Last modified: 2008-06-21 by ivan sache
Keywords: bouillon | godefroid de bouillon | cross:potent (red) | cross:jerusalem (red) | crosslets: 4 (red) | oriflamme | crusade |
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Municipal flag of Bouillon - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 11 December 2005
The municipality of Bouillon (5,477 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 14,957 ha) is located in the massif of Ardenne on the river Semois, close to the border with France. The municipality of Bouillon is made since 1977 of the former municipalities of Bellevaux, Bouillon, Corbion, Dohan, Les Hayons, Noirefontaine, Poupehan, Rochehaut, Sensenruth, Ucimont and Vivy.
Bouillon is located in a large curve of river Semois; the town is mostly known for its medieval fortress recalling Godefroid de Bouillon. The local tradition claims that the fortress was built in the VIIIth century; there is historical evidence of a central donjon flanked by the smaller donjons existing in 1050. The other fortifications are much more recent and were mostly designed by Vauban in 1679. The fortress was mentioned, but not described, in 988 as belonging to the family d'Ardenne. The town developed below the fortress, near the river. The main purpose of the fortress was to watch the road between Lower and Upper Lotharingia, known as avenue des François and used as a convenient invasion path until 1940.
In 1082, Godefroid de Bouillon, son of Eustache de Boulogne and Ulda
d'Ardenne and nephew of Godefroid le Bossu (The Hunchbacked), inherited
the Duchy of Lower-Lotharingia (aka as Lower-Lorraine or Lothier); he
was the fifth and last lord of the family d'Ardenne. When he decided to
go on the First Crusade called by Pope Urban II, he sold his domain in
1096 to Otbert, Bishop of Liège in order to fund his expedition. Otbert was not rich and even looted the abbeys and churches of his own domain in
order to collect the funds.
Godefroid took part to the seizure of Jerusalem in 1099, being the first Crusader to enter the town. However, he refused the title of King of Jerusalem, refusing to bear a golden crown where Christ had borne a spine crown, and was entitled Warden of the Holy Sepulcher on 22 July 1099. He died the next year, aged 39, and was buried in the St. Sepulcher's church, close to the Calvary. The contract signed with the Bishop of Liège allowed the purchase of the Duchy by Godefroid's successors, but none of them exercized his right.
It seems, however, that the title of Duke de Bouillon was not used before the XVth century; in 1456, Bishop Jean de Heinsberg was entitled par la grâce de Dieu évêque de Liège, duc de Bouillon, comte de Looz, ..., a title which was later used until 1794.
Bouillon belonged to Liège until 1679, with a few breaks; the town was allowed to build fortifications but was never granted the title of good town (bonne ville). Bouillon was seized by the Count of Verdun and taken over by Liège in 1140. In 1415, the castle was ceded against a rent to the La Marck family, which ruled the Duchy as an independent state. The most famous member of the family was Guillaume de La Marck, aka the Ardennes Boar. Emperor Charles V reattributed Bouillon to Liège in 1521. The town was seized by King of France Henri II in 1552, but he had to retrocede it to Liège after the Treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis, signed in 1559.
In 1591, Charlotte de La Marck, whose family had been confirmed rights
on Bouillon and Sedan, married Henri de la Tour d'Auvergne, Viscount of
Turenne. During the Holland War, Bouillon was besieged by Marshal de
Créquy for the King of France. In spite of the Prince-Bishop of Liège's
protesting he was the legal Duke of Bouillon, Godefroid-Maurice de la
Tour d'Auvergne was confirmed as the Duke of Bouillon after the treaty
of Nijmegen (1679), and Bouillon remained French until the end of the
The printer Pierre Rousseau (1727-1785) was banned from Liège and Brussels, where he had attempted to spread Voltaire's philosophy. He set up in 1759 a big printing house in Bouillon where the Journal Encyclopédique was published again from 1760 to 1793.
