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©Groupes Enfant Boeschepe Juillet 19 57 Min|Destination Coeur de Flandre
Flemish symbols

Flemish symbols

When you hear “Flanders”, what comes to mind? Its lion? Its windmills? Its celebrations? All these Flemish symbols give Flanders its reputation and legend. Tempted by a little overview of these emblems?

Roar like the Lion!

If we believe the legend, the lion made its first appearance in the 12th century on the coat-of-arms of Philippe d’Alsace, the Count of Flanders. He fought the king of Albania Nobilion d’Abilène during the Third Crusade and, after having killed him, seized his weapons, which featured the lion [1]. Ever since, still proudly standing against the yellow background of the Flemish flag, it has become an official symbol; black, with a red tongue and claws. Its representation is generalised, and you can find this Flemish symbol on the coats-of-arms of certain villages or associations. The Flemish population also like to display the coat-of-arms on the fronts of houses, too!

[1] Éric Vanneufville, Histoire de Flandre : Le point de vue Flamand, Éditions Yoran Embanner, 2011. 2e éd.

Rise high, like a giant

Here, where there’s a celebration, there’s a giant! These large wicker and fabric figures are like members of the family. We see them parading during carnivals and celebrations. Their appearance during processions always causes a sensation! The characters represented are always the symbols of the village. Some are the metaphor of a profession, or an era. Others represent a historical figure. But they are all deeply rooted in the heart of the Flemish population.

Spin like a windmill

Now a tourist hotspot, they used to make oil and flour. There were many windmills on our windswept plains! Do you know why the sails of the windmill are red? Originally, the sails were made from a linen canvas that needed to be waterproofed every year using linseed oil and earth. The mixture gave this red shade, which became traditional for windmills in Flanders. If you look carefully, you’ll find hundreds of miniature ones in public gardens and maybe in yours!