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Velzeke

Between the Carolingian and Ottonian periods, Velzeke was an important regional power centre and shared its history with the neighbouring Ename. The contemporary visitors can appreciate Velzeke Museum with new interactive ways for presenting the archaeological finds as well as Ottonian parts of the St. Martin Church.

  • AD 1050 – Modern Era

AD 1050 – Modern Era

Development of the site

Since 1047 the county of Biest became the Land of Aalst. The greater part of the territory of Velzeke first came into the sphere of influence of the counts of Flanders, later into that of the seigneurs of Zottegem and Gavere. The Saint Martin’s church was assigned in 1065 to the abbey of Hasnon (Northern France). During the 13th-14th centuries the building was extended with two aisles and a bell tower was erected. Fig. 33 Fig. 34

Fig. 33: Choir of the Saint-Martin’s church with 14th-15th century alterations. Credit: The Provinciaal Archeologisch Museum Velzeke

Fig. 33: Choir of the Saint-Martin’s church with 14th-15th century alterations. Credit: The Provinciaal Archeologisch Museum Velzeke

Fig. 34: Late medieval bell tower of the Saint Martin’s church with later alterations in the upper part. Credit: The Provinciaal Archeologisch Museum Velzeke

Fig. 34: Late medieval bell tower of the Saint Martin’s church with later alterations in the upper part. Credit: The Provinciaal Archeologisch Museum Velzeke

Under the Spanish rule, the church and the village suffered in 1581 from the wars of religion. In the 18th century, during the Austrian reign, the interior of the church was transformed thoroughly in early neo-classical style, in fact a very tasteful elaboration but hiding the Ottonian and later medieval parts. 23 Fig. 35

Fig. 35: Neo-classical alteration and decoration of the interior of Saint Martin’s at Velzeke. Credit: The Provinciaal Archeologisch Museum Velzeke

Fig. 35: Neo-classical alteration and decoration of the interior of Saint Martin’s at Velzeke. Credit: The Provinciaal Archeologisch Museum Velzeke

The presence at Velzeke of two benches of aldermen is remarkable. They had an own scriptorium with a seal representing Saint-Martin. One of them figured as the main court for the benches of aldermen in the region, conferring them written documents with Velzeke’s seal. Fig. 36 Fig. 37

Fig. 36: Seal of the main court of the aldermen’s benches with the name of Velzeke. Credit: The Provinciaal Archeologisch Museum Velzeke

Fig. 36: Seal of the main court of the aldermen’s benches with the name of Velzeke. Credit: The Provinciaal Archeologisch Museum Velzeke

Fig. 37: Seal of the main court of the aldermen’s benches with the representation of Saint Martin. Credit: The Provinciaal Archeologisch Museum Velzeke

Fig. 37: Seal of the main court of the aldermen’s benches with the representation of Saint Martin. Credit: The Provinciaal Archeologisch Museum Velzeke

The oldest known document, the ‘Schepenbrief van Bochoute’ (‘Aldermen’s Letter of Bochoute’), dates from 1249 and is a long lease contract involving a piece of land. It is at the same time the oldest official document in Flemish instead of the usual Latin. No doubt that this institution of jurisdiction must be a survival of the time that Velzeke was a Carolingian and Ottonian center of power. 24 In 1344 a monastery of Grauwzusters-Penitenten (Grey Sisters of the Third Order) was founded, continuing a hospital already mentioned in 1225. Since 1809, in Napoleonic times, it developed into the actual Psychiatric Clinic of Saint Franciscus. The main buildings of the oldest core date from the late 17th and 18th centuries. Fig. 4 Fig. 38 Especially the fine interior of the chapel in late baroque style is very attractive. Special mention deserves the independent seigniory of Ruddershove, a medieval hamlet with chapel that developed around an older Carolingian or Merovingian hof (court). In 1825, during the Dutch rule, it was fused with Velzeke. Nowadays nothing is left of it, but it remains an important archaeological site. The rural past of Velzeke from the 17th to the beginning of the 20th century is well exemplified by conspicuous large farms and private houses of notables. Amongst them are the impressive farm Schaliënhof with its date of 1661 carved above the gate and the water-mill Driesmolen. 25

Fig. 38: Aerial view of the settlement of Velzeke from the north with Saint Martin’s church at the left, the Grey Sisters monastery at the right and in front the Museum and the Archaeological Park. Credit: J. Semey, Ghent University, Department of Archaeology

Fig. 38: Aerial view of the settlement of Velzeke from the north with Saint Martin’s church at the left, the Grey Sisters monastery at the right and in front the Museum and the Archaeological Park. Credit: J. Semey, Ghent University, Department of Archaeology

References

23 https://inventaris.onroerenderfgoed.be/dibe/relict/9873;
‘De romaanse en de gotische bouw van de Sint-Martinuskerk te Velzeke (Zottegem)’, Gentse Bijdragen tot de Kunstgeschiedenis en Oudheidkunde, 23, 1973-1975, pp. 23-48
Van Overstraeten, Jozef and Gerits, Jan, Gids voor Vlaanderen. Toeristische en cultuurhistorische encyclopedie van de Vlaamse gemeenten, Antwerpen, 1985

24 van Durme, Luc, ‘De vroegere scabinale organisatie te Velzeke in ruimer perspectief. Met de uitgave en ontleding van twee vroegmiddelnederlandse schepenbrieven’, Jaarboek van de Zottegemse Culturele Kring, 21, 1976-1977, pp. 21-68

25 van Durme, Luc, Toponymie van Velzeke-Ruddershove en Bochoute, Gent, 1986
van Overstraeten, Jozef and Gerits, Jan, Gids voor Vlaanderen. Toeristische en cultuurhistorische encyclopedie van de Vlaamse gemeenten, Antwerpen, 1985

Continue to: Modern Era – Today

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