On 24 April 1794, the People's Assembly of the Duchy, which then included 150 villages, proclaimed the Republican regime; the former Duchy was integrated to the French Republic on 26 October 1795. It was said: "The shark from the Seine has swallowed the Republican gudgeon from the Semois."
Ivan Sache, 11 December 2005
According to Servais, these arms were granted to the town of Bouillon by (Dutch) Royal Decree
on 18 November 1818 and confirmed by (Belgian) Royal Decree in 1841; they had been used by the
town for ages. Such arms were traditionally assigned by the medieval heralds to the Dukes
of Lothier / Lower-Lotharingia of the family of Ardenne.
The Gelre Armorial shows "Argent a fess gules" for the Duchy of Bouillon (Hertoge v. Bulgoen, #1342, folio 95v).
The very same arms (with a different origin) are used by the town of Leuven, whose municipal flag is therefore the same as the municipal flag of Bouillon, as is of course the national flag of Austria.
Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 27 May 2007
Flag hoisted over the fortress of Bouillon - Image by Ivan Sache, 11 December 2005
The flag hoisted over the fortress of Bouillon is not the municipal flag of Bouillon. The TV program Télétourisme (RTBF) showed close-ups of the flag, which is white with a red cross potent and another four crosslets in the four cantons. A similar cross pattern, but with yellow crosses, is associated with the Kingdom of Jerusalem set up by the Crusaders after the seizure of the city in 1099.
Godefroid was the son of Eustache II, Count de Boulogne (1024?-1080?)
and Ida de Lorraine (1030?-1113). Eustache II was a powerful lord, who
fought together with William of Normandy at the battle of Hastings in 1066.
Godefroid had been appointed heir by his uncle Duke Godefroid III "The
Hunchback", Duke of Lower-Lorraine, but after Duke Godefroid's murder
in 1076 he inherited only Bouillon, Verdun, and Antwerp. His succession as Duke was disputed by his cousin Albert III, Count of Namur, but at
first neither contender won, because the German King Henri IV
appointed his own two year-old son Conrad as the new Duke, clearly
demonstrating that Lower-Lorraine had lost its significance as a
political entity. Eleven years later, in 1087, Godefroid finally did
become Duke of Lower-Lorraine, after Conrad had been appointed King of
Germany by his father, who had himself been crowned Emperor in 1084.
Pope Urban II called for the First Crusade in 1095. The lords who left
for the Crusade often bequeathed or sold their domains to the church,
in order both to secure their goods and to get the money required for
The first wave of crusaders, led by Pierre l'Ermite and Gauthier Sans Avoir, was annihilated in 1096 by the Turks. The second wave of crusaders, known as the lords' crusade, was led by powerful lords such as Hugues de Vermandois, Robert II of Flanders, the Count of Toulouse, the Count of Normandy and the Italian Normands Tancrède de Hauteville and his uncle Bohémond I. Each lord fought together with his vassals. Godefroid de Bouillon led a troop of Lotharingian knights. The Crusaders took Antioche and Edesse in 1099 and marched against Jerusalem. The siege started on 7 June; the Counts of Normandy and Flanders stayed in the north, Bouillon and Tancrède in the west and the Count of Toulouse in the south. It was impossible to attack the eastern flank of the city because of the torrent Cedron. A first attempt failed in 13 June. Timberwood and carpenters were brought from Jaffa in order to build the required machines of war, that is three rolling towers and catapults. The attack started during the night of 9 to 10 July; with the main attack launched on the evening of 13 July. On 15 July, Godefroid de Bouillon put his tower against the wall and entered the town with his brother Eustache de Boulogne. The northern part of the town was progressively seized. The seizure of the southern part of the town was delayed because it was necessary to fill up the ditch. The Egyptian Fatimid garrison of the citadel was liberated against a ranson but the Moslim and Jewish population of the town was slaughtered. Godefroid de Bouillon was proposed the crown of Jerusalem but he refused "to bear a golden crown in the place where Christ had borne a spine crown"; he was elected Warden of the Holy Sepulcher on 22 July and died the next year from the black plague.
