages to be found ?
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