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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.

  • Personalities

Personalities

Members of the house of Ardennes and Verdun

Because of the rareness of written sources the knowledge of personalities related to Velzeke is mainly limited to the members of the house of Ardennes and Verdun. The Auctarium of the abbey of Affligem mentions that around 1005, probably even somewhat earlier, Herman, son of Godfrey of Verdun (+ 1029), buried his son Herman and his daughter Berthilde in the church of Velzeke. 32 They died prematurely and their burial place proves a specific attachment to the site, although Herman already was seriously involved in the further development of nearby Ename. This is exactly the point where Velzeke and Ename meet one another, but the course of events reconstructed through historical and archaeological sources remains partly hypothetical. Since 925 the Scheldt formed the north western frontier of the German empire, i.e. in Lower-Lotharingia. Godfrey of Verdun (+ after 997) soon became a key personality of the imperial interests in this region. He was closely allied to the Carolingian and Ottonian dynasties and always stayed on excellent terms with Otto I, Otto II and Otto III. When he married Mathilde Billung of Saxony (+ 1009) around 962-963, the counties of Chièvres and Biest, if not other parts of the pagus Bracbatensis, were probably then added to his possessions in the Maas region, bringing the Scheldt region into the center of gravity. It is precisely in that period that radiocarbon dating situates the construction of the church of Velzeke. Before becoming a margraviate of political and strategic weight from 974, Ename was first developed because of its advantageous economic position on the river, generating financial resources, whereas Velzeke must have continued to function as the administrative center of the county of Biest. 33 One can surmise that Godfrey and Mathilde, and later on their son Herman, first stayed alternately at both sites, before leaving Velzeke ultimately for Ename.

Marcus van Vaernewyck

In the 16th century, during the Spanish regime, Velzeke was first put on the map by Marcus van Vaernewyck (1518-1569). This grand bourgeois of the city of Gent was an appreciated civil servant in his native town and travelled widely in Europe. He also was a renowned poet and historian at the time. Especially his ‘De Historie oft Chronycke van Belgis’ from 1565 is of much relevance. In this historical study on the antiquity of the Low Countries he gives also a comprehensive description of the regular discoveries made in Velzeke of Gallo-Roman objects and structures. Amongst them he mentions large stone foundations of buildings and five stone wells. The writer must have been himself in Velzeke since he interviewed the locals on the antiquity of the site. Strange enough the villagers were positive on the existence of an early medieval settlement called ‘die Stadt van Lothrijck’ (cf. Lotharingia) , but they had no remembrance of the oldest (Gallo-Roman) settlement. He also saw behind Saint Martin’s church the ruins of a stone tower and earthen ramparts. Van Vaernewijck presumed thus the existence of two settlements: the oldest, reflected by the archaeological finds, was given the fictive name of Belgis, and the second one, of later date, that survived in the collective memory of the inhabitants and maybe to be associated with the structures he noticed behind the church. 34

References

32 Gorissen, Pieter, Sigeberti Gemblacensis Chronographiae Auctarium Affligemense, Brussel, Klasse der letteren 15 , 1952

33 van Durme, Luc, Toponymie van Velzeke-Ruddershove en Bochoute, Gent, 1986
Callebaut, Dirk, ‘Ename and the Ottonian west border policy in the middle Scheldt region’, in De Groote, Koen, Tys, Dries and Pieters, Marnix (red.), Exchanging Medieval Material Culture. Studies on archaeology and history presented to Frans Verhaeghe, Relicta Monografieën 4, Brusel, 2010, pp. 217-248
Callebaut, Dirk, ‘De Ottoonse grenspolitiek in het Midden-Scheldegebied en de sociale opgang van een Lotharingse familie’, Jaarboek van de Geschied- en Oudheidkundige Kring van Oudenaarde, 48, 2011, pp. 373-426

34 Vvn Durme, Luc, ‘De zestiende-eeuwse archeologische en onomastische belangstelling voor Velzeke’, in Handelingen van Zottegems Genootschap voor Geschiedenis, 1, 1983, pp. 1-38

Members of the house of Ardennes and Verdun Marcus van Vaernewyck

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