Godefroid de Bouillon's fame was huge in the Middle Ages; he was considered, together with Clovis and Charlemagne, as a hero of the Christian religion. In the XIIIth century, Vincent de Beauvais published his Great Mirror (Speculum Majus), a kind of universal encyclopaedia reprinted by the Jesuits in Douai in 1624. The Mirror was divided into four chapters, the Mirror of Nature, the Mirror of Science, the Mirror of History and the Moral Mirror, the latter having been written in the XIVth century, probably after Vincent's sketches. In his Historical Mirror, that is the history of the Church, Vincent de Beauvais relates in great detail the exploits of Clovis, Charlemagne and the Crusaders, whose model is Godefroid de Bouillon. The great medievist Émile Mâle has shown that the Speculum Majus was the main source of inspiration of the religious iconography of that period: there are very few historical characters portrayed as statues or in the coloured windows of the cathedrals but the Christian leaders, including Godefroid de Bouillon.
Encyclopaedia Universalis gives a more nuanced account of Godefroid de
Bouillon's career. His main role seems to have been arbitration in the
conflicts that broke up among the winners after the conquest; his
military action seems to have been very small until the assault of the
walls of Jerusalem. The military leader of the Crusade, appointed by
the Pope, was the ambitious and inflexible Raymond de Saint-Gilles.
After the victory, the barons preferred to elect Godefroid de Bouillon;
morevoer, the status of the new Latin Empire was not specified by the
Pope and the power of the new ruler was fairly virtual, something the
ambitious warlords could not accept. Therefore, Godefroid de Bouillon
is no longer considered as the founder of the Eastern Latin Empire by
Since Bouillon is today located in Belgium, Godefroid de Bouillon is considered as a Belgian national hero. For the 175th anniversary of the independence of Belgium, Godefroid de Bouillon's sword was offered in Jerusalem by a Franciscan monk to Karel De Gucht, the Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs. Historians questioned the authenticity of the sword and wondered how it could have been preserved since the XIth century and attributed to Godefroid de Bouillon. Moreover, there was a controversy in Belgium about the real significance of Godefroid de Bouillon's acts. For decades, the history of the Crusades has been revised and several historians have shown that the Western point of view was very biased. The late Georges Despy also revised Godefroid de Bouillon's legend and showed that the hero was not very different from the warlords of that time, that is sometimes immoral, violent and greedy and sometimes repentant, religious and courageous. Godefroid de Bouillon was recently revised in the best-seller Les grands mythes de l'histoire de Belgique. A leftist position is defended by Anne Morelli, historian at the Free University of Brussels, who says that the official concern about the sword was a case of "apology of a crime against humanity". On the other side of the debate, Jean Solé defends the traditional image of Godefroid de Bouillon as a Christian hero who saved Europe from the Muslims.
Alleged banner of Godefroid de Bouillon - Image by Ivan Sache, 11 December 2005
Godefroid de Bouillon's oriflamme is presented by the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, which uses it as its emblem. The
oriflamme is white with the red cross and crosslets and the
Crusaders' motto Deus lo vult, granted to them by Pope Urban II on 27
November 1095. The Order says that the banner was used by "Godefroid de
Bouillon and his successors". The wording is ambiguous, and it can be
read that the crosses, representing the Christ's five wounds, were also
granted by the Pope.
A similar emblem, but with yellow cross and crosslets, is known as the flag of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, 1099-1291. Since the municipal arms of Bouillon ("Gules a fess argent") were traditionally attributed by the medieval heralds to the dynasty of Bouillon, it is possible that their colour was associated to the design of the Jersualem crosses, then considered as Godefroid de Bouillon's arms. For the moment, I have not found any evidence that Godefroid de Bouillon ever bore such arms.
Ivan Sache, 11 December 2005